Monday, May 14, 2007

Weekly Graz Letter #3

It rained a bit this week, which flushed all manner of snails and slugs out of the grass and onto walkways all over town. The snails here come in 3 kinds, large and brownish, medium, smooth, and yellow with black racing stripes, and very small, pointy snails that look like aquatic snails. Some of them are terribly cute. Here's pictures...

We went to a local pizzaria Friday night, a pub with a choose-your-own-adventure pizza ordering sheet. You get a list of toppings on a small sheet of paper, and mark what size pizza you want, you mark the toppings--cheese, tomato, oregano automatically, 4 more toppings included with the price, but have as many as you want for extra cost--and then eventually a crispy thin crust pizza with the toppings of your choosing comes wafting your way from the kitchen. By then you've had half a beer, and suddenly all is right with the world. This is not such an unusual undertaking, but some of the 39 toppings were a bit unusual to us. The toppings categorize roughly into: Normal Pizza Things, Abnormal-but-not-unappealing Pizza Things, and Things Which Should In No Circumstance Come Into Contact With Pizza.

Category A includes: Ham, Onions, Olives, Peppers

Category B includes: Corn, Capers, Tabasco, SardinesCategory

C includes: Curry (powder? sauce? chicken curry? we don't know), Tuna, Arugula, Weinbergschnecken (we had to look it up)

* A word about the arugula, before we come to that last thing. The arugula is fresh, cold, uncooked. Apparently after the pizza is cooked, the chef arranges a very generous double handful of arugula on the top, thus providing the bitterness and dietary fiber pizza has always been lacking. We saw one of these delivered to the next table over, and were slightly alarmed. (It probably IS good, but it's not what we look for in pizza.)
* OK, so Weinbergschnecken... Schnecken is the German word for snails, but we were kind of wondering if that was a euphemism for something. Because they wouldn't REALLY put snails on pizza. Not really. So we looked it up when we got home. Apparently it's a euphemism for The Large, Adorable Snails We've Seen By The River Path All Week Since It's Rained A Bit. Sooooo. That's nasty. Our pizza was good, though. It was composed of "boring" toppings, like artichoke and garlic...
* An amusing further note about the pizza pub... when we ordered our beers, we asked the waiter what they had on tap, since they had 5 taps we couldn't see from where we were sitting... he very tentatively said "Murauer...?" as if this was a trick question. It's possible there were 5 different Murauer beers on tap, or, he was subtly not-recommending the other 4 beers. Either way, the Murauer was good.
* Holly's brother, Matt, has revealed the existence of a handy inter-time-zone scheduling tool, that lets a person check the time wherever they are, versus the time wherever else in the world someone is. This is handy if (for example) one were planning a Skype call with someone in the Central European Time zone... Here's the link:

This supercool lamp was spotted in the window of a downtown lampery this week. We made a wrong turn and passed a place with many interesting lamps in the window, and had to stop and get a picture of this one. Having always made a habit of touring through the lighting options at hardware stores and such in the U.S., we can safely say Austrians have far more extreme taste in lighting fixtures than Americans. There are dozens of lamp shops, and each has weirder fixtures than the next. (This one is by no means the wildest, but it was reasonably easy to get a good photo.)

Greg's former PhD advisor was in Austria last week for a conference, not in Graz, but in Bad Ischl, so they didn't get to meet up. But it's hard to imagine there were too many other New Mexico residents here last week.

Some experimental foods this week: Gurktaler Alpenkräuter, an herbal liquor that claims to contain 59 herbs and 14 things that look like herbs, a product of the neighboring province, Kärten. It's apparently considered medicinal and/or an impulse purchase necessity, because it's frequently sold in the .04 litre bottles at the grocery store checkout, next to the Professional Mints ("Mouthcare for in-between!") and little wads of dextrose pressed into the shape of cell phones, or whatever passes for novelty shaped candy with the kids these days. It's very easy to imagine Austrian parents giving their fussy toddler a little schnort of this to help 'em settle down at bedtime.

<--Professional Mints. NOT Amateur Mints!

