Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cultural Dissonance and The Critical Mom, Part One

I thought I was buying a candle.
For all the years I've been in Germany, I've been drawn to a pretty blue box with some nuns on it at the local drug store--DM, the German equivalent of Rite Aid or CVS.  Klosterfrau, says the label.  I've picked it off the shelf once or twice over the years, thinking--since it had nuns on it--that it must be some industrial strength white church candle that would burn a long time,  and wondering if it were the kind that would fit in one of our candle-holders.  Sounded economical.  I like a lot of candles.  Or was it just a bunch of little tea lights?  I wasn't sure, so I didn't buy it.
 But today I thought ah, why not, we could use a few candles.  So I bought it.  Inside was a quaint bottle, label courtesy of the fin de siecle, plus a little plastic cup.  Which usually means that you're supposed to drink whatever is inside, but I wasn't sure . . . tooled around on various websites, found that indeed you can both drink and rub on the stuff.  No wonder.  In addition to lots of healthy herbs, plucked in the moonlight or under peculiar conditions having something to do with seasons and tides, the formula includes 79% alcohol. It smells sort of like 4711 eau de Cologne and hmm . . . could these two substances have been bottled in the same factory?  I'm even starting to wonder if they just pour one big vat of whatever this stuff is into bottles, half of which get Klosterfrau labels and the other half 4711 labels.  
So my husband came home and I told him the whole story and he laughed and said his mother and aunt used to drink Klosterfrau, which promises to fix nerves, heart trouble, tummy trouble, "Kreislauf," in other words the German disease, which translates as "circulation" meaning "circulation problems," but means so much more. It's good for everything, and they had a rhyme:

Wenn's vorne juckt und hinten beisst, nimm Klosterfrau-Melissengeist

in other words:

When the front of you itches and the back of you bites, take Klosterfrau-Melissengeist, that is, "Cloister-lady Melissa-spirits"

And now, in some clubs in Berlin, folks mix this with Red Bull, down it, and dance all night.  Think they regard it as organic schnapps.

So, Guten Abend, all, from a Critical Mom who just unsuspectingly swallowed ten milliliters.  It burned going down . . .


  1. Hilarious critical mom, I love it!!

    By the way, there are some of your pieces that I can't read. The Lance Armstrong one and the Dinner for one piece. Do you think you can figure out why? I would love to read them ;-)

  2. HI. Gee, I don't know! They are up on the site and I can read them. I don't know what's wrong. Try again and write back.

  3. Both pages seem to be in perfect working order - maybe restart your browser?

  4. I found out that I can read all of them when I use Mozilla but when I use the Internet explorer they are not there. So it really seems to be a browser-related problem...but thanks to Mozilla I can read them all ;-)

  5. Sorry I'm not great on the technicalities, but my editor can usually help!