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Bizarre Reactions...


cakewench
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I don't know if this is a thread which has come up before. I imagine there must have been something similar, but I couldn't find one, and I was amused enough with my experience that I wanted to share it somewhere.

My German boyfriend and I got engaged a month or two ago. I am American, and am living with him here in Germany until his PhD is complete (should be another month or two, then who knows where we will end up!) In Germany, if you announce something like an engagement, you are expected to throw the party, or bring cake to work, or take people out for drinks, etc. (as opposed to the States, where usually do a bit of a celebration for YOU, or a shower, or dinner... whatever. Different cultures)

So, he wanted to announce the engagement to his colleagues, and said he was thinking of buying a cake. He knows I like to bake, so he added "or you could do something?" :smile: I was already thinking of something good, yet American, that I could make. These sort of things usually go over rather well, when it is a food that people don't get a lot of around here. Especially when it is something they have only 'heard of'.

I decided to do brownies. Quintissential American food, and almost never done properly overseas (oh, the hockey pucks I've seen in little cellophane packages, emblazoned with US flags. sigh). I couldn't find my standard cocoa recipe, so I went online to locate a new one. There, I found a reasonable one, with an excellent-sounding cream cheese filling. great.

Long story short, I made them. They were fantastic. To die for. I didn't want to share them, that's how great they were. I told him this over the phone to his office, suggested that we might want to go ahead and just buy a cake. :raz: In the end, we decided to be nice and share, anyway.

In to his meeting-room they went, where his colleagues were sitting to have afternoon tea/coffee (4pm, on the dot). Around the table the brownies were passed. Suspicious looks were given. About half of them took one each (okay, weird... a room full of men who don't have people baking for them, and they passed them up?) The other half... well, once they found out that "käse?!?!" was the filling (cheese!!), they didn't want to touch them at all.

:wacko: We tried to explain. The Germans wanted no part of it. The only guys who truly tried and enjoyed them were the Swiss guy and the French guy. (the French guy had FIVE. I don't think I've stressed how rich these were, btw) Luckily, my fiance loved them, too, so we just took them hope and snarfed them, ourselves.

But really. I know other people here must have had similar experiences. Total confidence in what you have made, only to be met with a wall of "you want me to eat WHAT?" Especially amusing when it isn't something you would even consider to be odd. It's not as if I was trying to serve *insert untouchable food item here*.

käse, indeed.

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It's wierd that you should post this. I am also an expat in europe, here in France. My husband is French. I too, just last week, made chocolate cheesecake brownies from a recipe I found on the net. I thought they were really great, albeit a bit rich. Well, the first thing my husband said was, with the food still in his mouth: "I think you're going to have to send an e-mail and tell them that this recipe is a failure." He made a face and spit it out. This is not like the husband I know, who is a 100% supporter of all of my cooking endeavors, normally. I thought they were rather rich, and the cheesecake part was very cheesecake and the brownie part was so much like the perfect brownie I posted the recipe just for the brownie part directly in the gullet. But I know what you mean. On rare occaision I have gotton very deadpan reactions, smacking noises comments of "interesting, but I wouldn't make it this way." from dear friends who have never ever criticized, when using cheese in sweet recipes. One time was a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. So delectable to me, so disgusting to them.

From this type of lesson I have also lreaned not to offer cinnamon flavored candy, it tastes like bad tasting medicine to the French, go easy on the cloves, be discreet with molasses (which I bring back with me), and stay classic with the cocktails I serve to guests. :laugh::laugh::laugh:

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Cheese or no cheese, speaking as one who grew up eating the baking of a German mother, most Europeans find American baking and dessert recipes far, far, far, far too sweet, even without the cheese. (I'm kind of puzzled by that. There are certainly plenty of European recipes for cheesy sweets -- many of them far odder than a cheesecake brownie. Maybe it was the specific combo of cheese and chocolate.)

As do I. I don't like most purchased cakes and desserts for just that reason (although it's a good way to encourage portion control!) and usually cut sugar by half automatically in any American or Canadian recipe, without ever trying it "as written" (blech!). I've never thought to myself "hm, this could've used a bit more sugar" either.

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:laugh:

Hey, that made me feel a lot better, bleu. That is very amusing that we managed to have just about the exact same experience, within the last few weeks...

Oh, yes, Compass, I've noticed the lower sugar content in desserts here. (I've actually been over here quite a while) I guess the main thing to point out is that half the guys didn't even try them, once they knew there was cheese involved. The exact same group of guys will eat cheese danish-type cakes like they are getting monetary reimbursment for the act.

