A Farewell to Café Hemingway
Enzo Lo Presti: Karlsruhe, Germany, 2020 (Unsplash)
by John Crutchfield
Or: Notes on the Quest for Felicitous Space
…the sort of space that may be grasped, that may be defended against adverse forces, the space we love.
— Gaston Bachelard
The Poetics of Space (1957)
The Poetics of Space
Not far from the center of Karlsruhe––a medium-sized German city at the edge of the Black Forest and just over the Rhein from ancient Strasbourg––there’s a small public square called Gutenbergplatz. Certain details notwithstanding (the modern plate-glass windows and advertisements of the surrounding shop-fronts, for example), it seems to have sprung fully-formed from the 17th Century. The square is bounded by Goethestrasse to the north and Sophienstrasse to the south, and is paved entirely with cobblestones laid out in the blending “fan” pattern one sees throughout Germany. Spaced at regular intervals around the square’s perimeter, their long limbs sweeping up and out to form a freer, more pliant and sheltering fan high over the heart of the square, massive linden trees mark off the pedestrian area from the surrounding lanes, where now and then a car rolls slowly past or slips discretely into a parking space.
In the middle of the north end of the square sits a peculiar fountain, its rounded edges seeming to shift uneasily beneath the vague, leaf-knit shawl of sunlight. The fountain’s shape suggests a crown, or perhaps a small, circular fortification consisting of two concentric walls, such that the lower and larger forms a kind of dyke whose close-fitted capstones offer a flat rim convenient for sitting, while the higher and smaller presents a sculpted rampart festooned with the carved faces of mythological beasts. These latter presumably conceal the spouts through which water purls down into the shallow, ring-shaped moat below. I say “presumably,” because for the eight months that I lived a few blocks away on Scheffelstrasse and visited the square nearly every evening, I never once saw the fountain actually flowing, and the moat contained only drifts of twigs and fallen leaves or a rare bit of trash––an empty cigarette packet, a plastic bag, a crumpled brötchen sack from a nearby bakery––invariably gone by the next day.
I always arrived at Gutenberplatz punctually at 5 o’clock in the evening, having ridden the few blocks from the Scheffelstrasse apartment in a state of quiet euphoria. I executed this maneuver on my second-hand bicycle, of which I was very fond and which I then parked and locked on a wrought-iron fence around the thick base of one of the linden trees.
I discovered by trial and error that if I arrived any later—at 5:30 or 6pm, say, and particularly if the weather was pleasant––wooden tables and benches would be set up around this tree, and I would be forced to park my bicycle some distance away, propped on its own kickstand and locked to its own wheel, rather like a boat with its anchor, from whence I would, so to speak, swim ashore.
The locals, meanwhile, would be sitting at the tables and drinking beer and wine, eating salads and antipasti, and talking in the unhurried yet animated way Europeans often do when food and drink are involved. Out near the fountain, young mothers would be lifting their children from strollers and letting them play, while on the park benches old men in their shirt-sleeves sat alone or side-by-side in groups of two or three, conspiring together with their canes between their knees. Across the square was a Turkish restaurant, likewise with an area of tables out front, where younger couples and teenagers hung around, enjoying the last syrupy light of evening as it poured in through a gap in the dark row of apartment houses opposite.
But if I arrived on time, the square was usually empty, and Café Hemingway––the real reason for my little journey––was just then opening its doors. I could walk right in like I owned the place and install myself at my favorite table, a small two-top by the window with a view of the dry fountain through the trees.
And thus it would begin.
…little sensations of time…
My ritual was first to set out my writing materials—an “octavo”-sized black notebook, a matching “quarto”-sized journal, a sheaf of stationery and an envelope or two, and two pens: a fountain pen for the letters and a ballpoint for the notebook and journal. Then I would order a cup of coffee—which in Germany is a small, strong and rather bitter affair, almost like espresso, served in a sturdy ceramic cup and saucer with two cubes of raw sugar, a miniature carafe of cream, and a single, round, somewhat-less-than-bite-sized ginger cookie.
While waiting for the coffee to arrive, I always made a point of doing nothing writerly at all, regardless of how urgently the events of the past day or the dreams of the previous night crowded for attention. Instead, I would sit with my hands folded, looking out the window at the square, the fountain, the trees, the buildings opposite, the rooflines, the sky. Often a swift or two dipped in and out among the chimneys and claw-like antennae. Down on the square, a young woman might be hurrying past just then, pushing a baby carriage with one hand and tossing one end of a long scarf over her shoulder with the other.
