Three’s Company | Dinner in Berlin

Perhaps nothing civilizes us and fosters kinship more than dining together. Breaking bread–when attended to with care and attention–nourishes the body, intellect, and emotions. Two girlfriends recently dropped by my East Berlin apartment for a simple, and simply elegant, meal. White wine, field greens with homemade honey-dijon dressing, and a seasonal vegetable soup with brown rice doth a meal make! Special details–like a grandmother’s candlesticks and fresh-cut flowers–made it pop. Warm thanks to Alina Rudya for the below images.

Drizzling greens with local-honey + Dijon-mustard dressing.
Locally grown vegetables, spices, fresh lemon juice and olive oil, topped with dollop of soy yogurt.
Fresh flowers from the cute, family-owned shop on Torstraße.
I love this kitchen.
With the lovely Rita, from Lisbon.

Beef & Spartan Men at Battle | Columnist Molly Hannon

I introduce to you Eating with Abs’ newest (hottest) columnist Molly Hannon, who is a US-born freelance writer based in Berlin. She holds a Master’s in Gastronomy and Communications from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy, where she will this fall lead a Master’s-level seminar about 20th-century food literature and its relationship to contemporary food writing. A contributor to the Newsweek’s Daily Beast and a food-and-arts correspondent for NPR, Molly’s writing focuses on food’s cultural influences, narratives and literary legacies—-how they shape civilization and bring us together. She also maintains a blog, LesGensFaims, which translates to “Hungry People.”

When the Spartan men would return from battle, the dedicated Spartan women would give them a glass of red wine with a rusty nail in it. After all of their blood, sweat, and toil on the battlefield, their men were low on iron. Yes, these almost-mythological warriors needed to refuel but they did it keeping their palate in mind. Again, the Greeks remind us of how to live, with from-the-vineyard libations at the center of it.

Iron is a crucial ingredient when it comes to the body’s well-being and overall health. Those who are low in iron (the dreaded anemic who is red blood cell-challenged) must battle with fatigue, among other ailments. However, the solution does not lie in a sleek and unassuming little pill or any other cheap, easy alternative like a hamburger with a fried egg on top. Quite the contrary, in fact; the cure-what-ails-you, however, does require a little imagination…and research into plant-based sources of iron.

I, myself, am anemic—-or at least was diagnosed as such about a month ago. The doctor’s prescription was to take iron supplements and increase my intake  of meat, eggs, and dairy…ho hum! A few days later, I received a long and worrisome email  from my Jewish-mother-of-a-father that listed the symptoms of anemia and encouraged me to eat more meat. He concluded his email with a slogan from perhaps the most-enduring meat-industry advertising campaign:  Molly, beef IS what’s for dinner.

I still had my doubts about my doctor’s proposed iron-enrichment measure and therefore consulted a nutritionist who has aligned her medical philosophy with the pleasures of gastronomy—-specifically, eating for pleasure rather than simply for health. It’s odd that the two are not unified, as if they were somehow separated since birth, running in opposite circles and occasionally scolding one another, when in reality they should align and reinforce one another’s higher attributes.

Yes, taking pleasure in what you eat does relate to your health. I am convinced of this and find guilt or paranoia in what you consume a waste of time, even if you have certain health conditions. There are iron-rich vegetarian solutions that leave your taste buds atingle and your iron quotient satisfied. The Spartan post-battle ritual is reminder of one of the key elements when it comes to a healthy body: pleasure. Their wine and rusty nail combo demonstrates they were aware of their deeper needs, both physically and mentally, aligning taste with a vital mineral that could in turn allow them to conquer the world all while throwing back a few.

The lesson here is to write your own prescription, seeking out ethical iron-rich foods while maintaining your gastronomical integrity. There does not have to be a quick-fix solution despite the 21st century’s industrious speed. Just don’t swallow that nail.

PS: Hey lovelies, it’s Abigail here, with some dope recommendations for iron-rich, plant-based foods. Scope out the list below, which also includes the iron content per-serving. It’s as easy as a hearty, black-bean and spinach stew ladled over a dish of hot quinoa. Dig:

  • Lentils (6.6 mg)
  • Quinoa (6.3 mg)
  • Black Beans (3.6 mg)
  • Pinto Beans (3.5 mg)
  • Blackstrap Molasses (7.2 mg)
  • Spinach (6.4 mg)
  • Swiss Chard (4.0 mg)
  • Turnip Greens (3.2 mg)

Images: Gordon M. Robertson, Jessica Spengler

Midday Coconut Meat, Mixed-Nut Mélange, and Yerba Maté

In a mad-burst biomarkt mine-sweep, I snagged an afternoon snack packed with hearty proteins, healthy fats, and a super-special pick-me-up. Raw coconut meat (conveniently fresh-hacked and -diced by my friendly produce guy) is a decadent, dreamy treat that’s also a powerhouse of good-for-you lipids and fiber—it’s also (handily) a rich source of Manganese, a key player in the metabolization of aforementioned lipids and fiber. How convenient that nature knows how to take care of you. Paired with roasted-and-salted cashews, almonds and macadamia nuts, I raised the bar to ridiculously-freaking-good by infusing my midday repast with a wicked protein component.

