Oh, how times have changed. Hubby and I have long enjoyed our Friday night date nights, which we simply call Friday night dinner. The premise is simple, every Friday night we go out to dinner.
During the first Covid lockdown back in March of last year, although at some point there were restaurants open for takeaway, we didn’t often take advantage of it. We had a well-defined shopping schedule, and a regular fruit and veggie delivery, which usually meant we had something that needed to be cooked up most nights. And hey, back then we were excited about cooking. When everything opens up again, we’ll go out multiple times a week, we promised ourselves. And for the most part we did just that. Friday night dinner, Sunday night kebab, Tuesday night pizza – it was all on the table… literally. But when lockdown hit again, we decided that Friday night dinner was no longer something we were willing to forego. This time around restaurants had refined their procedures, so although our pick of takeaway is small, since we live in a small town, it’s definitely not non-existent.
On a Friday night I’d always enjoyed getting a little bit dressed up, putting on some perfume, and going out for dinner, be that for a schnitzel or a more upmarket option. Some days, especially in the winter, it felt arduous to change out of comfy tracksuit pants and into something a bit nicer – but it was always worth it.
But I have to say… Friday night dinner at home is the best of both worlds. And because many restaurants that never did takeaway before are still open, the options aren’t limited to pizza or Chinese. These days I don’t feel any pressure to dress up at all. Sure, I could. Probably, I should. But mostly, I don’t. There’s no putting on of coats or assessing the outside temperature to see what I should wear. Hubby simply leaves the house just before six, and I warm the plates and set the table, before sitting down to dinner with a nice bottle of wine from the cellar.
I could definitely get used to this. In fact I have. I probably shouldn’t. Instead I should be excited about when we can go out again. When I can dress up and sit in a restaurant with other people and wait for my food to come while my tummy growls. I do miss someone bringing me bread.
There are just so many advantages to home Friday night dinners. I can study the menu well in advance, and I do. From about Wednesday on I’m scouring social media to get a taste of what’s going on for the weekend. I check out the daily lunch menus even though usually I have no intention of going out for lunch. I just get carried away readings menus. When I eat at a restaurant, I generally finish what’s on my plate. Unless there’s a schnitzel or something that’s easy to take home, it just gets eaten because well… it’s delicious and you don’t want to leave it. It’ll go to waste and you’ve already paid for it. At home, there is no such pressure. If we order a big chunk of roast meat, most of the time it serves us for two meals. And if not quite two, then at least a lovely snack for the following day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to be happy when the world goes back to normal. It’s upsetting that not all restaurants are able to take advantage of the take away option. For some it’s not feasible and there’s not enough demand. But while this Friday night date night at home is on, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy myself, in my tracksuit pants, with or without washed hair.
I am the first to admit that I have done a lot of complaining about breakfast in Austria. Ham and cheese on bread has never been, nor ever will be, my idea of a perfect breakfast. And every breakfast in Austria (whether it’s buffet at a five star hotel, or a more basic Gasthaus offering) has the same base – ham and cheese on bread. Sure, there might be eggs on offer, or muesli, and most definitely prosecco, but I learnt very quickly to remember what country I was in, and not to expect what my occasionally hungover stomach was craving.
You know how it goes; you see someone in the morning, you say ‘good morning’. The same applies in German. You can say Guten Morgen. But after that… at some point in the later morning, people switch from saying Guten Morgen and instead say Mahlzeit. That means, literally translated. Meal time. Mahlzeit is what you say when you are about to start eating a meal, kind of like the French bon apetite. But strangely enough, it is also used as a greeting. If you pass someone in the corridor at work and they are carrying food, chewing something, or hell, even look like they might be heading to the canteen, you say Mahlzeit to them, instead of hello.
I remember complaining a lot growing up about the constant ‘meat & 3 veg’ dinners served up in our household. That’s not to say it actually was constant… we certainly ate a lot of different meals… one of my favourites being fish fingers, dim sims and chips… but I digress. I think it was more that ‘meat & 3 veg’ was just the easiest, healthiest and quickest thing to fall back on… especially when you’ve got kids to raise.
When I moved out of home, I vowed that I would be different. I was going to make my cooking interesting, and find meals that were easy, healthy and quick… but weren’t basic meat with steamed veg. I was going to cook and eat exciting, healthy food.
In my experience it is quite common to be served bread prior to a meal in many restaurants. In some countries it seems almost mandatory (like in Italy), whereas in others it’s reserved only for the finer dining establishments, or it’s charged if you request it.
Back home in Oz, I have to say one of the highlights of a nice restaurant was the pre-dinner bread course – with some delicious salty butter or some olive oil – because I’m simple at heart…. And I love bread!
In Austria I would say that it’s not commonplace, even in the finer restaurants (though of course, it does happen), but don’t worry, you won’t miss out, because they replace it with something slightly different.
Ok… it’s not actually called Jelly Meat. It’s actually called Aspic – or in Austria – Sulz. But I call it Jelly Meat. Because that’s what it looks like. It reminds of the old Whiskers ad… Whiskers time, chunky tuna; Whiskers time, jelly meat… remember that one? No? Just me, then.
Austrians tend to do the reverse of what I’m used to – they eat a big lunch and then only need a small snack in the evening, rather than a full cooked meal. One of the most common evening ‘snacks’ is Jause. I’ve already written a blog about Jause, but I’m going to take it one step further now. Because Jause, although when you order it at a Jause Station or mountain huts, will be served with specific meats or spreads, is really just a general term for ‘putting stuff on bread’. Essentially it’s an open sandwich.
I have a bit of an obsession with food wastage – as I’ve already mentioned in a previous blog, it kind of upsets me. In an ideal world, I shop once a week and have a basic idea of what I’m going to eat each day. Back in my bachelorette days this often resulted in very boring weekday meals. Because if I bought a whole broccoli, then I was forced to eat broccoli almost every night to use it up.
The more people you have in your household, the more variety you can purchase without wastage. And when you’re just one… well it can make it difficult.
You know how it goes these days… it seems that everyone is on some kind of special diet… everyone is intolerant to something. Look… it’s not like I don’t believe them, because I know plenty of people who have legitimate intolerances… but it’s almost like sometimes… well… I don’t really believe them.
This is not helped by the fact that it seems there are those who practice ‘selective’ intolerance. They make a big deal to get a gluten free meal in a restaurant, but on Sunday afternoon gorge on ‘standard’ pizza with apparently no ill affect.