February 12, 2013

A Chat with Luisa Weiss of My Berlin Kitchen & Book Giveaway!

Today I am thrilled to be chatting with one of my all-time favorite bloggers and published authors, Luisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef. In case you missed it, last spring Luisa’s first book, My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes), was released. It is a terrific food memoir (foodoir?) that chronicles her life to date beginning with her young childhood in Berlin, Germany. I won’t give away all the stories in the book, but suffice it to say Luisa has spent her life living around the globe, finding love and solace in her kitchen, and is currently – happily – living in Berlin with her husband and infant son.

I loved this book not only for the rich storytelling but also the uniquely German and American recipes. I’ve earmarked so many things to try and am specifically hoping to master the Elderflower syrup and Springerle cookies before the year is out. Luckily for us, Luisa stopped by to answer some questions and give away one of her books!

My Berlin Kitchen

1) I love the food memoir format of your book. Did you ever debate about writing a cookbook, or did it always seem like a memoir was the right format for you?
When I first started thinking about writing a book, I did consider a cookbook, but I was never really sure what the angle would be. On my blog, after all, I mostly write about other people’s recipes. In fact, it felt like I had far more personal stories to share than recipes, so eventually a memoir wiggled its way out of me. In retrospect, it made a lot of sense and I’m glad that my agent saw the potential in me. I needed a little convincing! I wasn’t sure anyone would really want to read about my journey.

2) Was there ever a moment in the writing process when you found yourself stuck? You’ve had a busy life up until now – it must have been hard to recall and write down everything!

Oho, was there ever. I’d say there was probably about a year of feeling utterly stuck. I’d left New York and was adjusting to life in Berlin during a very long, harsh winter. All the plans I had for writing went straight out the window. I think deep down I was just plain scared – terrified – of the hard work that lay before me. There were a LOT of truly awful chapters and then a lot of time in which nothing got written. It was so scary! Luckily, my publisher gave me time and eventually the weather got better (haha) and I started my own internal creative thaw. But there were many hard moments – writing a book is what I imagine what running a marathon is like. Episodes of total runner’s high and episodes of utter torture.

3) Now that you are living in Germany would you ever consider living anywhere else in the future? It took so long for you to get back.

At the moment, I’m very happy to be in Berlin. I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, which is epic – it’s what I was looking for my whole life. That being said, I like to daydream about spending a few years in southern California, where it’s always warm and sunny.

4) What is some of the favorite feedback you’ve received from readers?

All of the positive reviews and letters have been absolutely amazing, but my favorite thing is to hear from readers with similarly mish-mashed background who say that no one has ever been able to sum up their experience so succinctly or authentically and that reading my book made them feel less alone. Those are the letters that bring tears to my eyes – it can be a little lonely growing up this way and I’m so glad to hear that my book gave comfort to others. It’s really incredibly gratifying.

5) What are some of your all-time food memoirs and cookbooks?

My favorite food memoirs are Cooking For Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser, Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples by Ruth Reichl, A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg and Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin. My favorite cookbooks? It’s hard to make a list, since I have so many favorites. But at the moment, I’m really loving Nigel Slater’s latest book, Kitchen Diaries II, and at night I’ve been curling up with The Little House Cookbook that I got for my birthday from a dear friend. It’s so cozy and reminds me of reading The Little House in the Big Woods and falling in love with Laura Ingalls Wilder as a kid.

6) I love the stories about Hugo on your blog! How do you plan to introduce him to your identity with both America and Germany?

Thank you! I’m home with Hugo full-time so he’s exposed to my American side all day long: we listen to Ella Jenkins, Pete Seeger and Natalie Merchant, I read him my favorite English-language baby books, plus there will be a few trips a year to see his grandparents in the US and I hope to send him to a bilingual daycare/school here in Berlin when the time comes. His dad’s in charge of his German side, though of course since he’s growing up here, he won’t need as much helping along with that.

7) What kind of food does Germany do better than anyone else?

Baked goods! I’d like to find a more attractive term for the stuff, but desserts isn’t accurate, since German sweet baking encompasses breakfast and tea time too. The German/Austrian baking tradition is unparalleled in the world! From strudel to doughnuts to rustic yeasted fruit pies to towering tortes to myriad Christmas cookies to fruit bread and braided sweet loaves, nut-studded breakfast buns, marzipan confections and more – it’s an entire universe.

8) What is next for The Wednesday Chef? (another book, I hope!)

Ooh, I don’t know just yet! A book of some kind, yes, though I swore up and down I’d never write again after I finished My Berlin Kitchen. We’ll see. Hopefully I’ll know more in the next few months. (Editor’s note: please, please write another book!!!)

To win a copy of My Berlin Kitchen:

1) Leave a comment below sharing your favorite German food!

2) Contest runs from February 12th through February 19th at 7:00am. Winner will be announced in the February 22nd newsletter! Good luck!

  • fromajolie

    Not necessarily a food, but I love that Germans have meats, cheese and grainy/seedy rolls for breakfast!