My new Berlin go-to refreshment is Club-Mate, a glass-bottled, carbonated yerba maté produced right here in Germany. Yerba maté is a drink brewed from the stems and leaves of a South American rain-forest shrub, while the beverage is purported to combine the euphoria-producing properties of chocolate, perk-you-up qualities of coffee, and salutary-benefits of tea. Club-Mate is lovely—not sugar-laden like soda, it instead offers a vaguely-astringent, unsweetened effervescence. It’s an acquired taste that so happens to make you feel very, very good inside. Club-Mate is a refreshing stimulant, and swilling many bottles of the drink helps fuel long, dirty nights of dancing well-beyond dawn. Because, at the end of the day, I’m the kind of girl who digs being hydrated and dripping-with-sweat rather than hungover from a night of expensive cocktails…well, usually.

PS: Speaking of coconut and its myriad benefits, I firmly recommend liberally slathering your body in raw, virgin coconut oil after every shower. It can be applied wherever you wish, and rather than shelling out lots of dough for ridiculous up-sell beauty products, you can just pick up a jar of coconut oil from the grocer. Consider it your personal big, fat eff you to the absurd excesses of the beauty industry.

Sauteéd Carrot-&-Parsley Pasta

There’s no better time to hit-up the farmers’ market than the day’s end. Merchants are eager to pack-up and haul-out, and they’ll throw their wares at you for a fraction of the price. For a scant 3 euros, I scored a heaping sack of bright-orange carrots and more parsley than I’ve eaten in a lifetime. An unusual pairing, sure, but when you’re scoring eats on the cheap, it doesn’t pay to be picky. You’ve gotta snag what you’re offered and challenge yourself to get creative. Still…parsley? Familiar to me only as the green garnish on a dinner plate, I wondered, what the eff am I going to do with it all?

I scoped out my pantry and honed-in on a vision: carrots-&-parsley sauteéd in olive oil, combined with fresh pasta, and topped with my favorite-ever culinary go-to, nutritional yeast. Plate it with sea salt and fresh-ground pepper, and you have yourself an elegant, exceedingly-simple, and so-freaking-cheap meal. There’s nothing more refined than living large on a dime.

Hello, Morning. I love you, I need you.

Morning Light, Morning Love

The wee hours usher along with them the promise of anything — the simple joy of waking up each morning leaves me as breathless and delirious as taking a new lover. Except a new day is pure pleasure with none of the awkwardness or misgivings. 

One unfailing morning-delight is breakfast. I groove the day’s first meal so much that I try to postpone it as long as I can, until I can’t stand it anymore. Lately, this means hitting-up my neighborhood bäckerei in the early afternoon. This place isn’t hip by a long-shot, but the nice lady behind the counter learned my name the first time I entered and, by day three, was telling me about her headache. Given Germans’ avoidance of small-talk with strangers, this woman totally won me over with her civility and conversation skills. Berliners are sometimes way too-cool for this American girl — the emotional distance was fun, at first, but my homegrown penchant for hearty hellos dies hard. Effing smile already, y’all!

What I especially love are the cafe’s flaky, buttery, light-as-air croissants, paired with a fragrant coffee cooled with soymilk. The world is full of so many small and magnificent things, and I’m so in love with it all that it makes me ache. xoxo, abs

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Black Tea, Brown Bread, Bare Cupboards

Living on a budget is a reality, and it’s even-more so when you’re staying abroad and negotiating the current euro-to-dollar conversion rate. Let me tell you–it’s killer. Having exceeded my strict weekly allotment, I’ve learned two important things: 1) Nightly trips to the adorable tapas bar across the street might be rip-roaring fun, but mojitos and White Russians exact a punishing toll on your budget. Lesson learned? Only go out for cocktails if somebody else is buying. Unfortunately, this is much easier for women than men—sorry, dudes! Which brings me to my second jewel of wisdom: 2) European-style jollies result in empty cupboards, but this doesn’t have to bring you down. Lesson learned? A girl can definitely get by on a bare minimum.

In my case, this means a hearty, protein- and vitamin-rich brown bread chock-full of hazelnuts and sesame seeds. I bought this weighty loaf from my neighborhood bakery, drizzling two slices with olive oil and dusting them with salt-and-pepper. Filling? Check. Nourishing? Check. Perfect with a piping-hot cup of Chinese black tea with oat-milk for the cream? But of course.

Sure, this spread might comprise my every meal for the next few days, but it will allow me to appreciate simplicity’s great abundance. And, while I usually avoid going here, the minimalism might result in dropping a few pounds, as well. All in all, this is a pretty sweet deal.

Question: How do you keep it real when you’re living on a budget? Be it lentils-and-rice for a month or spaghetti-and-tomatoes for your mainstay, what are some of the best cheap eats when it’s time to tighten your belt (literally)? xoxo, abs