Short stories about the people of Ani. Living as they have for centuries, they still toil and live their lives as if they lived in a fairytale.
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Set in today’s world, these short stories were inspired by the Brothers Grimm. And as it was and still is, these folk of Ani, haven’t changed since time passed them by—all hoping to find the golden-goose to end all grief and elevate them to triumph.
Life is unchanged in Ani, except the conveniences of mechanized farming, the automobile, and the new generation coming up into the world. The mindset is still the same as it was two-hundred years ago, stoic and steadfast as if they never left a time only read in books. These people live the same as they did centuries ago, and do things the way their parents and grandparents did. Some still live in houses built 200 years ago—framed gingerbread dwellings, some of stone and some of brick and some of stucco. Some still heat their houses and cook with wood, or pump water from a well, and have little interest in shopping at supermarkets or malls or department stores or eating in fast-food takeouts, for they are equipped for living in the old tradition.
These people still live in a world reminiscent of a fairytale.
(Das kluge Gretel)
Once upon a time in Ani…
Gunner has a problem. He is my neighbor that owns Der Stern, the only Gasthaus (inn) in town. He has two rooms for overnight guests, a large party room with a musician’s loft and a stage. At the entrance is the tavern. The tavern is occupied five plus days a week, Sunday being the plus day and is open for three hours. That day is Early-Beer day. From what Gunner told me about Early-Beer it’s to benefit the farmers so they can down a draught after church. That way they can relax and enjoy a day of rest.
The reason I say Gunner has a problem is because of his cook. She likes her draught too. So much so, that she seems to do better when she is constantly tipping the Stein. But the real problem is when she has had too much; her cooking goes to pot, to coin a phrase. She is a good cook, and from early morning until closing, she toils over pots and pans to stew, to broil, to roast, and to fry the most mundane meals into perfection all with the help of just a little at a time.
Grethel told Gunner if she didn’t have her draught, she’d go to pot too.
At the bewitching hour of noon, after a dozen or so draughts, Grethel’s cooking becomes slop, a chard mess, a crispy crunch, or a burnt bunch of crumbles. This annoys Gunner and says it ruins business. But, Grethel doesn’t care, according to Gunner, because she’s got it made.
Gunner told me once he found her sitting on the floor besides the stove half out of her mind. In one hand was a Stein of beer. In the other, she was holding a stirring spoon, which she was whisking the air as if she were stirring soup and babbling to herself.
I asked him, “Why do you keep her.”
His reply: “She came with the house, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
The way Gunner acquired the property was by default. He was looking for a cheap place to buy since he was approaching retirement and stumbled across this inn that needed an owner. With the house came the cook and a servant girl. The servant girl owned the house, but unfortunately, she wasn’t capable of maintaining it due to hereditary deficiencies. The cook was her cousin and her obligation was to take care of her as long as she lived. The problem was they came with the house; whoever bought the inn had to take on the two women as part of the whole package.
When Grethel started to work in the morning, preparing breakfast for the overnight guests, she would start her tipping. She always said, “A good first draught makes the morning meal marvelous. A second draft enhances the meal. A third draught makes the best meal of all…magnifique.” She would hold up her thumb and index finger in a circle indicating perfection beyond belief.
And as Gunner said, “There in lies the problem. It’s the many draughts after the first meal. By the time evening comes, God only knows how many she has had.”
I said, “Can’t you control her, give her a limit?”
“I have,” he said, “as long as I am present. The moment I leave the house, she’s down in the Keller indulging.”
“Don’t you have a lock on the Keller door?”
“I do, but if I lock it, she goes into the tavern and gets a draught from the bar.”
“And if you were to unhook the keg?”
“I’ve done that too. Then she goes to whatever is available…wine, Schnapps, whiskey, you name it. I’ve found that beer is less of a problem.”
“Well,” I said, “I guess you do have a problem. But then, look at it this way Gunner, there are two side to every coin.”
“You’ve got a house…and that’s one-up on most people.”
Grethel’s specialty is chicken. She can cook one mean bird on just three draughts. Her recipe is:
1. Three bottles of Monk’s brew, or one liter. (It has to be from a known Monastery. Nothing less will do. Kloster Weltenburg “1050” is the best beer.) It will be the beer marinate.
2. One fat chicken
3. Hand full of carrots chopped
4. Hand full of celery chopped
6. Salt and pepper
7. One clove of garlic crushed
8. One table spoon of chicken spice from Schuhbeck’s Gewürze
9. One dozen Steinpilz (stone mushrooms), pureed
10. One dozen Pfefferlingen (chanterelle), chopped
Take the clean chicken and half it. Place it in a bowl and empty the three bottles of beer into the bowl of chicken. Let it marinate for four hours. Take the two halves out of the beer marinate, dry and set it aside. Do not throw away the beer marinate.
Take the chicken, and with each half rub olive oil over every nook and cranny of the bird. Take a deep frying pan, fill the bottom with olive oil, and heat the olive oil so that cold water will dance on the surface—it must dance. Place the bird in the hot oil and scorch all surfaces. After thoroughly scorched, sprinkle the crushed garlic over the halves, and then sprinkle Schuhbeck’s Geürze on top to taste. Place lid on frying pan, and let simmer on low heat for thirty minutes. After the first half hour, turn the chicken upside down, rub the inside with Steinpilz puree, and fill with carrots, celery and chopped Pfefferlingen on the two halves—make sure the celery and carrots cover the two halves. Place the frying pan in the oven uncovered. Slow cook the bird at 370°F, or 190°C for half an hour. Check occasionally so the skin side does not burn to a crisp. Before you remove the chicken, turn over and empty the beer marinate into the frying pan and continue to cook for another half an hour or until chicken is brown. Serve piping hot. Do not allow to cool. If it is too hot, dash it with cold beer before ingesting it. Take the bird, chuck it, and drink the beer marinate heartily.
Grethel said this is the only way to prepare and cook the bird. The beer marinate is what makes the meal. Any alteration to the recipe will result in weird happenings.