  • Tanya Smith

    Bratkartoffeln…yum!!

  • Melinda Ott

    I grew up eating German food, but I have to say that spaetzle is such a treat!

  • http://www.facebook.com/annie.ripp.7 Annie Ripp

    Sauerbraten and apple kuchen make my heart sing! My German father in law talks about an onion tart his mother made. I’d love to find a recipe for that one day and surprise him.

    • Mel

      I think you can make one of those “tarts” in a wrought iron skillet in the oven..just layer everything..sauerkraut, sausages,potato slices, sliced onions, apple slices on top & bake in the oven until done..I like my sauerkraut with carraway seed in it, too! There are probably many ways to make this?

  • Sarah Hawkins-Pinchers

    My favorite German food is sauerkraut!

  • rachel

    German pancakes!!

  • Erin

    Brats! Sauerkraut can sneak in there too!

  • Charlsey G

    I had Spaetzle (spelling?) once in my German class in high school. I think I liked it :) But I am a huge fan of kraut and weiner :)

  • Margaret

    red cabbage! I wish there were more German restaurants.

  • Mel

    I love sauerkraut with sausages & potatoes…we have these every New Year, since I married my husband..it is his family’s tradition…I love it & now all the kids do, too! :)

  • http://tastespace.wordpress.com/ janet @ the taste space

    Rouladen is my favourite but since I don’t eat mat anymore, sauerkraut it is! :)

  • Ketki

    Lebkuchen and curry Wurst! :-)

  • Liz

    Strudel, but also german sausages with really good mustard and sauerkraut.

  • Jonquil

    *Anything* considered a sweet baked good (being stuck in the area of Ct. I am, it’s all Italian pastries…which are fine, but not to my taste) & Omas’ Leberknoedelsuppe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AMBaby Alice Mizer

    my fave German food? has to be any sausage really! :) i havent had much in the way of German food!

  • moorehe2

    my favorite german food is rouladen! my mom passed down her recipe to me and now my fiance asks for it every year for his birthday dinner. pairs well with his german chocolate birthday cake :)
    moorehe2@gmail.com

  • Megan

    Sauerkraut

  • Carol

    I lived in the middle of the US, and feel fortunate to have a really good German restaurant very near our home. My favorites are spatzle and strudel

  • Ada

    Schnitzel, of course. Even though we are not German, my Mum made it for me from a young age and it’s still a comfort food for me.

  • Susanne

    Since I grew up in Berlin but live in the States now,my list is extremely long. One favorite that I miss very much, however, is Streuselschnecken. Sweet round little cakes with crunchy streusel, topped of with a sugar glaze. Much preferred to donuts :-)

  • Jen

    I used to order something in Germany that involved ham and a fried egg on toast…hammer max or something? Whatever it’s called, it was delicious!

  • Guest

    Does German Beer count :) ?

  • Jenny

    Schnitzel. :)

  • Alex

    Apple Pancakes

  • Julia

    Strudel

  • Miranda

    I like sauerkraut

  • smogfishk

    Sausages, beer and pretzels!

  • taste area

    Sausages, beer abd pretzels!
    http://tastearea.blogspot.com/

  • Caitlin

    Oooooo. My favourite German food is all kinds of sausage. I know it’s kind of gross to think about, but I fell in love with weisswurst when I was in Munich in September.

  • Ashley

    My friend Antje who grew up just outside of Leipzig makes these amazing almond butter cookies at Christmas time that practically dissolve in your mouth upon first bite. Those, are my favorite.

  • tunie

    Without a doubt, it’s spaetzle – actually, it’s a tie between Christmas stollen and spaetzle!

  • la ninja

    hiya, all of the below but I simply adore lebkuchen around xmas time. jawohl, madam.
    thanks for the giveaway. cheers, ninja

  • KarenP

    My mom’s rouladen. She got the recipe from my grandmother, who was born in Wurtzberg, Germany, and it’s been passed down to me. It was always a special treat when we had it for dinner.

  • Meagan

    so hard to pick – i think lebkuchen (I have no idea how to spell this haha). I’d love this book, thank you for the giveaway!!

  • Shanna

    I adore spaetzle!

  • Michaela

    I’ve spent some years in South Germany and Berlin and I just love how potatoes are cooked in such different ways.. Kartoffelsalad is one of my favourite, but the list is looooong!

  • Jen P

    Semmelknoedel all the way!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001314744930 Aibrean Ros

    Spaetzle is great!

  • Cameron

    My favorite German food was any of the street food (mostly bratwurst and pommes mit mayo). I was a poor student living for one semester in Lueneburg and trying to save my money to see other parts of the country so street food was the way to go for me when it wasn’t graubrot and salami from Aldi.

  • Leah

    Waffles. So excited to read Luisa’s book!

  • Eileen

    Sauerbraten!

  • jaimiewith2eyes

    I love the Wednesday Chef!

  • Joanna

    Brezeln! I never get sick of making homemade ones.

