White Asparagus

When I announced to my friends I was returning to Munich, those who knew Munich had two reasons for rejoicing with me: (1) Oh, this is the best time of year to enjoy the beer gardens, and (2) Oh, my gosh, you will be there just in time to enjoy the white asparagus (weiss Spargel)!. I was fully aware of the first reason for returning (it had been more or less constantly on my mind since my last trip to Andechs), but I was ignorant of the second. So when I arrived in Munich an hour later than planned due to a missed plane connection, and I had finally found my son, Brian, (we had forgotten to craft a plan B and had to improvise), we decided to celebrate in a decidedly German way by grabbing a late lunch at a beer garden cafe in the Englischer Garten. I ordered a beer and Feine Suelze von Spanverkelschinken. I had absolutely no idea what the latter was, but I could see Spargel in the description, and that was good enough for me. Two birds with one stone.

The beer was heavenly, naturlich, but I had to drink a good deal of it to get past the Spanverkelschinken. I’m still not sure what this was. It looked like small pieces of pork spread sparsely in a layer of clear jelly. All I could think of was very poor quality spam, but it tasted better than that, thank goodness, and certainly cost more. Brian told me with a smile it was typical German fare, whatever it was.

But the best part of the meal was the white asparagus. It was delicious and the presentation of it was impeccable, if a bit disconcerting. In retrospect, of course, I realized it was part and parcel of the entire Munich scene.

It has been a long winter in Munich. Extremely cold. Spring has been non-existent. Prior to the week I arrived it had been cold and raining for at least two weeks. Everyone was getting tired, very tired, of it. But I arrived to perfect weather. Outside temperatures in the 80s, sunny, the epitome of summer. And the Germans were making up for being denied a Spring. Because Thursday was a religious holiday, half the city was walking and sunning in the Englischer Garten, preparing for a long weekend. The women were dressed in their skimpiest summer outfits. Most of the men were bare-chested. Love was in the air. And my asparagus lay in front of me in all their phallic glory, just begging me to get into the spirit of the place. Spring. Asparagus. Love. Lots of beer. Everything was starting to make sense to me now.

Phallic Asparagus. Phallic Asparagus.The white asparagus symbolizes Spring to thousands of Münichiners flocking to the beer gardens in the Englischer Garten.

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