Between the arrival of my coffee and the next patron’s arrival in the café, I could count on having an hour completely to myself. The waitstaff went about their various tasks without hurry or fuss, their voices intermittent and discrete and warm. In the adjacent barroom, The Buena Vista Social Club played softly through the speakers, and a faint rearrangement of cooking utensils took place somewhere back in the kitchen behind partially closed doors.
And in the midst of this comfortable murmur, I would be relishing the most delicious and creative solitude I’ve known in my adult life. By the time I heard the front door open and the bartender greet the first real dinner guest, I might have written a half-dozen pages in my journal or drafted a new poem in my notebook. Looking up, I’d notice the facades of the buildings across the square, in whose windows the reflected light of the sunset was just now sparking up before it faded away. The number of swifts would have increased, forming now an intricate pattern of curvatures against the indigo sky. From time to time, the jittery black form of a bat would flit among the shadows beneath the trees, where the old men’s shirts glowed softly as mushrooms.
Faintly through the window pane then I’d hear the six o’ clock bells echoing down the streets and around the square, and I would be brought back to myself. The young waitress, whom I’d asked during my very first “session” at the café whether it would be alright if I just sat and wrote for a few hours, would arrive to light the little candle in the middle of the table and inquire if I wanted anything else. The soft image of her face there above me, her eyes black and expressionless and alert in the candlelight, would suddenly make it seem quite dark outside, and the last fading echo of the bells somehow meant that it was now both meet and right to order a glass of the house red––a Tempranillo from the Valdepeñas region of Spain, if memory serves. A few minutes later, she would place the glass carefully among my papers, and withdraw beyond the circle of candlelight.
Alone again, I would take a single appreciative sip, then return the glass to its place near the candle, where it glowed like a red half-moon. My notebook and journal, then, I would put away, uncap my fountain pen, and proceed to writing a letter. Sometimes I wouldn’t even have decided whom to write to until the moment my pen touched the paper.
There secrets are pondered, projects are prepared.
Some writers search all their lives for the perfect place to work. The more “practical” among us (to the degree that practical intelligence can be said to occur among writers) eventually give up, and make do with what they have––the breakfast nook, the guest bedroom/storage room, an office somewhere, a train compartment––otherwise, little would be accomplished before one’s time ran out. Nor is this necessarily a bad thing: an environment that to some degree resists one’s need to write can strengthen the writing itself. The question, finally, is not how “nice” the circumstances are, how “comfortable” and “conducive” and “free from distraction,” but whether the soul of the place, the genius loci if you will, offers any real affinity to the writer’s own soul.
This is not always easy to predict, partly because what the soul experiences as affinity might affect the conscious mind like an irritation, even pain. Sometimes, before it will act with any vigor, the conscious mind needs to have its fur rubbed the wrong way. Creative solitude, moreover, shares a long border with loneliness, and daydreaming smacks of indolence and wasted time. How do you know your solitude and your daydreaming are fertile and not merely self-indulgent, a shirking of responsibility? How do you know your “work” as a writer is actually producing anything? You know it, if it’s true, because you feel it. While writing, you exist in an ideal but private atmosphere, an idiosyncratic mixture of isolation and stimulation that the soul––or whatever it is––non-negotiably requires before it will come forth and offer its help. With it, the work lives. Without it, the work is stillborn; it may get published, may even win awards, but the writer knows better, if she’s honest with herself. She was there.
I suppose if writers were as wise as they’re sometimes taken to be, they’d be able to work anywhere, like Zen monks mediating in a war zone. After all, no matter how bad you may think you have it (children screaming, collection agents knocking, computer crashing) someone’s had it worse. Someone had to write his poems on prison walls. Someone could only write for five minutes at a time before her fingers froze. Someone had so provoked the authorities that he risked his own life and those of his loved ones every time he put pen to paper. If I have to write at a booth in The Waffle House or at a crappy desk in some institutional basement office after hours, is that really so awful?
No. With the right amount of self-discipline, and the blessing of the genius loci––yes, even the most hideous of 24-hour diner booths and basement offices has a genius loci, if one knows how to look––I can do it, and maybe even come to enjoy it.