  • Isabelle

    I love Luisa’s blog but I haven’t read the book yet. Would love to! I don’t know much about German food but I loved the weiners with fresh horseradish and hot mustard I ate when I visited Austria.

  • Uncle Bob

    Because of my work I have been able to spend quite a bit of time over the past decade or so in southern Germany. I often stayed at a wonderful small German hotel in Landstuhl named the Rosenhof. I especially loved visiting in the springtime when asparagus (“spargel” in German), especially white asparagus, is joyfully celebrated on restuarant menus all over Germany. I love a salad served at the Rosenhof which I have re-created here in the States and which I have named Spargel Salad Rosenhof. Here’s the recipe:
    Spargel Salad Rosenhof

    6 spears white asparagus (spargel)
    1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
    1 cup sliced black olives
    2 Tbs fresh basil, cut in chiffonade
    Vinaigrette dressing
    Salt and pepper

    1. Steam the asparagus spears for about 12 minutes until cooked but still slightly crunchy. Cool and then cut into crosswise 1/4-inch rounds, reserving the tips for garnish.
    2. Gently combine the asparagus rounds with the cherry tomatoes, black olives, basil, vinaigrette, salt, and pepper.
    3. Refrigerate the salad for about an hour until well chilled and all flavors have developed, and then serve. Makes 2 servings.

  • Angie

    Sauerkraut and German sausages:) And I could eat pretzels any time of the day:)

  • Adi Lev-Er

    I had a flaky apple pastry for breakfast on my one brief visit to Berlin, and I have remembered it every since!

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  • LMB

    curry wurst! or sauerkraut, or schnitzel, or that vinegary potato salad that puts the American mayo-soaked version to shame…

  • Magdalen Dobson

    I love kugelhopf and gateaux!

  • angela

    My favorite german food are the lovely loaf cakes in cafes in Berlin… carrot, lemon, spice. Holy smokes.

  • Talia

    I adore strudel, sticky and sweet!

  • Nina S

    I adore schnitzel, of any flavour! I also enjoyed the interview, thanks!

  • Cas.H

    I haven’t been fortunate enough to try many German baked goods, but hopefully in the future, I will get a chance! I especially want to try Schnitzel, strudel, the famous christmas cookies Luisa always talks about and I really want to try stolen at christmas!

  • Ellie

    Bread! There’s nothing better than German bread!

  • Beth

    My favorite German food? It’s got to be a jar of fabulous sweet Bavarian mustard.

  • Mari @ Oh, Sweet @ Savory

    Hands down, a strudel – for breakfast, mid-day treat, or dessert!

  • Jo B

    Their Christmas cookies!

  • Meighan

    pretzels and mustard!

  • Jenny

    Does beer count? I haven’t had a lot of German food, but I would always be up to try something new!

  • Nancy

    Elder blossoms, battered and fried – the essence of seasonal food, totally delicious!

  • http://www.facebook.com/barb.mulligan.3 Barb Mulligan

    Schnitzl!!!

  • Isa

    Schnitzel always brings back memories, as do apple fritters from the markets (with the gluhwein of course) and all sorts of sausages… mmmm, now I’m hungry just talking about it! And the treats for coffee time…

  • Tracy

    I think my favourite Berlin food/meal is a Berliner classic – pan fried liver, with onions, sliced, fried apples and mashed potato. I LOVE eating that when I’m in Berlin! :-)

  • efkata

    it should definitely be spaetzle! and by the way, I’ve eaten the best ever döner in Berlin… :)

  • Silke

    Schupfnudeln with venison

  • Alicia

    I spent 10 years living in Kitchener, Ontario (formerly known as Berlin, ON) so german food was a given – Strudel, schnitzel, sausage, stolen, & rouladen

  • Sara

    Hello! there are plenty of dishes I love from German cuisine, one of them is potato salad and reading Luisa Weiss’s recipe about this dish I found the perfect and more representative recipe ever…

    On the other hand I also like to mention because of my childhood memories the bavarian Dampfnudels with vanilla sauce that I used to eat when visiting Germany.

    Thanks for the opportunity to play!
    Sara

  • Sara

    Chocolate marzipan goodies

  • Sara

    Anything with marzipan gets my vote.

  • meganlisbeth

    spaetzle. definitely. :)

  • Caroline Blevins

    There was a german potato salad my best friend’s family made that has always lingered in miy mind!

  • Micaela

    I’m simple — my favorite German food is spaetzle! It’s so delicious and comforting.

    I love Luisa’s writing and am itching to get my hands on a copy of My Berlin Kitchen. Thanks for the giveaway!

    Micaela

    mklade (at) gmail (dot) com

  • Abby

    Pretzels, mustard, and beer, for sure!

  • Irene

    my favorite german food is a hearty beet soup i once ate in a café in leipzig. i always order it when i come back to that spot. but: i love good fischbrötchen from hamburg, too!

  • Donna

    Dense whole grain bread
    Preferably warm, with butter

  • Anna S

    Black forest cake

  • http://www.facebook.com/nina.beadle.3 Nina Beadle

    Mohnkuchen all the way!