About 14 months ago, Brian and I were sitting in his parents’ living room, at the time almost-homeless with all of our belongings in a container ship floating in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere… I was completely unaware of what the next year would hold, but I knew one thing: our rental contract was never counter-signed by the owner. We got an email asking us to pay for the model unit designer curtains. And nope. We wouldn’t. (They were ugly–not to mention expensive!) But it turned out that the rental contract we signed (and thought was final) wasn’t final at all… because they never signed it. My mother-in-law, being the amazing person that she is, confidently proclaimed that there was some hidden blessing, some meaning, in this seemingly awful turn of event where we felt actually homeless 3 weeks before arriving in our new city.
14 months later, I would like to tell you what we already know: Mama’s always right. And yes, she was right this time, too. We received an identical contract for a unit in a different row of houses. Our backyard is shared by multiple families, making our backyard life the envy of the neighborhood with children everywhere and toys being shared, and a strip of grass behind our sheds to boot. A soccer-playing, water balloon throwing, bike riding, ice cream eating heaven.
I could end the post here–but why?! I wanted to paint the backyard picture for you because about 8 months into living here I had a sudden realization: all the other moms were sitting outside and enjoying the early evening… while I was cooking in the kitchen. Heh?! Something about their life led them to be able to sit outside, sipping sparkling water, happily refereeing any arguments and answering calls of cuts, bruises and requests for ice packs. I was aghast. And I needed to know their secret… And they were happy to oblige:
The literal translation? Evening Bread.
The German tradition of Abend Brot is not far from what you’re imagining. Simple deli meat (or tuna), sliced cheese, herbed butter, fresh bread from your local Backerei, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, pickles, etc. A simple, cold meal. Something that takes literally 5 minutes to assemble. And I could tell! Because all of these moms are sitting outside until they literally call out “Abend Essen!” … and go in and assemble dinner.
So, I converted. We’re at least 2 months into 3 nights per week of Abend Brot, and I’m totally converted. I’ve enjoyed the after school hour with my kids a lot more, feeling free to sit down and enjoy their company, or open the shed and enjoy a game. I’m also planning meals a lot less and my grocery list became much simpler.
So, I wanted to share it with you! All these German moms are sipping sparkling water and enjoying time outside during our so aptly named “Witching Hour”. I’m so thankful to be living in a new country and getting to learn different ways to do things–especially when they give back to our family culture so richly!
I hope you’re having a great week and if you don’t have a dinner plan for tomorrow–no sweat! Here’s my quick list:
- For a sandwich, or to eat as finger foods, rolled up: Bread, meat and/or sliced cheese (Lox if you want to make your life awesome), herbed butter or cream cheese, and lettuce.
- Pickles, Roasted red pepper, olives, etc.
- Veggies (Cucumber and peppers are our regulars, though I love mushrooms and green beans, snow peas for a treat.)
- Fruits (I like to buy a bit nicer since we’re not buying dinner ingredients–berries all the way! Oh, and the kids love prunes. Go figure.)
And here’s my final disclaimer: after two or three months, I will admit that it’s gotten old. We find the weekend cooked meal to be absolutely divine after so much Abend Brot… but you know? That’s ok. With Brian working longer hours, it makes the weeknights simpler and when we get to be together on the weekends, our homemade full meals are a delight and luxury–and that is a sweet thing.
Have a great rest of your week! And if you try Abend Brot–please let me know how it goes! 🙂
PS- good question from my friends: what do they eat for lunch? Dinner! I forgot to mention that all four of us are served hot food at lunch, which takes the pressure off of dinner… But I’m also more than happy to eat a lighter, simpler meal before we head to the horizontal position for a long night’s sleep! 🙂