Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Taste of May

"Do you know Maibolle?" Britta asked me.

"Marburg? No," I replied, wondering how it was that this town was coming up in the dinner conversation.

Britta proceeded to explain, auf Deutsch (the only language spoken when I visit my relatives in this part of the world), how wine and sparkling wine are infused with herbs to create a traditional spring beverege. It sounded delicious, but -

"They call this Marburg?" I asked again, still confused.

"Oh, no. Maibolle," she repeated, and this time I got it. The word "Mai", German for the month of May, immediately brings to mind thoughts of spring, and what could go better with spring than a refreshing drink of lightly sparkling and delicately herb flavored white wine. Peter, my dad's German cousin, brought out a pitcher and poured me a sample.

"It's delicious!" I enthused.

"And it goes quickly to your head!" Monika laughed.

"Don't tell her that!" Britta countered. Now everyone held their glasses out for a taste of Maibolle. Tonight, the grill had already made it's first appearance of the year, providing us with platters of wurst and marinated meats. Now, with the Maibolle, it was official: spring is finally here. Of course, it had grown too cold in the evening for us to enjoy the meal outside, but the sun was shining nonetheless.

Little discoveries, like Maibolle, provide me with some of the most pleasure when I travel. I don't even know if I'm spelling it right, or what a "Bolle" is, but two pitchers later, I can tell you that it sure tastes great. It's flavored with Waldmeister, a popular spring herb here in Germany, whose name literally means, "forestmaster". Having never heard of such an herb in the U.S., Peter pulled out a massive tome of a German/English dictionary to find a translation. The answer? Woodruff. Yeah, that cleared things up. Even at the Herb Garden, perhaps the Seattle area's fanciest restaurant, does woodruff ever make an appearance? Would the average American even recognize woodruff as a plant, let alone an edible one?

It's a shame, really, because Waldmeister is pretty tasty. So tasty, in fact, that you can even buy Waldmeister flavored Gummi Bears in the spring at Baeren Treff, the all-Gummi, all-the-time shop located in Wiesbaden. I made a pilgrimage to Baeren Treff with Leonie, the German student who visited us in Seattle last summer, who happens to live in Wiesbaden. I left the shop with a lighter wallet but a much heavier load, weighed down by more than four kilos of Gummi Bears, a bag of Waldmeister included for good measure. It may not be Maibolle, but for friends and family back home in the Pacific Northwest, it will be a little taste of springtime in Deutschland.

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