Margarida Afonso: Karlsruhe, Germany, 2020 (Unsplash)
But still: somewhere (one imagines) is that place where everything is just right: the air, the quality of the light, the substance and placement of physical objects, the aura of human history and lived time. All of it conspires to create the perfect setting––to call it a temple or sanctuary wouldn’t be going too far––in which a presence is felt, utterly alien, beyond all rational knowing, but willing to speak in a language that, with enough openness, enough humility, enough intensity of concentration, one can almost comprehend.
Thus one begins to appreciate the “madness” of a Yeats (or for that matter, a Stephen King) who literally builds himself a tower in which to write: an environment that is shaped in all its details to the writer’s wishes, and sealed off like a capsule from the outside world. Or of Faulkner, who hunkered down at his palatial Rowan Oaks in Oxford, Mississippi, and kept the sideboard well-stocked for decades on end. Few writers I know can afford such extravagances. One hears with envy of a “writing shed” or “hut” at the edge of the property, set apart from the family home but close enough to smell dinner or hear the kids when the screaming reaches a certain decibel-threshold. One fellow North Carolina poet I know has an actual mobile home back there, set up with kitchen, bathroom, twin bed for naps, and of course, internet. But he’s also a full professor at a big university, doubtless with a salary to match.
I speak of writers. But maybe this is true for everyone. The only difference being that, for most people with “normal” careers, there is a special place set aside for work: the office, the store, the workshop, the studio, etc. You don’t have to go searching for it. Maybe you search for some place to live, or some place to spend your vacation time, or to build your second home, but work happens at a certain pre-determined place, and you simply have to be there if work is what you want to do.
But for writers, whose work is essentially in their heads and on sheets of paper or perhaps a laptop, and for whom no one cares whether the work gets done or not, the problem of where and when to work is a real one. And a decisive one. And yet, almost everything else in life conspires against your solving it. When you find a place to work––where the work happens, where you feel, so to speak, the dead looking on and wanting to help––then you are blessed indeed as a writer. Even if only for a time.
And ultimately, of course, it’s always only for a time, as the dead will be happy to remind you, should you ever forget.
Everything comes alive when contradictions accumulate.
Café Hemingway had two rooms: a bar room in the northeast corner of the building, with large windows on two sides (one facing the square, one facing Goethestrasse); and a dining room, more dimly lit, with tables and booths and smaller windows with sashes and panes looking out onto the fountain. The decor throughout was somehow suggestive of Cuba—and I’m not sure exactly why I say this now. Were there portraits of Fidel on the walls? Or maybe a Cuban flag? I no longer remember. Or perhaps I’m associating the place proleptically with the author for whom it was evidently named. In any event, the café had an aura that would have been well-suited to the actual Buena Vista Social Club, had there been one. A kind of warm and murmurous, postprandial melancholy suffused the place––quite different from the dark, almost gothic and at the same time distinctly intellectual Central European melancholy that has always made Germany so perilously appealing to me. The melancholy of Café Hemingway was in some essential way older, deeper, less intellectual than soulful, less about the catastrophe of political history and the futility of humanism than about some inscrutable, mythical or even elemental pathos.
What was the content of that pathos? Something about the mortality of our passions, perhaps. Even of our greatest passions. Even love. Perhaps above all, love. Whatever that pathos was, whatever it meant, it dwelt there somehow in the dark grain of the wood, the small candles in their brass holders, the smell of warm bread, the simple glass of wine.
I quickly discovered, however, that on Saturdays Café Hemingway was much less congenial to such mystical musings. Starting not long after sunrise, the Gutenberplatz was transformed into a bustling farmers’ market, with the booths and tents and displays arranged so closely together that entering it was like entering a labyrinth: you had to go all the way through to get back out. In addition to the usual fruits and vegetables and flowers, all of which were scrupulously arranged and attractively displayed, there were vast quantities of cheeses—of every conceivable kind (I discovered a weakness for the “Alt-Gouda,” a hard, pungent cheese with little salt crystals in it, of which I could only afford a small chunk per week)––as well as sausages and sliced meats, honey, wildflower tinctures, and of course, bread.
