Monday, March 21, 2011

Of Schnitzels and Country Hams

It is funny the things you miss when you are living abroad. I haven’t really been away from the States long enough to miss very much, but there are some things. I don’t miss a lot of American junk food and fast food joints. After all, there are plenty of McDonald’s around Germany, but I haven’t waltzed into nary a one. I do go to the Taco Bell on the military base, but that is more for the fellowship than for the joy of eating a really bad burrito. There are a lot of products and foods common in the U.S. that I can’t find here either—like Gatorade, butter beans, cream of chicken and mushroom soup, and, of course, Sundrop. But I can’t say I long for those things. A lot of people tell me they miss their favorite American TV shows. Not me! I catch some shows on the Armed Forces Network and Hulu, but it’s not a big deal to me.

Do you want to know what I REALLY miss? Smoked, salt cured, country ham from Laden’s General store in Belvedere, North Carolina!

Oh! Uhm… and family! Yes, I definitely miss family (they’re probably reading this).     

If you asked me, however, before I would even have a chance to think about it, I’d probably tell you it is the ham! That’s bad, isn’t it? It is also weird, because I didn’t really eat all that much ham back in the States. At about $45.00 a ham, you can imagine why! Yet, maybe two or three times a year, I would drive out to Belvedere and buy a ham. I guess it is more just the idea that I couldn’t get one, even if I wanted to.

They are perfect. Mr. Laden smokes them himself, just behind the store. The store itself is perfect, a one room country store that sells everything from homemade chocolate covered peanuts to collards. In the back is the amazing little meat market, with the cured hams and side meat just hanging right there on the wall like brown and black Christmas ornaments of pure melt in your mouth joy to the world! Cut the hams in half to reveal a work of art colored in ruby red and pink with stunning marbling of smoky fat. I always had Mr. Laden cut off the hock end and quarter it for dropping in as seasoning for green beans and the like. Mmmmmmmmmmm, Good.

I am so blessed with amazing and diverse food choices here in Germany. This is why I find it so strange that I have craved one of these hams for several weeks now. I think it hit me today. No matter what it is, TV shows, fast food, or country hams, my reasons for missing what I miss are the same as they are for anyone else missing what they miss. It is part of human nature to want most what we know we cannot have.

Think about it! We torture ourselves over the trifling things we lack, in spite of all of the wonderful things that we have. One of the many things that Germany is teaching me is to become content. I don’t know if I’ll ever find country ham over here. It probably exists. Even so, it wont be Laden’s. What I do have, however, is some awesome bratwurst and amazing schnitzel!

Yet, contentment goes deeper than appreciating one’s food choices. Contentment comes in enjoying true life in the surprises and mysteries of the every day patterns and the common occurrences. If all we ever live for is the big moments, are we truly living? What about the normal moments? They are more frequent I think. Learning to live in every moment and appreciate every common option is a part of the life to the full. I am learning this. I am learning that God gives life and joy in the things that are available to us far more deeply than in the things we do not have. God does normal more than the miraculous. Seeing this makes all the difference.      

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