Sauerkraut, Cod and Brussel Sprouts

By Skip Bandele

Welcome to the 13th year of the 21st century. December passed pretty much without any major upheavals; the so-called end of the world contained within prophecies related to the finite Mayan calendar turned out to be nothing more than a damp run-of-the-mill pre-Christmas Sunday squib; the supposedly super lucky 12th of the past month – 12/12/12 – did not provide any of my acquaintances with a particular change of fortune and our Boxing Day dinner consisted of a multi-cultural culinary mix of the foods headlining this piece plus Turkey – which brings me to this week’s subject matter.

Much like the late Sir Patrick Moore, stargazer extraordinaire, perpetrator of much derring-do behind enemy lines during Nazi-occupied Europe and a cat lover like myself, I blame the Germans. Not for pickled cabbage, rosebud-like green vegetables, the shortage of bacalhau or the fact that our favourite Christmas fowl does not originate from Turkey or Peru but northern Mexico in particular, but for generally everything!

Do you know that ‘they’ are closing down the only factory in Portugal that makes my favourite Steiff teddy bears and moving production to Tunisia of all places? An outrage! I am only surprised that the 103-strong workforce in the Oleiros municipality, already badly affected by unemployment, was not sacked before the festive season.

To rub salt into the wound Chancellor Angela Merkel, recently named by Forbes Magazine as the second most powerful person in the world, after second-term US President Obama, was simultaneously pictured presenting former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy with one of the very same iconic cuddly toys – a political statement the 19th century Austrian master of dirty dealing, Metternich, would have been proud of. But wait, there is worse to come.

Some of Britain’s most famous snack brands, from KP Nuts to Hula Hoops – the delicious crispy rings which served to cement my first childhood ‘engagement’, (Polo mints were too small even then) – and McCoy’s have been sold off to the Germans.

Kenyon Produce, as it was formerly known, has been a Yorkshire business since 1853 before being taken over by Britain’s United Biscuits in 1968. Now all of its UK factories and 1,500 staff will be owned by Dusseldorf-based Intersnack, a move which to me smacks of slave trade not to mention changing the flavour of future cinema visits for ever.

That apart, to my mind, the Independent Republic of Yorkshire, always the subject of heated debate usually started by one of its citizens busy supporting the indigenous brewing industry when ‘abroad’, has a lot to answer for – imagine providing the venue for the start of next year’s Tour de France – collaboration in the Dales!

I’m getting side-tracked if not derailed. Hot on the heels of the news of the KP sale, Frau Merkel has had the cheek to warn Britain that it won’t be happy alone in the big bad world.

During a visit to Downing Street the Teutonic ‘Iron Lady’ even raised the spectre of the Second World War as she issued a provocative suggestion that the UK would flounder on its own outside the European Union – all because David Cameron had dared to question proposed increases to the EU’s vast budget. Previously speaking in the European Parliament in Brussels, Merkel outlined her pan-continental vision stating: “I want all countries to become members of the Euro. I am sure the European Commission will become a government one day … but we must give people a little more time.”

‘Time’ for what?! Time for the gap between the haves and have-nots, the politicians and the disenfranchised, to become insurmountable? Bailout tranches instead of tanks? Methinks not. In the words of a Greek 52-year-old mother of two: “These measures are killing us little by little and lawmakers don’t give a damn. They are rich, they have everything and we have nothing and are fighting for crumbs, for survival.”

It is not a surprise then that one of Germany’s leading political magazines, Der Spiegel, has identified a growing national trend that the country is once more embracing Hitler’s evil beliefs.

The far right is attracting growing numbers of young recruits with its message of racism and arrogance. In a lengthy essay, the journal says: “This year, amid fresh debates over xenophobia, many are left wondering if the ugly German is back. When the Greeks or the Spaniards protest against the supposed dictatorship of the Germans in Euro policy, some of their posters depict Nazi motifs. When American author Tuvia Tenenbom recently travelled through Germany, he discovered plenty of anti-Semitism. We’re back where we didn’t want to be, caught in the spell of a Nazi past, one that also dominates the present.”

And the supposedly ‘united’ Europe is suffering. Unfortunately, today the ‘crimes against humanity’ are being committed in the guise of Brussels committees presided over by former Portuguese Prime Minister Durão Barroso.

Entities such as the European Parliament Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality are currently churning out ridiculous rulings condemning books which portray ‘traditional’ family images of mothers caring for their children or fathers going out to work to the scrap heap.

Barring children’s classics such as the Famous Five series, Paddington Bear or Peter Pan from classrooms appears about as ridiculous to me as earlier, unsuccessful attempts to reinvent Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in the States.

History is as an important part of our evolution as is literature and trying to whitewash either is as criminal an act as repeating it. Change is a constant evolution for the better which must come from within, not an imposition dictated upon sovereign nations and its peoples by a tainted former European superpower whose resurrection from the ashes of its last quest for global supremacy was only made possible by massive post-war American economic aid.

I hope this will be the first and last time that I have to address this subject in 2013 and wish all of our readers a happy, free and prosperous New Year!

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Skip Bandele moved to the Algarve 15 years ago and has been with the Algarve Resident since 2003. His writing reflects views and opinions formed while living in Africa, Germany and England as well as Portugal.