Every night before bed, after brushing teeth and watching an episode of Scooby Doo, Daddy and the boys read a chapter of something together. Mathilda, the American Presidents, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Harry Potter – we are all in love with Harry Potter! I think maybe the best part about having kids is that they keep you in touch with pop culture. In Vienna we aren’t going to museums or the opera, but we did make butterbeer this weekend.
We substituted Almdudler for the cream soda, and actually melted a lump of butter in the beer. It’s supposed to taste like butterscotch.
It didn’t really taste that good.
Our crepes were much better! In Austria, they’re called “palatschinken,” and sometimes are sliced up and put into chicken soup. “Our Russian friends eat these at school!” I know the Foreign Service is supposed to be about absorbing the culture of the world, but savory crepes with ham or caviar always seem a little weird.
We just like them the normal way, straight from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, with jam and powdered sugar.
Culture everywhere is an experience viewed through the lens of our own circumstances. In all the places we’ve lived our lens is having children, which reveals layers we otherwise might not have noticed.
If we didn’t have a household of boys who needed to expel energy on snowy afternoons, we might have lived three years in Vienna and missed this cool climbing gym! In German it’s called a “Kletterhalle.”
If we didn’t have kids, we might have spent the winter ice-skating in front of the Rathaus but never visited the practice rink, to see little ones learning to skate by gliding along clutching plastic penguins.
If we were childless and always going out to dinner and the opera, we might not cook at home and learn how to poach perfect eggs, or squeeze fresh oranges into cocktails.
Who needs the Opera when you can go watch school plays and music concerts, anyway?
Because we have kids, we know that a special school lunch in Austria is chopped up pancakes called “kaiserschmarrn,” and huge lumps of boiled dough with goulash and a fried egg. Don’t forget the pickle!
We recently found a burrito place here in Vienna, and noticed the boys staring at the man behind the counter scooping up chicken into giant flour tortillas. Jake and Eli can explain the difference between borscht and goulash, but we hadn’t realized they’d never had a burrito before! So because of our kids, we are those strange people looking for Mexican food in Austria.
I could never call myself an expert at living in Vienna because our experience is so filtered through our family life. Good filter or bad filter, I guess it depends. But I suppose all parents all over the world have a filter, just as all single people, married people, young people, and old people have a filter for what defines their life. Being tall or short, man or woman, dark or light, everything really. None of us are walking down the exact same path. Sometimes people ask what it’s like to have twins, but I doubt it’s any more remarkable than having four kids, or three girls, or a single child, or being a single parent, or maybe no kids but taking care of a few dogs. We are all just who we are, and if we’re lucky, we like that.
If Jake and Eli had grown up drinking Butterbeer like the kids in Harry Potter, maybe it would taste better than it does? If our family didn’t get so excited at the idea of Mexican food and margaritas, maybe it would taste worse than it does?
If we didn’t have kids I wouldn’t know what Butterbeer is. Or feel such joy at finding Pillsbury crescent rolls at the grocery store. I didn’t know you could buy those here!
Those things really are amazing when you’re busy.
As part of our holidays since forever, Pillsbury has earned my commitment for a lifetime. The chestnut and poppy-seed pastries sold on holidays here in Vienna, well, they’re sort of growing on me. The kids make us try all these things, and it’s nice that not all of Vienna’s culture is lost because we’re parents spending more time at home. Some of the cookies are good! Some look better than they taste….
But I don’t think I will ever like Butterbeer. Kids or no, maybe some things just have to catch you in childhood.