Fechenheim Potato Flan

Hesenthurm, Schloss Gate, Marburg

The potato reigns supreme in Hesse, Germany. Set in the middle of the country, this good-sized state has an affinity for the starchy tuber, which is not surprising; Hesse was poor, and the potato served as a staple food for households that could not afford more lavish victuals.

Indeed,  few plants besides the stalwart potato could find purchase in this rugged region. The Harz Mountains cover the greater part of Hesse, making arable land scarce. Cultivation is chiefly confined to the narrow valleys and lower hill slopes, and the principle crops are those that thrive in such unfavorable terrain: rye, barley, oats and, of course, potatoes.

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Easy Homemade Sauerkraut

cabbage head

In his 1913 treatise Health and Longevity Through Rational Diet Arnold Lorand praises sauerkraut for the “disinfecting process in the intestine” it sets in motion, as well as for its “stimulating effect upon the appetite.” Lorand himself reports having had “good results” with the “one or two tablespoons of sauerkraut” he would eat at the beginning of a meal.

Under no circumstances should folks forsake sauerkraut juice for the flesh, “as is unfortunately frequently the case in restaurants and even in private houses,” Lorand writes, because its nutritional properties — abundant lactic acid and vitamins — make it powerfully tonic in its own right.

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The French Voyeur’s Broiled Mackerel

spy camera concealed in a hat

The narrator of Henri Barbusse’s 1908 novel The Inferno (L’Enfer) spends his days and nights peering through a chink in his boarding room wall, which he discovered shortly after taking possession of the room. He cannot help himself, he says, for as a man unmarried, rather short, with no children (and, he adds, who “shall have none”), as a man with whom “a line will end which has lasted since the beginning of humanity,” he felt himself “submerged in the positive nothingness of every day.”

He beguiles this positive nothingness by watching lovers couple, couples quarrel and old men die in the next room. He overhears confessions that make him question the existence of God. Slowly his knowledge of other lives becomes a burden. “I saw now how I should be punished for having entered into the living secrets of man.,” he reports. “I was destined to undergo the infinite misery I read in others…. Infinity is not what we think. We associate it with heroes of legend and romance, and we invest fiery, exceptional characters, like a Hamlet, with infinity as with a theatrical costume. But infinity reside quietly in that man who is just passing by on the street…. So, step by step, I followed the track of the infinite.”

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