The nice thing about the farmers themselves was that they actually looked like farmers. My experience with similar markets in the U.S. is rather different: one has the feeling of being at a kind of trade show, where the personnel are hired for their symmetrical smiles and public relations skills, and one comes away with the suspicion that somewhere behind the spotless wooden crates of identical vegetables a multi-national corporation is lurking. Here it was different. There were always, for instance, large booths of produce from the local organic farms. Moreover, the individuals staffing these booths were as variously-shaped and sized as the vegetables themselves, and like the vegetables, they had a certain amount of dirt on them. These were not trust-funded neo-hippies from New England or Upstate New York, nor were they former TV personalities from California or Florida who, under the sign of a second career, were giving “sustainability” a go. These were actual people who farmed, who knew their Handwerk, as the Germans say, and who apparently didn’t waste much time on orthodontics or the L.L. Bean catalogue.
But as interesting as it was from a sociological point of view, all of this micro-economic hustle and bustle on the square rendered Café Hemingway inhospitable. The place did a brisk business, to be sure: all the tables were full, and extra waitstaff seem to have been hired to double up on the shifts. This hubbub continued even beyond mid-afternoon, when the farmers’ market began to break up and a surge of late-coming shoppers hurried through the rapidly disappearing booths. The weekend café-crowd arrived in waves, each distinguishable by its culinary and bibular preferences: first, around mid-day, the Bier und Wurst crowd; then, around 3:30 or 4pm, the Kaffee und Kuchen crowd, and finally, after the sun had set, the Wein und Käse crowd. Moreover, these groups were in continual peregrination, such that the Bier und Wurst crowd at Café Hemingway would gradually decamp, moving on to become the Kaffee und Kuchen crowd somewhere else. Meanwhile, at Café Hemingway, the Kaffee und Kuchen crowd would have arrived from parts unknown, and would in its turn decamp and be replaced by the Wein und Käse crowd. The long and short of it being, to wit: that on Saturdays there was hardly ever a quiet moment or a free table in Café Hemingway at which a poor expat poet might lean and loafe and invite his raggedy-assed soul.
But on those weekday evenings—particularly toward the end of my stay in Karlsruhe, in late spring and early summer, when the sun had warmed the stones of the square during the day, and the linden trees seemed to bend and sway in the breeze instead of merely shivering, and now the swallows too were returning from across the Mediterranean––Café Hemingway became for me a kind of boat in which to drift through the solitary dusk, wholly given over to the gentle urgings of a voice I persuaded myself I was learning, finally, to hear.
But the verbs to be and to write are hard to reconcile.
Nothing could be further, of course, from Mr. Hemingway’s own writerly practice. He would doubtless have found my Traklesque melancholia and my Rilkean longing and my Hölderlinian transport at best sentimental and effeminate, and at worst, patently absurd. I could certainly have chosen a more temperamentally compatible patron saint to intercede for me with the Muse. Though in a way, perhaps “Papa” was just what I needed then: an antidote to my natural poetic excesses, as well as a watch-word about the dangers of “style” taken too much to heart.
A lot of good it’s done me, my malefactors will say. But undeniable is the fact that I scribbled up a storm, albeit a very local one, and at the end of my year in Karlsruhe, I had a notebook full of new poems. Most of them, perhaps not unlike the majority of poems in general, were pretty bad. But one or two may have come through relatively un-garbled. At least I can still read them, after lo these many years, without undue horror, self-alienation, or boredom. They’ve not been published, of course, and probably never will be. But somehow the act of writing them, the instinctual feeling-my-way through the thicket of words and images toward something that wanted to be thought, something that, as William Stafford would say, “might be true”—that experience stays with me.
Even if I have in fact wasted my life wrestling with words (is there no nicer way to say it?), I’ve had moments of soulful calm that existed beyond pleasure and pain, moments when I was truly alone, but didn’t feel lonely. On the contrary, I was absorbed and welcomed within a larger, more expansive, more encompassing self, a self that was at once both inside and outside time, that was both me and not-me.
In those moments, certain things just didn’t matter any more—the regrets and disappointments, the confusion and bitterness of loss, the hopes that come to seem like they’ll never be fulfilled. And other things that would have appeared insignificant before began to glow with an almost sacramental meaning: the candle’s flame telling the presence of some imperceptible breath, the texture and smell of good writing paper, the mark the pen makes there, the arc of a bird in the evening sky, the fleeting smile of a girl whose name I will never know. It all came to seem perfect as it was, sufficient unto itself, and indescribably beautiful. It was, in a word, enough.
Yes, Gentle Reader: I was young, but not too young; I was was poor, but I was healthy; I was a mystery to myself, but I had time. I wrote.
