Impressing the Neighbors with our American Customs

We are very lucky in our downstairs neighbors. They have been friendly and delightful since the day we moved in.  They have two boys who are just about E’s age and our children enjoy playing together.  Living in a duplex like this makes it convenient for the 4 boys go back and forth, up and down the stairs, playing with each other.   It also makes it incredibly convenient to babysit for each other, and we end up saving each other a fortune in babysitter fees.

Like us, they are also not originally from Switzerland.  She was born and raised in Munich. He was born and raised in Edinburgh.  Then they lived in the London area for a long while before moving to Switzerland.

They are a lot of fun.  We’ve had quite a number drinks together and even a few meals.  It is very nice to just pop on down and have a glass of wine and some commiseration with another set of parents when your children are driving you crazy.

While we are here we are keeping up a few American traditions.  At Thanksgiving, which is not a holiday here, we had them as our guests for dinner after they got off of work.  We enjoyed several typical American Thanksgiving dishes – cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy – along with two roasted chickens since I couldn’t find turkey until the week after Thanksgiving.

Naturally, we also lend and borrow simple cooking ingredients like eggs, sugar, and milk. In fact, recently we impressed the heck out of them by our American egg storage practices.

One morning their youngest son popped upstairs and asked if they could borrow an egg.  Of course we said yes and the little boy happily tromped down the stairs with the egg.

When he was gone, Mark turned to me and said in a hushed voice, “I think the carton was touching the back of the fridge.”  See, our fridge is this mutant cooling device that has decided that the freezer section should be in the back half and the simple refrigeration section should be in the front.  Anything that touches the back of the fridge freezes solid.  Milk, water, lettuce, apples.  And eggs.

“Well,” I said, “I guess we’ll just hope for the best.”

No one came up and knocked, asking for another egg so we assumed that this time the back of the fridge had not frozen the egg. Or, perhaps, the egg hadn’t been touching the back of the fridge for very long.

Weeks later, I was having a coffee with Barbara.  I can’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but she deftly brought the conversation around to food storage customs in Germany.

They do not refrigerate their eggs here (and milk is pasteurized and stored at room temperature).  In the grocery store the eggs and milk sit out on the shelves.  So, imagine her surprise when her son brought down the egg and not only was it cold, it was frozen!  She had no idea that Americans froze their eggs!  How interesting!

After I finished laughing my head off, she told me what happened with the egg.   When her husband had attempted to crack the egg, instead of having that slightly hollow, splatty sound it kind of make a more solid “ka-chunk” sound.

When they looked more closely they saw that they had cracked the egg, but that somehow the shell wouldn’t come apart.  So he had to peel the egg, delicately taking off tiny bits of shell while the white started to melt over his hands.

It came out still in an ovoid shape. The white was still almost clear with crystals in it and they could see the yolk clearly resting in the middle on the inside.  Their boys were fascinated and the parents had a whispered conversation theorizing whether this was intentional and if it was, how on earth do Americans cook with a frozen egg??

What happens when they’re mixing a cake?

Maybe this is why Americans are so fond of microwaves?

It was a good laugh as I explained the mistake.

It turns out you can, indeed, freeze and egg and still have it work in pancakes or waffles.  The eggs melts (thaws?) relatively quickly and the freezing process doesn’t seem to affect the leavening qualities of the egg.

I’m not going to freeze a dozen and bake a cake with them, but it’s good to know that if they get shoved to the back of the fridge again I don’t have to worry about using them.

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