Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Pork Knuckle

During one of the first few days of our German trip, in Cologne, Kevin almost accidentally ordered a pork knuckle.  He actually asked for the German word meaning "pork knuckle", not realizing it was pork knuckle, but quickly changed his order once our server clarified what Kevin had asked for.  To us, "pork knuckle" just doesn't sound appetizing, especially given that so many people think that it is the same as "pickled pigs feet," which it isn't.  It would really be more accurate to call a pork knuckle a "pork knee" or "pork elbow." Nevertheless, it still retained that aura for us.   Even with that, though, I chastised Kevin for changing his order.  "Who knows?" I exclaimed, "It could be delicious!  We should be adventurous!"

What I actually meant was, "I'm curious about pork knuckle, but I am too chicken to order it myself. You should get it so I can see what I think."

"You're right," he replied. "Darnit, I should've stayed with the pork knuckle.  The next time I see it, I'm going to order it!"

This sentiment was reaffirmed when his alternate order, a plate of pasty sausages and limp french fries appeared in front of him.

"I'm in Germany and I'm eating hot dogs and french fries!" he lamented, shaking his head.

So, after our very long day in Munich (which truly didn't seem so long until I wrote that last entry), we ended up at the Wirtshaus zur Brez'n in the Schwabing neighborhood.  This was a little by accident.  After riding the ChristkindlTram, we had checked out Munich's medieval Christmas market, where the food smelled delicious, but we weren't quite ready to eat.  So, we continued on to the Schwabing Christmas market, but by the time we got there, we were cold, tired, and slightly damp, so we decided to find a place to sit down and warm up before hitting the market.  Given that the tour books had described Schwabing as a bustling college neighborhood, we assumed this would be easy, but we circled the blocks by the subway station for 10-15 minutes before finally finding this promising-looking pub.

Our intention was to go in and have one beer, which we did, and watched as it began to snow outside.  How festive!  As we got up to brave the Christmas market and find some dinner there, we caught a whiff of something delicious.  We only briefly considered whether we would prefer to eat market food in a wet snow or stay inside this cozy pub.  Since we had already settled our tab and given up our seats at the bar, we approached the hostess for a table.  The place was pretty bustling now, so where did she end up escorting us?  Right back to the bar.  We felt like jerks, having not ordered food from our original bartender, and here we were, back at the bar.  I tried to hide my face, worried that he would take it personally.  "It's not you!" I wanted to say.  "We just changed our minds!"

As I scanned the menu, I tried to figure out what the delicious thing I smelled had been.  I could only come to one conclusion: the pork knuckle.

So, I ordered it.

This is not my pork knuckle.  I borrowed this image from

I have to confess.  When I hesitantly took the first bite of this creation, I believed in that moment that I was tasting the most delicious morsel to ever enter my mouth.  It was salty, flavorful, juicy, with just the right amount of crispy skin.  It was like heavenly bacon, but instead of just one little strip, it was the whole chunk of meat.  I gorged myself, carving around the bones, until I could eat no more.

This was a mistake.

Not only was I outrageously full that night, bloated and uncomfortable despite a long walk back to our hotel, but my stomach burned the entire following day.  What had made the pork knuckle so delectable, the salt and fat, had ravaged my stomach.  The only thing I wanted to eat that next day was fruits and vegetables - and good luck with that in Germany, especially in December.

So, my mouth remembers pork knuckle fondly.  My stomach - not so much.

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