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It’s All About That Kale…

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By Anne Schwobe

I have to admit that this issue’s topic was a little harder than others. When I first read, “pop culture”, I did not really know what to write about, nothing really came to my mind right away. But after thinking about the term for some time and “making up” my own definition, I think I came up with something interesting for you to read. So for this article I associate the term “pop culture” with all kinds of trends, recent developments or changes in society, but mainly traditions that shape and maintain a culture.

One of the really big trends that is ongoing pretty much all around the world is the HEALTH TREND. Hash tags like #strongisthenewsexy, #absaremadeinthekitchen and others are being used excessively in social media. One of the many so-called super foods is KALE. You can find it in almost everything – at least here in America. There are kale salads, kale chips, you can even mix it with other ingredients and get a healthy smoothie. I would write delicious smoothie but I’ve never tried it, so I leave it up to you to decide. Moreover, kale is being described as one of the healthiest vegetables around. Its risk-lowering benefits for cancer have recently been extended to at least five different types of cancer. It is also a great support for the body’s detoxification system (Yay, #detox, #gokale). You just have to make sure to cook it properly in order to enjoy the maximum of nutrition. And that is exactly what brings us to the “German part” of the article. Without a doubt, the health trend has fully arrived in Germany and so did green smoothies and super foods. But I would say that kale is still waiting for its peak in German kitchens and recipes. Unless you live in Northern Germany and it is KOHLFAHRT SAISON (cabbage/kale tour season)!!! You will find kale on restaurant menus starting in October –even though an old rule states not to eat it before the first frost. The high time for tours really is from January to March (it is happening right now – let’s all head over to Germany!!). In this article I want to introduce you to a very different way of enjoying kale.anne1

In the area between the German towns of Oldenburg (my hometown) and Bremen (both located in the Northwest of Germany), a well-known tradition brightens up the dark and sad winter months. Kohlfahrt (also known as Kohltour) is a tradition practiced (only) in Northwest Germany and it is all about kale – well let’s say it is about good food, drinks and having a great time with friends.

The idea of a Kohlfahrt is that a group of friends, colleagues or a whole neighborhood assembles on a Saturday, usually around noon or later, to have a great day together. The event is organized months in advance by the group’s Kohlkönig and Kohlkönigin (the cabbage king and queen). After loading up a decorated “Bollerwagen” with drinks and games, equipping every person with a (shot-) glass and a pretzel around their neck, everyone is ready for the tour. But before you get to eat the hearty dish, you have to work up an appetite. A typical Kohlfahrt starts with a long walk through winter landscapes (the distance varies from group to group). When they are not walking, people stop for games you would normally see at a child’s birthday party. There are some classics, e.g. teabag tossing. The “tosser” hangs on to the little string with his/her teeth and flings it as far as possible. Another famous game is “rolling the dice.” Groups usually carry a big foam dice with them and every now and then people will have to roll it and depending on the number they will have to do a specific task, like 10 skips with the jump rope because the person rolled a 5. Other popular games include transporting an egg from A to B on a spoon you hold with your mouth, and the classic three-legged race.

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A decorated wagon contains all the equipment for the tour and games.

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After a few hours of walking, when everyone’s bladders are full and their stomachs are growling, the group usually ends up in a restaurant where they will then enjoy a hearty meal of Kohl with Pinkel and Kochwurst (Green cabbage; Pinkel and Kochwurst are two types of sausage). The kale turns into a cabbage dish and I am sure after hours of cooking, it has lost all the wonderful nutrition – but it is sooooooo good!!! It is usually cooked with the sausage and served with potatoes, large pieces of bacon and ham. After a well-deserved dinner it is time to party and even though everyone has been walking all day, they will get up and dance the night away – a Kohlfahrt can easily turn into a really long night. During “high season”, you will see multiple Kohlfahrt-parties on the road, some of which have Bollerwagen with flashing lights and speakers to make the tour even better. As you might be able to guess from this article, a Kohlfahrt is a serious business in Northern Germany. So make sure to experience it yourself and try some “German Grünkohl” if you ever make it to Germany.

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Groups of adults (“young and old”) pulling Bollerwagen through the countryside of northern Germany while playing silly games can only mean one thing: IT IS KOHLFAHRT SEASON!!

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