Let me tell you something about this beautiful home region of mine: yes, we have plenty of grapes. But you know what really drives people crazy around here? Spargel. And right now, it’s Spargelzeit.
It’s that time of the year when you can finally buy fresh, in-season asparagus on farms and at small pop-up stalls by the country roads. When asparagus white and green, sautéed and fried, as a starter, soup, side dish and main meal takes over menus everywhere. It’s these precious few weeks of madness when all Germans try to eat as much Spargel as we possibly can, because we know it won’t last forever.
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Literally, “Spargelzeit” means “asparagus time”, but there seems to be little point in translating it, because the rest of the world doesn’t quite seem to get it. In fact, everyone outside of Germany seems to regard this anual ritual with a healthy amount of scepticism – see this wonderful and funny list by Liv Hambret, an Australian who came to live among us and fondly catalogued some of our… cultural peculiarities. Spargelzeit is item 110.
Sensible as it may be not to overdo things, I believe there is something quitessentially human about Spargelzeit. It means remembering that all things end – so you might as well grab the good things and kiss them on the mouth while you can. (That is, unless the good thing is a person and they said or implied ‘no’. Otherwise, go for it!)
The idea is not short. Memento mori was a frequently used theme is Renaissance art, for example. But really, remember death? Not very cheering. Similarly, Game of Thrones‘ “valar morghulis” (“all men must die”) doesn’t make me feel so much like living in the now as it makes want to slink off, sit in a corner with a glass of wine and mourn the loss of my favourite characters. Then wax depressedly philosophical about the tragedy that lies lightly dozing, just waiting for its curtain call, in every living thing. I don’t know about you, but I’m not that into depression and anxiety. Not that I don’t struggle with it – on the contrary – but isn’t that all the more reason to stay positive?
Carpe diem and Seize the day are somewhat more positive incarnations of the same idea, but, honestly, they have been so overused that all that remains are empty shells of meaning and fading tatoos. Okay, and Dead Poets’ Society. That is a good movie. Still, it made Carpe diem so popular that it’s pretty much the jeans among life mottos these days – everyone knows it, everyone has tried it, but it’s so omnipresent that nobody really thinks twice about it anymore. So I vote we make Spargelzeit! our motto this spring. Eat the beautiful, fresh produce while it’s in season. Fall in love. Make that overdue phone call to a loved relative or friend. And enjoy the beautiful spring wheather – while it lasts.
What are the precious, fleeting things you love most? Leave a comment and tell me about it!