Behind every Berlin building there seems to lie a hidden story.
I have lived in Berlin twice. At 21, I lived in Moabit, a former industrial area to which immigrants flocked during the industrial revolution and today in Schöneberg which, as one New York Times reporter called it, is the Bürgerlich side of Berlin (in other words Bourgeois, not Eastern hip.)
And although many of my bike trips lead me to adventures in the East. I am a girl who has always lived in West Berlin. There is extreme appeal in East Berlin, the historic center, the artists and their house squats, and of course that endearingly soviet-vintage tower that soars above us no matter where we live in Berlin.
There is beer, so cold, so refreshing, and so easy to drink — especially on long summer nights along the Spree. And then there is wine. White in the summer. Red in the Fall and Winter, but mostly there is only red wine for me.
Red wine. At 24, off of a street corner in Les Halles in a restaurant where we ordered plate after plate of food from the Basque country, a Frenchman once told me that red wine was always preferred. White wine was for fish. No other time, he emphasized.
And with these brief words, my transition from white to red was complete, especially during the colder months.
For my mother and to my grandmother for paving the path that I now follow.
Come to the edge.
We might fall.
Come to the edge.
It’s too high!
COME TO THE EDGE!
And they came,
and he pushed,
And they flew.
Feeding a picky eight year old can be hard. Feeding a picky eight year old visiting her potato-growing grandma is a whole other story. A Tex-Mex and Chinese guzzling eight year old just cannot understand her grandma’s cuisine philosophy. Especially if they are as follows:
- Use only Salt and pepper for spices
- Serve every meal with boiled potatoes and carrots.
- Eat fish every day except Sunday. Then you can eat salmon (No. This is not fish.)
And so after many days of sitting potty-mouthed at the table, and then secretly stealing lefse after every meal. We reached a compromise. My sister and I would eat three things: 1.Mashed potatoes and sausage 2. Meat balls and 3. Fleskepannekaker (Norwgian pancakes cooked in bacon fat)
At 17, I was a bonafide Norwegian fish monger. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite the fishmonger my ancestors would be proud of. There was no hawking of my wares from a gently swaying boat along the harbor to hungry housewives. Instead, I mostly sold to tourists who mostly bought small opened faced sandwiches, and sometimes gave me a hard time for selling whale.
In my booth, there were no foul-mouthed sailors staring out to sea to ensure their safe voyage back home. I sold fish with Santiago from Uruguay, always drinking mate, Eduardo from Barcelona, always smoking and sometimes singing “Singing in the Rain” with me when the weather was really terrible — which was most of the time. Out of 15 employees, there was one other Norwegian.
Let me take you on a journey through Italy’s olive groves.
We’ll start beyond the boot, across the strait of Mesina in Sicily. You’ll step sweating out of a broken-down dilapidated car and follow an old man in a newspaper boy’s cap up a dirt road. He’ll tell you in a dialect that seems more Arabic than Italian that here olives are grown up to 700-800m above sea level and this year alone they have grown olives on 160,000 ha.
You’ll look at the stout twisted porous trunks and the patches of yellow grass surrounded by dirt and wonder at the wealth of olives weighing down the branches to near breaking point. You’ll fix the car and continue. Across the strait in Calabria the rolling hills and huge olive groves continue.