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May 24, 2007 10:56 AM

What to cook for our German exchange student?[Moved from Home Cooking Board]

My stepson is hosting a German boy for a few weeks as part of an exchange program. I want the exchange student to have the opportunity to try different kinds of American foods. Because we live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I also want to show him California cuisine. I realize he may not like everything that's offered, but I want to at least give him the chance to try some new things.

So far I know he's had hamburgers, hotdogs and pizza. I know he dislikes blue cheese, and avocados. Oh, and seafood, which eliminates several possiblities.

So far, I've come up with the following, which includes things my family likes to make and eat:

1.) Pizza cooked on the BBQ
2.) Soul food/Southern food like grits, beans or greens cooked with pork fat, cornbread, biscuits, pulled pork and jambalaya
3.) Fondue, which is something my family loves and we do several different kinds at once
4.) Mexican food (we'll probably hit the neighborhood taco trucks for this)
5.) Lots of fresh local produce
6.) Brownies
7.) Chili

Any other suggestions about what to prepare for this German boy to show off American cooking?

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  1. Can't answer with specifics but judging by our experience in Germany and Austria with the food in restaurants, go easy on the spice. We found German restaurant food to be very bland compared to our taste and tolerance for spices.Maybe its differeent in home cooking but we were really ready for a good Indian dinner when we reached England!

    1 Reply
    1. re: LJS

      He, he. Its always funny to watch the German tourists in Mexico City turning bright red after their first street taco! Particularly the ones from bavaria that are accustomed to "Spicy" turkish specialties.

    2. Add BBQ to the list, and preferably at a place with a lot of Americana splendor.

      1. Unless it's just too darn hot, you could prepare a top-notch Thanksgiving meal. Perhaps not the very best we have to offer but obviously could be of interest to your guest.

        You could serve and/or go out for ice creams, too, as they seem to be so different in different parts of the world. And all good!


        Fry bread

        Fried chicken

        Not sure how American this is or isn't but chicken salad has been popular with visitors.

        One thing I learned while hosting exchange students is that it's nice to be sure there's enough salad, bread, fruit, and cheese around so that even if they aren't crazy about the meal they won't starve.

        Have fun!

        1 Reply
        1. re: xena

          I actually really like the Thanksgiving Dinner is sort of uniquely American. I remember once my parents cooked a Thanksgiving dinner for some friends visiting from Australia...and they really liked it, although they thought pumpkin pie was very strange because "you can't make pie from a vegetable..." (althought technically isn't a pumpkin a fruit?) And in the SF area, its definitely NOT too hot this time of year to cook that kind of meal....unless they live in the far east bay suburbs possibly. SF in late May/June is generally cool and foggy. Today's predicted high: 62 degrees F.

        2. I'd add some macaroni and cheese to your menu. Maybe on soul food night. Our exchange student from Germany loved mac and cheese. Also any sort of chicken cutlet or grilled chicken breast. But her very favorite thing was restaurant hamburgers. My God that girl could put away some hamburgers. I'm talking a Red Robin monster burger and a Cheesecake Factory double burger. She said they didn't give you enough meat on burgers in Germany. One thing she absolutely didn't like was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The school gave them box lunches for a field trip that included pb&j sandwiches. When she told me about it that night you would have thought she had eaten a cockroach with the face she made. She didn't like the soft white bread and she didn't like the combination of peanut butter with jelly.

          12 Replies
          1. re: AmyH

            Without fail every exchange student we've had has hated peanut butter! I was surprised at first. Every one, and I think we've had 6 different kids over the years.
            Also, most of them disliked root beer. Black Cows were *not* a treat!

            1. re: xena

              Yes! I gave her some root beer to try and she almost gagged.

              And I do think we're the only country that eats peanut butter in combination with sweet things. In South America they eat peanut butter, but on crackers as an appetizer. I got some funny looks buying it with a jar of jelly and a loaf of bread.

              1. re: AmyH

                I am from Germany and normally it everything which doesn't move but root beer is the worst stuff I ever tasted in my life. I have yet to find a German who likes root beer.

                1. re: honkman

                  The French don't like root beer either. A long ago French co-worker drank some and almost choked. Mmmm...I'm having a root beer popsicle right now.

                  1. re: ML8000

                    Rootbeer tastes of Germolene (English antiseptic cream)...I will never get over that and so gladly remain Rootbeer free in my life.

                    1. re: rob133

                      Just wondering, how do you know what antiseptic cream tastes like?

