Recently, I was visiting a tiny village in Germany, about 80 km from Berlin. It was like going back in time — it was a quiet old European village, just like I had imagined. We went to a little restaurant run by a family in their cottage. Traditionally, the family belonged to the blacksmith community, but they shifted to cooking 200 years ago and had set up a cozy restaurant in their own house. The cottage was lovely and had all the rustic old-world charm of European countryside. It was surrounded by woods and our host told us we would be going into the forest to pick our own mushrooms. I had never Picked mushrooms before and didn’t even know how to begin. The host, Volker, showed me how to tell the good mushrooms from the bad ones. When you turn the head of the mushroom, it should be smooth and flat — if it’s serrated or horned, it’s likely to be bad. We spent quite a bit of time looking for mushrooms and got so hungry picking them, we were really looking forward to eating. Anybody will agree that hunger is the best spice to any hearty meal. We sipped on some cold beer while the mushrooms were cooked in wine and white sauce and then baked into pizza-style bread. That was just wonderful. They also served plum cakes and apple pie along with another chicken preparation. They also gave us some homemade wine to go along with the food. It was a sumptuous country meal. I remember the restaurant and the delicious food well, but what I remember most is the warmth of the hosts. The usual impression about Europeans is that they are cold and indifferent but my hosts in Germany were very welcoming. I also remember it as a day I learned so much about mushrooms and I had to go forage for my own meal. This was by far my most memorable food experience in all these years.
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