When the homesickness grips me, I always find that it is triggered by food– the strange fermenting smell emanating from behind a bar that I could swear was sauerkraut, or the sound of a crusty bread being ripped apart. It is the latter that sparked today’s wave of memories, though it is not actually bread that I long for. It is for authentic Bavarian pretzels slathered with rich butter.
The Butterbrezen is nothing like American pretzels. It’s large, perfectly salted, with an intensely crispy exterior and an inside that’s billowy soft to the touch. Sliced lengthwise while still hot from the oven, with lusciously thick pats of butter stuffed between the slices, it’s a butter-pretzel-salt sandwich of insane depth.
Wrapped in wax paper, the Butterbrezen is quite a handy snack. It seems not so long ago that I was gripping one in my fingers, trying not to let the melting butter slip onto my train ticket to Straubing. The Munich Hauptbahnhof was awash with travelers, as the summer holidays in Bavaria had just begun. Jostled by the crowds, I kept a fierce grip on my snack with trying to balance myself on my improvised suitcase-seat. I still had fifteen minutes before the train was set to pull in, but I was anxious to leave the city crowds for the achingly rural small town on the Danube. I longed for the fields, the little open air market in the city square that sold all kinds of produce and little livestock, cuddly yellow baby chicks and all. I wanted to walk the safe alleyways and visit my favorite pastry shops, the glorious Konditorei of Straubing. While Munich’s crowds and wide boulevards were appealing in a different way, eventually one longs for the simplicity of the small town. Much like the Butterbrezen I was munching on, Straubing isn’t made up of much. This however, makes it all the easier to thouroughly enjoy each element and notice how wonderfully they all complement one another.
As the train whistle pierced the shouts and calls of milling travelers, I wiped the buttery crumbs from my mouth and fingers. Already I felt calmer, even in the midst of my tense excitement, the flurry of activity all around, and the everyday thrill of the two-hour journey before me.
It is amazing to me how a simple sound or smell can trigger such distinct memories in the fleetingest of moments.