                      Obviously root beer is a very American thing but to many it's the taste of childhood. If you want something that even some root beer drinkers find weird - get some old fashion Dr.Pepper...bottled in Texas.

                      1. re: ML8000

                        We taste salty, sweet, bitter and sour with our tongue. We taste umami with our mouths. Everything else we taste with our noses. (Excuse me while I wipe off the whipped cream off the tip of mine.) ;-)

                        1. re: ML8000

                          I got too answers....the first is I guess ? I'm talking about the smell of Germolene is the same as the taste of Rootbeer, the second is I am sure as a kid I managed to eat some Germolene more than once!!!!

                          1. re: rob133

                            I know what you mean about the smell and the taste, I've had imported beers in the states that taste "skunky", I've never tasted a skunk, but I have smelled them and the taste of stale imported beer tastes like this smell.

                            But, back to what to serve the German kid, if your corn is in season serve him some corn on the cob. Very American, most Europeans I've met look at corn as cattle feed.

              2. re: AmyH

                I wonder if pb and sweet combination is unique to the US. When I was in England, my friends couldn't believe that I'd have pb and honey sandwiches.

                1. re: chowser

                  I think just as vegemite and marmite are acquired tastes, so is peanut butter. I'm not sure how you couldn't like peanut butter, but it seems to be so.

                  1. re: chowser

                    Love pb & honey. For our kids it seemed to be both the peanut taste and the texture they disliked. But we sure ate lots of Nutella while they were texture maybe Nutella melts in your mouth a bit easier, not quite so sticky?

                2. What about breakfast foods like biscuits and gravy, corned beef hash, variety of omelettes/skillets.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: chowser

                    Our German exchange student told us that they don't eat meats with breakfast. Unfortunately, she told me this after she had ordered a huge breakfast at Denny's (on our weekend at Niagara Falls) and left all the meat on the plate. My daughter's a vegetarian and I don't eat pork products, so we couldn't even eat it for her.

                    1. re: AmyH

                      funny that she doesn't. i had salami, cheese, and brown bread, along with yoghurt and fruit the whole summer I stayed with a german family.

                      1. re: AmyH

                        Maybe her family doesn't, but I spent a summer with a German family in high school and breakfast sometimes did entail meat. Other times, good rolls, jam and butter. Thing is, when they asked me what I liked, I said "cereal" since I was 17 and that was my experience. So the mom made a huge production about "wir muessen so viel Geld ausgeben fuer seine CORN FLAKES" and what a burden I was because I was so "picky." I ended up much preferring the stuff they normally had, it was good. But to this day I resent how when I said "we eat pizza at home" or whatever, they saw it as the selfish American DEMANDING pizza (which absolutely rocked in Germany btw, I am still overjoyed when I find a place that puts tuna on pizza). But this host Mutter was a real bitch sometimes.

                        Anyway, OP, your efforts are heroic and I'm sure you're a great host, but do keep in mind that this kid is going to want to go out a lot and sample local treats, including fast food. Let him get that slice of life too.

                        1. re: John Manzo

                          Just curious, which part of Germany did you stay ?

                          1. re: honkman

                            Krefeld, N-W and a week in "West Berlin" (this was 1981)

                          2. re: John Manzo

                            Also you can't force a kid to be interested in trying so much variety if they aren't into it... kid might be feeling homesick or just not be that into food, and being faced with unfamiliar, inconsistent stuff every day might not work. I know I would have loved it as a teen, but most of my friends when travelling would fixate on something familiar and have that every day. You'll figure it out.

                          3. re: AmyH

                            Every German breakfast buffet I've ever seen (lots) has been loaded with different kinds of sliced processed meat products. They do NOT, however, eat hot, cooked meats (i.e. bacon, sausage, ham) for breakfast. Sliced mild cheeses and boiled eggs are also standard.

                            1. re: pikawicca

                              Aha! That explains it. The Denny's breakfast our German student ordered was loaded with bacon and sausage. May have been ham on there, too. She wouldn't touch any of it. And this was a girl who had no problem with meat at any other time of the day.

                          4. re: chowser

                            It's been years since I was in Germany, but what I remember is that the amount of food for breakfast increases steadily as you go north. In Bavaria, it's bread and butter and jam, and maybe a bit of cheese once in a while, and by the time you get to Cologne, there are eggs and lots more. (This was the standard breakfast that came with a hotel stay.)

                            1. re: Anne H

                              Weisswurst being the exception to the rule in bavaria of course. (Had some this morning :-)

                              Oh, and it sort of hurts me to say this, but my (german) husband was a little too excited about the concept of drive through krispy kreme.