It’s been two years since my last post on this blog, so clearly if I am posting today the topic must be very important.

Lunch. It’s clearly of the utmost importance.

For the last ten years I have been confused about how you how you translate “eat lunch” and “for lunch” in German, and the difference between ‘zu Mittag” “zum Mittag,” “mittags” and “zum Mittagessen”.

I’ve been reading online, looking at examples, and asking friends for help.  So far this is the info I’ve gathered:

  1. You don’t combine the verb essen with the noun Mittagessen.
    • Thus, you would never say “Wir essen Mittagessen” or “Wir haben Mittagessen gerade gegessen.”
  2. The phrase “zu Mittag essen” is a collocation that means “to have/eat lunch”, much like the verb frühstücken means “to eat breakfast.” Note that the “Mittag” in “zu Mittag essen” is always capitalized (unlike the adverb mittags).
    • We are eating lunch = “Wir essen zu Mittag” or “Wir essen gerade zu Mittag.”
    • Did you eat lunch already? = Hast du schon zu Mittag gegessen? 
    • I eat lunch with friends = “Ich esse mit Freunden zu Mittag.”
    • We eat lunch at noon = “Um 12 Uhr essen wir zu Mittag.
  3. A book of idioms suggests that the “zu” in “zu Mittag essen” is optional:
    • Habt ihr schon (zu) Mittag gegessen?
  4. Note that “zu Mittag essen” is one unit. You can’t use “zu Mittag” with another verb to mean to eat lunch.
    • This is wrong! Wir hatten Suppe zu mittag. People would understand it, but it is not idiomatic.
  5. You use the adverb “mittags” instead of “zu mittag essen” to describe regularly or recurring lunch-related events:
    • Mittags esse ich in der Kantine.
    • Mittags möchte ich gern ein warmes Essen.
    • Mittags essen die Schüler meistens zu Hause.
  6. The phrase “for lunch” is typically translated as “zum Mittagessen.”  Sometimes “zum Mittag” is used as a shortened form for “zum Mittagessen”. It’s not wrong, but it’s rather colloquial.
    • Zum Mittagessen gibt es Reissalat.
    • Zum Mittag gibt es ein warmes Essen.
    • Wir sehen uns regelmäßig donnerstags zum Mittagessen.
  7. I found many example sentences online of the form “Zu Mittag gibt es…” but my friend says it’s incorrect. Duden, however, includes the question “was gibt es, gab es [zu essen, zu Mittag]?” as an example here. So I’m confused.
  8. My friend also seemed to suggest that unlike “Mittagessen” the phrase “zum Mittagessen” can be combined with the verb essen. He says it’s not wrong, but stylistically clunky:
    • Zum Mittagessen esse ich am liebsten Fleisch.
  9. How do you say “What’s for lunch?”
    • My friend say “Was gibt es zum Mittagessen?” is best
  10. How do you say “What did you have for lunch? According to my friend:
    • Best: “Was hast du zu Mittag gegessen?” 
    • Good: “Was gab es zum Mittagessen?”
    • Acceptable: “What hast du zum Mittag gegessen?”
    • Acceptable: “Was hast du mittags gegessen?”
    • Acceptable: “Was hattest du zum Mittagessen?”

If anyone notices any errors above, please let me know! Or let me know of any additional tips…

Thinking in Celcius

I’ve been here over 10 years now and I am reasonably good at thinking in Celcius these days, at least for typical Saarbruecken temperatures. I know that 20 C is around room temperature, 10-15 C is cool, 5-10 C is cold, and 0-5 C is very cold. If it’s below 0 C I just stay home.

But sometimes visitors come and ask me to convert between Fahrenheit and Celcius. That’s hard! Continue Reading »

A blog reader, Viviane, recently posted a link to some best and worst pesticide lists from the UK Pesticide Action Network. (Thank you Viviane!) Their website shows pesticide residue lists for 2011-2015. They don’t say much about methodology, but it seems clear from their “worst” list (citrus is #1, #2, and #3 on the worst list, and pineapple and banana are #12 and #14 respectively) that they’re including peels and skins in their testing. Still, it’s interesting to compare their lists to my previous research. I’ll combine this data with my other data in a new post when I get a chance. Continue Reading »

It’s a new year and one of my resolutions is to get my finances in order. To assist me in creating and tracking a budget, I decided to find a piece of financial software that will automatically download my transactions from both my American and German bank accounts and credit cards. Apparently, that’s a tall order. I’m still trying to find the best option, but below I’ll document what I’ve tried out so far.

First of all, my minimum requirements: I am only interested in software that does automatic downloading of my German accounts via HBCI, and that works on my Mac. I really want something that will “learn” how to categorize transactions based on my previous tagging, and make it easy to see how much money I’ve spent in a category (as well as the specific transactions) over any time frame I specify.

