A few months ago, I got invited to be the keynote speaker at Biofach, in Nuremberg, Germany. Biofach is the world's largest trade fair for the global organic industry. I accepted right away--not only because of the honor of being asked, but also because we have publishing partners in Hamburg, and this would give me an incentive to go visit. But I decided to keep it quick and all business; after, all February in Germany is not necessarily vacation weather. But I was very curious to see how the rest of the world views organic, and how Germany is faring. After all, the organic idea first originated in Germany with Rudolph Steiner in the 1920s!
After about 30 hours of straight travel and the usual horrid travel incidences, which I won't bore you with, I landed in the perfect German bed. Actually, they are all pretty perfect. Down duvets and soft pillows, all covered in clean, fresh cotton. I slept it off and was up and running the next day, beginning with a walking tour of Nuremberg, which is home to one of my favorite artists, Albrecht Dürer. Highlights included seeing plots of privately rented gardens being tended inside the shadows of the thousand-year-old castle walls, and learning about the importance of bratwurst to the city.
Off to Nuremberg Messe, which is the most beautiful convention center I have ever seen (and I've seen a lot!). I am still amazed at the escalators that don't move unless there are people on them. "They save electricity!" said every person to whom I commented about them, as if common sense is enough to make things happen.... I mean, why doesn't that happen in America? In a jetlagged, dreamy state of mind, I sat on a panel while listening to the other panelists through a translator speaking through my headphones (weird!) and got a vague impression that I was an unusual specimen representing my gender. Germany is a land of large, manly men and, as a small, outspoken woman, I sensed that they weren't sure what to make of me.
It turns out there is a phrase for women like me in German: Rabenmutter--a Raven Mother--a woman who "leaves her children" to go to work. It's not a good term. And I think I wore black, too! (It's good for travel.) Unfortunately, because I was reluctant to spend even more time away from my children, I didn't have time to walk the convention floor the way I would have liked--it would have taken days! Suffice it to say that the global organic industry is alive and well, and everyone is angry about GMOs and the government's role in supporting chemical agriculture. My speech seemed well received.
So then, off to Hamburg--yes! Home of the hamburger!--to visit our publishing partners at Motorpresse. Hamburg is a city of merchants--the southernmost Scandinavian city, they say. It has a huge port and elegant, beautiful buildings, both old and new. I had three incredible meals, a fantastically thorough and impressive tour of the city, and great meetings with wonderful people who work hard to bring our brands to Germany and make them even better!
For photos of Maria's trip to Germany, check out the Maria's Farm Country Kitchen Facebook page.
My overall impression was complicated--as a woman of both German and Jewish heritage, I have mixed feelings about the history of Germany, and yet the efficiency, orderliness, and resilience of the country are so impressive. Again and again I heard about 50 to 60 percent of its cities having been destroyed and completely rebuilt. Could you imagine if that happened here? One of my business partners told me he tells his children that Germany has been "cured" of the desire and need for war. And it does seem that the energy is focused on building and business, and also celebrating a long and rich history and culture. I will certainly be working on recipes for bratwurst and creamed cabbage to share with you in the future!
But most impressive, to me is that, rather than bickering and dithering the way we do in the States (by the way, Germany no longer has an extreme conservative party, and will not allow it, said my associates; according to them, it is the extreme conservatives who drove Germany into world war twice--are you listening America?), they have moved boldly into the future on the environment. You get a sense that not only is it possible to live a greener, more organic, and more energy-efficient life--but there is no sacrifice involved, either; in fact, it's even better. Quality of life doesn't suffer, it expands and blossoms, just like the snowdrops blooming in glass cups in the airport coffee shop as I was leaving.
Can you imagine that in America?! Snowdrops. In the airport. Good coffee, in real china cups.
Other than hearing the gasps of joy when all the Germans in the plane saw the Statue of Liberty from the air, returning to the Newark airport felt like coming back to a third-world country. C'mon America! We can do it too!
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com.