The thing I missed the most about Germany was chocolate. Breakfast was next. Potatoes were third.
We had boiled potatoes at pretty much every midday meal. You might think this would get monotonous, but only if you’ve never eaten German potatoes. They had such flavor! They were a party on my tongue, espeically when I covered them in the thin brown gravy that always went with them.
We also had freshly baked rolls delivered every morning for breakfast. Everybody did, really; as we might go to the door first thing for the morning paper, Germans went to the door first thing for the morning bread delivery. The big, crusty, yeasty rolls had such texture! And I slathered the things with Nutella, a too-sweet chocolate-flavored hazelnut butter. I’m not sure I’d enjoy that today, but at age 16 it was sugar-shock heaven.
But I missed the chocolate most. My favorite was Ritter Sport, delightful square chocolate bars as common in Germany as Hershey bars are here. Because Germans take chocolate very seriously, even common Ritter Sport is fine chocolate indeed. They came in two varieties of milk chocolate, three or four varieties of dark chocolate, and a remarkable array of filled varieties including hazelnut, almond, peanut (kind of exotic in Germany), butter cookie, yogurt, peppermint, praline, cappuccino cream, chocolate mousse, even corn flakes. They didn’t cost very much, good because I never had much money. I used to take the streetcar downtown, step into Horten (a big department store chain that I guess has since gone out of business), go straight to the candy department, buy a Ritter Sport, and eat half of it on my way back out to the street. Then I’d spend an hour or two about town, window shopping in the warm summer sunshine or exploring the train station, and slowly enjoying the rest of my chocolate. I felt so calm and joyful on those afternoons.
Before I left Germany I bought about two dozen Ritter Sport bars and mailed them home. I gave half of them away but doled the rest out to myself. They lasted maybe three or four months, and then I didn’t see them again for twenty years. That was when my nearby Meijer opened an aisle of specialty foods from around the world. They carried two varieties of Ritter Sport, Rum Raisin Hazelnut and good old milk chocolate. Today, Meijer carries at least a dozen varieties. Target carries eight or ten varieties, too. You can even order them from Amazon.com!
The pressures at work really got to me this morning, so at lunch I drove over to a nearby Target and bought a Ritter Sport bar. I broke open the package and broke off one of the sixteen smaller squares. As soon as I could feel the chocolate start to melt on my tongue, for a moment I was 16 again, standing downtown outside Horten, the sun warm on my face, the train station in sight just down the street. I think I’ll make it through the afternoon just fine now!