This group of guys happens to be a fairly international bunch, hence the 'Okay, I'll make brownies' reaction. Anytime one of them has a party or has to bring food for something, it is encouraged by the others that he bring a food from his home country. (boy, am I happy my fiance shares an office with a guy from Thailand. yum.) The encouragement usually comes from the others who are from different countries.

The fiance says it's a trait shared by people in this particular region of the country. They don't always want to try something 'new', and evidently, cheese-and-chocolate falls into that category. :wacko:

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The last time I was visiting my immediate family in the Middle East, my (American-born Lebanese) mother was pining for the desserts that we usually eat together when we're in the States. Feeling ambitious on Christmas Eve, I threw together a feast of her favorites based on what was available (I was thrilled to find canned pumpkin, for instance). I made the most awesome pumpkin pie any of us had ever tasted (I'm not exaggerating; it was that good), pecan pie, lemon meringue pie (my brother's favorite; I can't stand the stuff), a dark, sticky gingerbread, oatmeal raisin cookies, Maida Heatter's Palm Beach brownies (you know, with the peppermint patties), penuche fudge, peanut butter cups- all from scratch.

Guests (none of whom were American) dropped by throughout the day and helped themselves from the platters of the stuff. The sweets were barely nibbled at. Some Scottish friends enjoyed the gingerbread, and ate the fudge which was not unlike Scottish tablet, but that was pretty much it. The next day, I sent tupperware containers of the stuff with my teenaged sister to a barbeque at her friend's house. Lots of hungry kids scarfing pizza and burgers; the containers came back full minus two peanut butter cups and a cookie that someone had apparently been brave enough to try.

Lack of a sense of adventure, I say.

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My mother made an almond angel food cake (made with almond extract as almonds weren't available) for me for one of my birthdays in Terengganu, Malaysia in the mid 70s. I told her not to try to give any to any of our Malay neighbors, but she didn't listen. Of course, they didn't like it. They found it weird as hell and otherwise tawar (tasteless). The moral of the story? What's normal for one people sucks for another.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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For what it's worth -- and as a born-n-bred American -- I have never understood the combo of cheese and chocolate. It's not just that I don't like it, it's that it tastes sort of....WRONG to me. To my tongue, cream cheese (and fresh cheese in general) is a light, front-of-the-mouth taste, that I associate with spring and summer flavors -- summer fruits, herbs, and salads, as well as cold poached chicken and fish, which also taste "summery" to me. Chocolate, on my tongue, is a back-of-the-mouth, full-bodied taste, that I associate with fall and winter flavors -- dried fruit, spices, nuts. (Citrus, for me, bridges the seasons, although the combo of lemon and chocolate is as bizarre to me as cream cheese and chocolate.) :biggrin: And no, for what it's worth, I don't really like chocolate ice cream.

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They don't always want to try something 'new', and evidently, cheese-and-chocolate falls into that category.

Occasionally, very occasionally, you can be surprised by a combo that you thought wasn't going to work but does. Mostly you can put the flavours together mentally and decide whether that's for you or not. Now the brownie is a case in point, I haven't met many Americans who don't love a brownie but that love is not shared outside continental North America, sure some Europeans love 'em but for lots of folk they're too rich, whatever. Couple this with a cheese filling and you've alienated the borderline fans too, you can imagine what it's going to be like and you just say "No way". Some things you just have to grow up with to fully appreciate and the cheese and chocolate brownie is so far outside the European mainstream that to be quite honest I'm surprised you found the takers you did even if subjectively they were TDF.

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It was still pretty rude of your boyfriend's coworkers to turn down something you had made. I mean, YOU'D never do that, right?

That's why I don't go to Europe unless I have to anymore ( my parents live there...)I save my dollars for flights to Australia and the Far East where people are still polite to Americans.

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I have an example closer to home.

I lived in California in the Bay Area for about 10 years, and one of my favorite dishes to bring to a potluck was a cold noodle salad dressed with a peanut based dressing (made from an amalgam of three or four recipes), green onions, and sesame seeds. It was always VERY well received and vanished quickly.

We then moved to Colorado, I took a new job, and there was a potluck baby shower for one of my coworkers. So I decided to bring my noodle salad. It turned out great.

Almost no one touched it. A few brave souls tried a little, but I brought most of it home. My husband and I really enjoyed it for dinner that night.

The big hit of the pot luck? A "Mexican" casserole made with shredded American cheese, canned green chilis, and cream of mushroom soup.

Each to his own taste.