Greg's keen eye spied a manner of marzipan treat we'd not tried before, which promises Edel Marzipan, which in one interpretation means "Noble Marzipan". Mmm. Nobel marzipan. Which reminds us of some pictures we saw of a marzipan fruit stand in Sicily, which was selling solid marzipan fruits, hand-made to look just like real fruits, full-size or more... there were a dozen half-bushel baskets filled with each kind of fruit. When we asked the person who'd taken that picture what one does with that much marzipan, the answer was "Uh... you... eat ... it?" as if it were a trick question of some sort. Clearly some people have a higher tolerance for marzipan than we have.

Another experiment this week, XXX Fresh Freaky Lemon Zahncreme und Mundwasser (toothpaste + mouthwash in one product). It smells *exactly* like a product we have for decalcifying the toilet bowl... so that's not encouraging. But sometimes a person can't resist the siren song of the deep discount table at InterSpar. (It actually doesn't taste too bad, but Holly only tried it in a homeopathic does. Greg has not tried it, and probably will never.)

At the grower's market, we discovered that it may already be a bit late for the delicate, mild radishes of spring, in that the bundle we bought this week included one the size of a racquetball (or, as you'll see, nearly the size of a cat's head), which was fiery. (Although, surprisingly, not pithy.) We've been trying not to put so many pictures of the cat, but she HAD to have the radish roots, so she's making a little cameo. Of course, she also tried to have the Edel Marzipan wrapper, and the string that keeps the camera lens cap... she was in a bit of a state because we'd just sampled some really excellent garlic salami, and apparently we hadn't given her anywhere NEAR as much of it as she wanted. The problem with cats is, they don't understand when you explain that the dietary requirements of cats for garlic-things is actually quite little.

That's about it for this week. Hope you had a great weekend!

-Holly & Greg


gregvw said...

Side note: The presence of a Triple-X in the name of anything does not, in general, denote anything pornographic here. For instance, there are regular movie theaters here called CinepleXX. The odds of a theater having this name and not showing porn in the US is essentially zero.

I should caution Americans, however, that general admission is not the norm here and you must be prepared to ask for a specific row number (and possibly pay accordingly).

Rufus said...

Do they sell popcorn coated with sugar at the movies, like they do in France?

gregvw said...

I'm afraid I don't know. Neither of us are fond of popcorn.

Rufus said...

I don't know if you could call me a connoisseur, but I was definitely taken aback by the sugary popcorn.

gregvw said...

I appreciate the fact that the bulk of cinema profits hinge on the sale of concessions, but I bemoan the fact that popcorn should be the mainstay since it tends to produce noise when being rummaged and I don't like the way it smells. Also a lot of people never got the deservedly vicious centimeters-from-unconsciousness-style beatings as children for chewing with their fucking maw open right directly into my precious hearing while I'm trying to watch a film that I payed the GNP of Finland to see. Aaarggh!

::burns down cinema::

Rufus said...

I wonder how much money the stupid asshole factor costs multiplexes each year. I know several people who won't even go to the movies anymore, and I only go for very special occasions. Not to mention the fact that the movies that aren't aimed at borderline retarded 14 year olds don't seem to play anywhere near where we live.

Holly said...

Ironically, many of the things I am willing to go to a theater for are aimed at borderline retarded 14 year olds. Things like pirate movies or epic space operas and things that really are only going to look good on a big screen.

A good indie or art film, or anything that's in a foreign language, in short, anything that requires serious concentration, or that if I need a bathroom break and will *actually* miss something... I'd much rather watch at home, with a pause button, and with not having to assault the people around me.

Rufus said...

It's weird- I still remember when adults would go to art films together in groups and discuss them afterwards over coffee. But I don't think anybody really does that anymore. Maybe Tarantino's next film should be 'Art House'- he can try his hand at a Swedish coming of age film.

The other thing too is that they shoot so many indies on digital video now which looks really shitty projected on a big screen. And it probably is more fun to see Drag-racing Pirates from Outer Space on a big screen anyway. I do regret not having seen Children of Men on the big screen.

Rufus said...

By Drag-racing Pirates from Outer Space, I just mean a generic blockbuster. Unfortunately, there is not a real movie with that title.

gregvw said...

Dude, I am so optioning that.