And when the day came and I had to leave Karlsruhe to return to the States, I felt as if I were saying goodbye not to a place or even to an experience, but to a lover, someone I had known just long enough. ––For what? Long enough, I suppose, for me to have a feeling of home, a sense of roots nudging their way down into the dark earth, taking hold of some unseen source of nourishment there.
And yet, from the beginning, Karlsruhe was only a temporary shelter for me. Even my official title at the Pedagogical University made this clear: Gastdozent (“Guest Lecturer”). And as far as “home,” few things could have been further from my small-town, Southern Appalachian upbringing than a city like Karlsruhe, with its palaces and parks, its public statues and cabarets, its trolleys and boulevards and museums, its massive state theatre. This gap no amount of proficiency with the German language, to say nothing of “cultural fluency,” would finally bridge.
Enzo Lo Presti: Karlsruhe, Germany, 2021 (Unsplash)
And now that I think about it, perhaps this is the key to what made that time and place so “generative” for me, and so indelible. I was a stranger there. Hence one might say my external circumstances confirmed or resonated with an internal reality. Let’s go all the way and call it an existential reality. During my time in Karlsruhe, I was stripped of all the habitual modes of thinking, speaking, and behaving that normally keep me safely rolled up in dogmatic slumber. I was profoundly awake there, and alert not only to the strangeness of the outside world but, as if by reflection, to the strangeness within. For a writer, and in particular a poet, this is as close as one gets to an ideal state of affairs.
Doubtless there are many reasons why writers and artists and musicians would choose to live in temporary or even permanent exile. Not least among them are economic and social reasons. One thinks of the many African American jazz and blues musicians who, since the middle of the last century, have found the racial situation in western Europe more tolerant and hence more tolerable than in America. The Paris in which Hemingway and the “lost generation” found themselves and each other was in reality as much a mental, spiritual and mythological space as it was a physical place. It was, among other things, a temporary negation or erasure of America, against which these writers discovered who they were––as Americans. Substitute Ireland for America, and the same holds true mutatis mutandis for Joyce and Beckett. And somehow presiding over this artistic hubbub was that expat par excellence, Gertrud Stein.
But I can’t help wondering whether, for them as for me and probably many others, the sense of alienation itself isn’t the most important factor, even more important than things like a froth of adventurous small presses, vaudeville theatres, all-night cafés, and cheap wine. The sense, in other words, that a break has been made, a definitive rupture in the continuity of “home”; a sense that henceforth, one cannot rely on ready-made answers. Nor can one go back to the way things were. Like the mysterious traveller in Kafka’s parable, one’s destination is only Away-From-Here. The search for “felicitous space” has become an inward search, or rather, an inner discipline, which can approach but never fully reach its end, until at some point the final rupture comes and all searching ceases. But until then, like a snail, the writer carries his home on his back. Among the butterflies and worker bees, he cuts a ridiculous figure to be sure: slow, top-heavy, trailing his slime. But his shell is of a hardness that endures.
We ask ourselves if what has been, was.
A year later, I went back to Karlsruhe, this time not alone but with the woman I believed I would marry. I was very excited to take her to Gutenbergplatz and to Café Hemingway, having told her about my blessed hours there, the long evenings of writing, drinking wine, and dreaming my way over the twilit square. It seemed absolutely essential that she understand and share this part of my life.
It was summer, and I waited until just the right evening after a storm had broken and the sky was lit up with purple clouds. The sun was going down as we set out on our bikes across the city, and it would be difficult to describe the feeling I had then, with the cool evening air rushing past my face and ruffling my collar and lifting the wings of my corduroy blazer, while the woman I loved followed close behind me on her own bike, one I had borrowed from a German friend. It was one of those rare moments of actual experience that seem to rise up out of time and hang there in eternity like fireworks in the distance.
We arrived a bit later than had been my custom the year before—around 6:30pm––and the café was well-lit and busy. But even as we entered the square from Goethestrasse I knew something wasn’t right.
We slowed to park our bikes, and then I saw: Café Hemingway was now called Europa Bistro. Through the new, tinted glass doors I could see that the decor was no longer what it had been. Polished concrete had replaced the dark wood, candles had been replaced by snazzy halogen lamps, and electronic trance music throbbed where before it had been soft Cuban jazz. The whole place had been, one might say without exaggeration, completely swanked-up. The outward structure was intact, but Café Hemingway was gone. The spirit had departed, leaving but a gaudy mask.