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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I lived in California in the Bay Area for about 10 years, and one of my favorite dishes to bring to a potluck was a cold noodle salad dressed with a peanut based dressing (made from an amalgam of three or four recipes), green onions, and sesame seeds. It was always VERY well received and vanished quickly.

Care to post this recipe in http://www.RecipeGullet.com?

And if anyone wants to post their "poorly received but perfectly good" recipes there as well, I'm sure others would love to try them!

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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It was still pretty rude of your boyfriend's coworkers to turn down something you had made. I mean, YOU'D never do that, right?

That's why I don't go to Europe unless I have to anymore ( my parents live there...)I save my dollars for flights to Australia and the Far East where people are still polite to Americans.

My initial reaction was that the co-workers were very rude, however, on futher consideration I think that this attitude is just as parochial as not eating the brownies. Potentially, these people were acting well within what would be considered as polite behaviour for them. So it is difficult not to apply your own standards in these situations. The only time I have time I had an issue with people not eating something I had made, they were good friends from the same background, country, class and race. They just didn't like the idea of eating a boiled pigs foot, that I had so lovingly made.

So I don't think that it is an America v the rest of the world, just a misunderstanding of cultures. After all these are the same people that have embraced David Hasselhoff as one of there own.

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My initial reaction was that the co-workers were very rude, however, on futher consideration I think that this attitude is just as parochial as not eating the brownies. Potentially, these people were acting well within what would be considered as polite behaviour for them. So it is difficult not to apply your own standards in these situations.

I'm inclined to agree with this - especially given that the co-workers were on home ground, so to speak. Much, of course, depends on the manner of the refusal! As long as they were polite about letting on that something about the dish's foreignness violated some cultural norm for them, it seems reasonable to me. (Thread Convergence - this is starting to dovetail nicely with the Table Manners thread.) I can think of some dishes that I'd be squeamish about trying even though they might seem perfectly normal to my hosts - bugs/insects, for instance, simply aren't my thing. No objection to them in theory, but after too many close encounters of the cockroach kind during a New York childhood, I have a visceral response to eating anything remotely like them. A visceral response I would try to control in polite company, but I hope I could manage a courteous "no, thank you, not for me" without giving offense, if offered such a dish. (I spose if necessary one could claim some sort of obscure religious taboo - though I have to admit that would sound a bit thick in connection with the combination of chocolate and cheese. "Thou shalt not..." never mind.)

Calls to mind a scene in one of the James Clavell novels - Shogun? yes, I think so - in which the Japanese look on with ill-concealed nausea as their English guest eats European-style, great haunches of rare meat and so on. Also a scene from one of the O'Brian novels in which the heroes, honor-bound to participate in a victory feast, face an awkward moment on realizing that the stew consists of the defeated enemy himself. Also my father's experience on beginning his service in the navy and smelling lard for the first time. I suspect a lot of people go through something like it if they've been raised kosher but have turned away from kashruth as adults - or if they haven't turned away and find themselves confronted by a non-kosher meal at the table of an unwitting host.

The world is full of cultural incongruities, and it isn't always possible to measure up to one's own open-minded ideals. I like to think I'll try anything once... but when you get right down to it there are a few things that give me pause. So on the other side of the coin, I can only hope that I can offer as much tolerance and understanding to other people's cultural taboos as I need for my own.

Funny how that golden rule just keeps rearing its head....

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My initial reaction was that the co-workers were very rude, however, on futher consideration I think that this attitude is just as parochial as not eating the brownies. Potentially, these people were acting well within what would be considered as polite behaviour for them. So it is difficult not to apply your own standards in these situations.

I'm inclined to agree with this - especially given that the co-workers were on home ground, so to speak. Much, of course, depends on the manner of the refusal! As long as they were polite about letting on that something about the dish's foreignness violated some cultural norm for them, it seems reasonable to me. (Thread Convergence - this is starting to dovetail nicely with the Table Manners thread.) I can think of some dishes that I'd be squeamish about trying even though they might seem perfectly normal to my hosts - bugs/insects, for instance, simply aren't my thing. No objection to them in theory, but after too many close encounters of the cockroach kind during a New York childhood, I have a visceral response to eating anything remotely like them. A visceral response I would try to control in polite company, but I hope I could manage a courteous "no, thank you, not for me" without giving offense, if offered such a dish. (I spose if necessary one could claim some sort of obscure religious taboo - though I have to admit that would sound a bit thick in connection with the combination of chocolate and cheese. "Thou shalt not..." never mind.)

