The Christkindl markets in Munich are already in business, Advent has just begun – and Neele, our latest Cook on Campus, is about to introduce the members of her regular German-Indian roundtable to the joys of homemade Christmas cookies.
The kitchen of the residence hall on Steinickeweg is a hive of activity: Neele is pouring red wine into a large pot, then she weighs out the flour for the biscuit dough, and grates a bar of dark chocolate to use as a topping. Neele (29) is in the throes of baking Christmas cookies for the regulars who attend her German-Indian roundtable: Among the goodies on Neele’s list are: “Shortbread biscuits, chocolate cookies with hazel-nuts, coconut macaroons and crescent-shaped Vanillekipferl. And then we have mulled wine and freshly made waffles – to help us pass the time while the biscuits are in the oven."
As her Indian guests begin to wander in, they all gather in the kitchen to see what Neele is up to. “This is my first experience of German Christmas baking,” Hema says. She and many other German and Indian students frequently take part in the fortnightly Monday evening roundtable, which was initiated by the IndiAlumni Network of the DAAD. “I wanted to show the Indian students in the group the kinds of traditional things we do during Advent,” Neele explains. “And I find that making biscuits together is one of the best ways of getting into the Christmas spirit.”
Meanwhile, the air – and the atmosphere – in the kitchen have warmed up. Hema and the others are busy with biscuit-cutters, shaping the coconut macaroons, and garnishing the hazelnut cookies. But the conversation is mostly about India – Indian food, the plethora of languages in India, and how difficult it is to learn Hindi or Tamil. For this is not only the first time they have enjoyed cookies with mulled wine, it is also the first time most of them have been together. “That is the best thing about the roundtable,” says Neele. “One is always making new acquaintances – and since everyone is connected with India in one way or another, there is never any shortage of things to talk about.”
Neele too enjoys talking about her time in India. Having taken part in a DAAD exchange program, she stayed on in the country for several months to work in Delhi, and subsequently returned to do in internship. She is now a member of the Graduate School "Globalization and Literature: Representations, Transformations, Interventions", and is writing her doctoral thesis on “Crime Fiction in India and Latin America”. “I know that sounds strange to many people,” she says, “but in the course of my undergraduate studies, I discovered some surprising parallels between the two subcontinents – at least as far as whodunits are concerned.” She very much appreciates the advantages of being in the Graduate School: “It always helps when one can exchange views and ideas with other graduate students who are working on related topics,” she says. – And she is already looking forward to her next field trip to India. “I’m off again immediately after Christmas,” she says. “That’s another reason why I intend to enjoy the atmosphere of Advent in Germany.”
If you are an international student at LMU and you enjoy cooking, you could become one of our Cooks on Campus. To find out how, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!