I must have been narrating these distressing observations to my companion, because after a moment she said, somewhat impatiently, “Fine, let’s just go somewhere else.” I looked at her, more than a little hurt by her insensitivity. But her face had a cheerful expression. And why not? The night was beautiful and still young; and as far as Café Hemingway was concerned, all she’d ever had to go on was my stories. And perhaps they’d not been all that evocative for her. So I went to the same café by myself nearly every day for months on end: so what? Isn’t that, after all, kind of lame and boring? If it’s candles and coffee and wine you want––or cute waitresses, a window on the square, whatever––then surely other cafés have just as good, if not better. Why get hung up on this one?
I watched her tuck a strand of hair back up under her stylish cap, take hold of the handlebars once again, and shift her weight back up onto the seat. She held herself there with legs extended, feet en pointe.
I didn’t know what to say. The truth is, I felt profoundly stupid. What a sentimental fool I’d been. And what a preposterous, quixotic misadventure this excursion was doomed from the start to be. What was I thinking? That I could bring back those hours and offer them to her in their original purity? That anything could be “the way it was”? That unlike the rest of the world, Café Hemingway would stay the same? Of course I could not share my solitary memories with her. Even the most beautiful ones. Even the ones that, as I still felt at the time and for several months thereafter, had in some mysterious way prepared me for her.
Especially not those.
As we turned to pedal away, I glanced back over my shoulder at the window where my table had been. But I couldn’t look long: it was dark out now, and I had to pay attention to where I was going.
About the Author
John Crutchfield is a writer, performer, translator and teacher who divides his time between Asheville, North Carolina and Berlin, Germany. At present he serves as Associate Artistic Director of The Sublime Theater & Press.
 This latter procedure was necessary because, regrettably, and as may surprise anyone who associates Germany with ideas of order, theft is rampant throughout the country. Bicycles in particular seem to offer an irresistible temptation in this regard. And eventually, my beloved bicycle was in fact swiped––lock and all. May the perpetrator soon use it to compete in his very own eternal Tour d’ Enfer.
 The idea being that coffee is best drunk quickly and hot, not nursed for hours from a towering insulated mug, as we Americans are fond of doing. When Germans want to consume a massive amount of room-temperature liquid, they turn to an altogether different section of the drink menu. But happy hour has never done me any personal or literary favors, so coffee it was.
 Nota Bene: I actually know more than one serious writer who would in fact claim these same honors, and more, for The Waffle House. And not just for the one on Tunnel Road, a few miles east of Asheville, North Carolina, but for all Waffle Houses throughout this great land of ours. Which leads me to hope I shall one day turn on the TV and see a Waffle House commercial featuring booths full of goatee’d poets and rumpled novelists, all in various poses of inspiration, some scribbling madly amongst their half-eaten hash-browns, others observing the interesting thermodynamic swirls of cream in their coffee, and others merely peeking through their spread fingers at the florescent lights. “Honey, how’s that novel coming along?”
 As I write this, I realize it’s not actually true any more. Thanks to our ever-more-ingenious “devices,” certain professions no longer even require that personnel be physically present in order to be considered “at work.” One can work “remotely” or “virtually.” All I need is my mobile device, a power source, and access to the internet. Which in turn means a radical explosion of all restriction on the number of hours during which one might work. One can now work at any time as well as in any place, and thus one might say that the principle of productivity has invaded even those few remaining hours which, till now, had been devoted to “private” or “non-productive” behaviors like, for example, rest. Or daydreaming. In any event, whether in fact this leads to an overall gain in productivity remains to be seen. But the irony of it, of course, is that one’s mental (but not physical) presence “at work” often means one’s physical (but not mental) presence wherever one actually happens to be. The students in the classroom, the couple on a date, the family seated around the silent dinner table, each absorbed in the goings-on on his or her personal smartphone––that image is no longer just a dystopian fantasy.
 German bread, I would like to go on record as saying, is far superior to French bread or, frankly, to any other kind of bread I’ve ever encountered. Again, the sheer variety is immense. One can find, for instance, light fluffy breads of a kind that would seem familiar to the French, but also dense, dark, nutty breads, and even a kind of pretzel-bread called Laugenbrot. And this is to say nothing of German pastries. Why does the rest of the world seem not to know of these delights? Perhaps the Germans treat their bread the same way they do that other eucharistic ingredient, wine: they keep the best to themselves and don’t talk about it with strangers.