Calls to mind a scene in one of the James Clavell novels - Shogun? yes, I think so - in which the Japanese look on with ill-concealed nausea as their English guest eats European-style, great haunches of rare meat and so on. Also a scene from one of the O'Brian novels in which the heroes, honor-bound to participate in a victory feast, face an awkward moment on realizing that the stew consists of the defeated enemy himself. Also my father's experience on beginning his service in the navy and smelling lard for the first time. I suspect a lot of people go through something like it if they've been raised kosher but have turned away from kashruth as adults - or if they haven't turned away and find themselves confronted by a non-kosher meal at the table of an unwitting host.

The world is full of cultural incongruities, and it isn't always possible to measure up to one's own open-minded ideals. I like to think I'll try anything once... but when you get right down to it there are a few things that give me pause. So on the other side of the coin, I can only hope that I can offer as much tolerance and understanding to other people's cultural taboos as I need for my own.

Funny how that golden rule just keeps rearing its head....

Very well said. I was hoping to use the bugs analogy myself :laugh:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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That's why I don't go to Europe unless I have to anymore ( my parents live there...)I save my dollars for flights to Australia and the Far East where people are still polite to Americans.

I'm always missing the irony and would love to assume that's the case here. I don't really expect people to be polite or impolite to me because of where I'm from, but I find most people to be very polite to me in France and Spain, the two parts of Europe in which I'm most likely to travel. When and if they learn I'm an American, if there's been any discernable difference, it's usually an increased politeness, although generally there's no change.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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That's why I don't go to Europe unless I have to anymore ( my parents live there...)I save my dollars for flights to Australia and the Far East where people are still polite to Americans.

I'm always missing the irony and would love to assume that's the case here. I don't really expect people to be polite or impolite to me because of where I'm from, but I find most people to be very polite to me in France and Spain, the two parts of Europe in which I'm most likely to travel. When and if they learn I'm an American, if there's been any discernable difference, it's usually an increased politeness, although generally there's no change.

Based on my experience over the past few years I would concur and add Italy to the list.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I think it was on VH1 or something, where they were talking about Fear Factor and the things they make people eat. One guy said "Almost everything on Fear Factor is a delicacy in one part of the world or another..."

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Yes, it was ironic.....but isn't it sad that some people can't put aside their preconceived ideas ( in this case, from just looking at the brownies) and tasting them out of pure curiosity?

Agreed. I love trying new foods. I can understand not wanting to try something that was meat-based, or was against one's religion. BUt to not try a bite of something that somebody put time, love and effort into creating? I'm sure there are cultural reasons for not trying a foreigner's food, but would those folks refuse their own grandma's cooking if the food looked unfamiliar? I guess my idea of politeness and courtesy are different from other folks'.

Believe me, I tied my shoes once, and it was an overrated experience - King Jaffe Joffer, ruler of Zamunda

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When I moved to northern France (Belgian border) in 1978 my farmer neighbors thought I was WEIRD when I would get a care package from the US containing: peanut butter (EWWW!), maple syrup (EWWWW!) and various other things I could not buy in France at the time! They wouldn't even try them.

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I guess my idea of politeness and courtesy are different from other folks'.

To me, that sums up this thread. We could all say the same thing Ellen just said, and so could the Germans who wouldn't try the brownies. I'm sure they didn't think they were being rude, just as Americans who walk into boulangeries in Paris without saying "Bonjour, Messieurs-Dames" don't realize they are acting rude from a French perspective. And just as there are some places where not burping after a meal is taken as an insult, while at others, burping loudly is a sign of boorishness. Etc., etc.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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For what it's worth -- and as a born-n-bred American -- I have never understood the combo of cheese and chocolate. It's not just that I don't like it, it's that it tastes sort of....WRONG to me. To my tongue, cream cheese (and fresh cheese in general) is a light, front-of-the-mouth taste, that I associate with spring and summer flavors -- summer fruits, herbs, and salads, as well as cold poached chicken and fish, which also taste "summery" to me. Chocolate, on my tongue, is a back-of-the-mouth, full-bodied taste, that I associate with fall and winter flavors -- dried fruit, spices, nuts. (Citrus, for me, bridges the seasons, although the combo of lemon and chocolate is as bizarre to me as cream cheese and chocolate.) :biggrin: And no, for what it's worth, I don't really like chocolate ice cream.

Well, I guess they would hate my Cabrales/Chocolate Truffle!!!

I made them as a part of a trio of truffles to be served at a wine dinner, then was requested to do them for a big festival type thing which they asked me to do 600 of them.

At the wine tasing it went over great and at the festival they were the most popular thing there.

Intially people are freaked out at the idea of the combo but when they taste that salty cheese hit some really fine bittersweet choc, it's all over.

2317/5000

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