Wenn in Deutschland…



I can probably wear this t-shirt every day because math is just  not “my thing”…

Yet, when in Germany, have your “math hat” (or t-shirt) on. Germans are typically considered rational, methodical and are probably math loving people. Just look at all the great engineering designs and inventions they’ve produced! So before entering Deutschland soil, make sure you review your calculus and geometry, otherwise you may look very stupid.

Ok, I’m over-exaggerating. A little…

But math is definitely not “my thing”, or rather say, one aspect of math, the one where you need to do calculations in your head, while another person is staring you in the face waiting for an immediate (and, of course, correct) answer. I guess “math under pressure” is just not my thing… not the whole math subject, as I did manage to stick through all 20 years of schooling (if you add up all the educational levels), some quite well you can say. So when my now 17 year old says “I cannot possibly do it!”, my only answer is “you can if you really want to, and if you put your best effort in, I had you in my sophomore year in college, and with your bounce-of-the-wall energy, I had just enough time to breathe, and thank you to my mom and in-laws who gave me breaks to study (or just again, to breathe), I was able to finish college with a 3.9 GPA and later on grad school with honors”. Giving that valedictorian  speech on a stage during my college graduation ceremony was one of my life’s proudest moments (that my then 3 year old surprisingly remembers). Grad school was actually less about numbers and more about professional education, which I still appreciate. The school eliminated number/letter grades and had Pass (A or B grade), Fail (C or below grade) or Honors (A+). The idea was that you don’t belong in grad school, and the professional field itself, if you can’t master at least a B level. I hope the school still has this system as it worked great! It eliminated the pressure to concentrate on the numbers of GPA and let us learn the theoretical foundation of our future profession. I don’t remember anybody who earned a Fail grade, but I do know, myself including, a great number of students graduating with Honors after mastering many A+ classes.

But, seriously, “math is just not my thing”… I’d much rather learn something else. Maybe it has something to do with that middle school math teacher who, let’s just say, was not a good teacher, or human being, at all… She taught math and geometry for 5 years during my “most formative” time and pretty much shaped my “math attitude” that I still have now: I’m able to learn and perform math operations on my own time but on on a spot when somebody is staring you in the face waiting for an answer – I just freeze, in body and mind, in that instant, no matter how simple the calculation might be. Something happens to a child, when you’re standing in front of the whole class, and the very teacher who is supposed to “take your hand and lead you  onto the land of knowledge” instead is yelling “you’re a stupid idiot!” In your face if you’re taking a minute too long, or God forbid, produce a wrong answer. To be fair, she did it to every single child she taught throughout the years, girls suffered way more than boys though, and if you ask my classmates who was the most hated teacher in school, we all say the same name. And much research has been done lately, one of my friends even based her PhD dissertation on that, that girls are capable of learning math and operate complex problems on the same level boys do, but only if they are encouraged and given equal opportunities from the very early age.

Giving my son a chance to experience a leadership of a good teacher was one of the reasons I encouraged him (but not pushed) to enter a private prep school even though he was accepted into top gifted high school in the city.  Not to say that there are no great public school teachers, and we’ve encountered some of them along the way, but he did have his own horrible experience with a math teacher in middle school too, and understanding that the pressure of dealing with a class of 30-35 kids on top of following all the city and state mandated tests and regulations sometimes takes the best out of even great teachers. But the other major part of the prep school choice was to give him a chance to get somewhat similar to mine education – where much time is spent on oral discussions, presentations, where a teacher has the time to read (aloud!) Herman Hess to a class of only 12 kids who then in turn have the “luxury” to paint a mandala based on it during their art class. Yep, you got to pay for all these privileges. And, as my son calls it “endure the pain of being together with snotty arrogant golf playing rich kids”. But at the same time, “he is much better at math than I’ve ever been”!

So Wenn in Deutschland, be math savvy. But also remember that despite their seemingly cold aloof appearance, Germans have a “sweet center” and are actually great dessert lovers!


What’s Cooking This Week

The bad thing about today’s recipe is that if you’re obsessed about calories, this is not a dessert for you. The good thing about it though is that’s it’s so good, you won’t get much of it anyway as people will be fighting over it. I made it for a bunch of teenage girls who devoured it in just 15 minutes. And if you know anything about teen girls, they are the 2nd hardest to please group, rivaled only by toddlers. The recipe involves quite a few ingredients and quite a few steps. How many? I’m bad at math, I wasn’t counting 🙂 but you won’t notice either because the result is too delicious to care. I guess Germans know how to make their dessert extra sweet 🙂

German Cinnamon Apple Cream Pie


Pie shell:

1 1/4 cup of flour (I used Cup4Cup gluten free mix)

1 stick of unsalted butter, slightly soften

1/4 cup of sugar

2 eggs

A pinch of salt

Cream filling:

1 cup of heavy cream

1 cup of half-and- half

5 Tbspoons of butter

3/4 cup of sugar

1/4 cup of corn starch

1 tspoon of vanilla

Apple topping:

2 large apples (I used Red Delicious)

2 Tbspoons + 1 Tbspoon of brown sugar

2 tspoons + 1/2 tspoon of cinnamon

A pinch of nutmeg

Butter or oil for cooking


Make the apple topping first. Peel and cut apples, heat up some butter or oil and cook them until  half way done. Then mix in 1 Tbspoon of brown sugar, nutmeg and 1/2 tspoon of cinnamon and finish cooking. Cover and set them aside.


To make the crust, combine flour with sugar and salt. Make a well in the middle of the flour mix and crack the eggs into it, then using a fork, with a circular motion, gradually incorporate the eggs into the mix, batter will be crumbly. Again, using a fork, or pastry dough tool, gradually cut into and incorporate butter pieces, make sure butter is not too soft.


Continue working the dough till it comes together and can be knead on a floured surface. If it becomes too soft, stick it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes. Knead it on a lightly floured surface and roll it out to make 8-9 inch pie crust.


Pre-heat the oven to 350F degrees, use pie weights or poke some holes in the crust. Bake it for about 15-20 minutes until it becomes golden. Don’t over-bake.

While it’s baking, make the filling.in a metal pan, combine cream, half-and-half and butter and cook on low heat until butter is melted. Combine sugar and corn starch in a bowl, and, when butter has melted, stir them into the cream butter mix and continue cooking, constantly whisking, for about 10 minutes until it’s thick. Stir in vanilla and remove from heat.


Pour cream mixture into a baked pie crust, top with apples and then sprinkle with the remaining 2 Tbspoons of brown sugar and 2 tspoons of cinnamon on top. Cover the pie edges with foil or pie crust protector.


Stick the pie under the broiler for another 5-10 minutes to let the filling thicken even more and sugar sprinkle set in.

Then just Essen – eat, whatever you manage to grab before the whole thing is inhaled by everybody else. Yep, it’s that good!