German is known to have a more concise vocabulary than English. All the same, once in a while there are things which can only be described using their German name. “Das Plätzchen” is definitely one of them. Not as boring and standard as a biscuit, not as crude and americanised as a cookie, and not quite as fine as a pastry – Plätzchen is a name given to sweet treats that lie somewhere in-between all this. The best kind are home-baked, delicately sweetened and carefully crafted. Often powdered with sugar, often rolled in nuts or incorporating marzipan and sometimes seasonally spiced. The variety seems to be endless.
Aside from being near to impossible for a non-native speaker to pronounce (try it), the phenomenon of the Plätzchen leaves me in awe for other reasons than just their taste. I marvel at the time, thought and care which goes into the making of them, in a world where it would be so much easier just to buy them.
I have long come to the conclusion that German women have a particular affinity towards baking. Scarily almost without exception. Nurses regularly bring in elaborate, multi-layered homemade cakes to the ward, at times without occasion. And I say German women, but male colleagues have been known to bake a cake or two. Just last week, I spotted my boss on his birthday, wheeling a trolley laden with homemade cakes around every department in the hospital. (He claims at least to have taken part in the baking of them.)
The Plätzchen however has a special place in the heart of all Germans. My female colleagues who work full-time and otherwise portray an outward image of mild feminism, happily don their oven gloves and distribute small packets of handmade Plätzchen come Christmastime. Men are sent to work with goodies made by their wives. And a typical German home appears to have a tin of them stashed somewhere, ready to serve with coffee.
The joy of Plätzchen-making is yet to beset me. Who knows if this day will ever really come. All the more reason for my genuine excitement today as these below were sent to me. And it’s not even Christmas yet.