Bonus features: automatically downloads my US accounts, has decent search, sorting and reporting features, handles multiple currencies well, automatically backs itself up, and can automatically sync between multiple devices (at a minimum my computer and Derek’s computer, but ideally also our iphones).

I started by searching for candidates on Toytown and the internet in general, including on German review sites, but I didn’t find too much. The best overall review was this excellent review of mac financial apps by thesweetsetup. So far I’ve tested out four German apps (finanzblick, Outbank, MoneyMoney, and iFinance) and two American apps (MoneyWiz and Banktivity). I haven’t yet found one app that meets all my needs, but I’ll update this post once I figure out which one I’m going to use. I might end up having to use one of the German apps to automatically download my German accounts and then export those transactions manually and manually import them to another American software to do all my budgeting and reporting. But I hope not. Continue Reading »

Best bathroom cleaners

I remember reading years ago that most people decide what brands of cleaning products to buy (e.g., soap, detergent, and toilet cleaner) based on what their mother bought. It this is true, what do expats do? Most brands in the stores are different than the ones you grew up with. So how do you pick? I try to find recommendations from Stiftung Warentest (the German equivalent to Consumer Reports) or from Ökotest or other test results. In case it’s helpful for others, I’m going to try to write up what I’ve found out so far, starting with the results for bathroom cleaners. Continue Reading »

There is now a vegan food truck that comes to Saarbruecken regularly. I first tried their food at the Altstadtfest this summer. It was the first “food stand” we saw at the festival, and Derek was quite surprised that I wanted to try it before checking out all the other offerings. But how could I resist trying the only vegan food truck in Saarland? Continue Reading »

In the U.S., the Environmental Working Group puts out a “dirty dozen” list  and a “clean fifteen” list each year.  The lists are based on an analysis of pesticide-testing data generated by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.   They use this data to rank foods according to how likely they are to be tainted with pesticides.  The lists are very useful if you can’t afford to buy 100% organic, as they allow you to target your limited organic dollars at the produce that’s mostly likely to be contaminated.  I’ve been working on constructing a similar list for Europe (especially for produce grown in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and Turkey).  My last post on this topic is from March 2014. This post updates that list to include the results of a recent Consumer Reports report, which includes data about U.S. produce but also produce from other countries around the world. Continue Reading »

I just came across a new risk report from Consumer Reports, which is designed to help consumers minimize pesticide exposure, while keeping costs within their budget. Their tool show the risk of pesticide exposure from eating 48 fresh conventional fruits and vegetables from 14 different countries. It’s based on 12 years of data from the Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program. Their risk assessment considers the number of pesticide residues on each food, the frequency with which they were found, and the toxicity of the pesticides. Their analysis also takes into account the typical serving size of the food, and how it’s typically prepared (i.e., apple with the peel, banana without). Their categories are based on the risk to a 3½-year-old child, estimated to weigh 35.2 pounds. They also say that the risk categories “correlate with the number of daily servings of that fruit or vegetable.” I have no idea what that means. Do they mean that for foods Americans eat more of, they bump up the risk level? It’s totally unclear to me.

They recommend buying organic for any produce-country combination in the medium or higher risk categories. (All organic produce falls into the low- or very low-risk categories.) In particular, Consumer Reports said that shoppers should always choose organic options for peaches, tangerines, nectarines, strawberries, cranberries, green beans, sweet bell peppers, hot peppers, sweet potatoes and carrots. They say that conventional (i.e., non-organic) items in the low or very low categories are essentially equivalent to organic.

After looking at the data, I want to note two particularly interesting points. First, the country-specific data doesn’t fall into any clear patterns. Sometimes the produce from Canada is better than the U.S., sometimes worse. Same with Mexico vs. the U.S. Second, when they have processed items in the list (like canned peaches and prunes), they generally have low risk, even if the unprocessed item has higher risk. Not sure why. Maybe they have to use more pesticides on fruit they’re going to ship to consumers? Maybe because looks are more important?

Below I’ve divided the Consumer Reports results into three categories: Items that corroborate my previous research, items that contradict my previous research, and mixed/new results. Continue Reading »

Grin and beer it

I am not a beer drinker. In fact, most vegetarians that I know are not big on alcohol. I’m not sure why, but the two traits seem pretty highly correlated. In any case, this post (helpfully dictated by my non-vegetarian, alcohol-drinking husband Derek) is for the rare beer-loving vegetarian in Saarbruecken, and the beer-loving non-vegetarian ex-pats that read my blog. Continue Reading »

I’m looking for baby swimming classes near Saarbruecken, and I’ve compiled a table listing all the courses that I’ve found so far. I haven’t tried any of the courses myself, but I asked other people about their experiences, and their comments are given below. Continue Reading »