Ach! said the German

English: Castle Neuschwanstein Deutsch: Schlos...
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I’ll admit it. I was jealous of Christian. Christian, with his long history of ethnic traditions and the procession of five-syllable ancestral surnames, their Italian dishes and homemade pastas.

We didn’t have any of that. We were solid, boring German farmers–Germans who didn’t even know what schnitzel and noodles were, much less how to make them.

I went on a German heritage reclamation binge, searching online for recipes I could make my own, only to discover, to my chagrin, that I don’t like German food. (Except for Schnitzel & noodles. What’s not to like there?)  I tried to listen to Wagner and Strauss, but the truth is I’m a French- and Russian-classical music kind of girl. Give me Rachmaninov or Stravinsky any day. I could go the rest of my life without hearing Bach and be perfectly content. I’m German in my analytical skills, in my straight-laced, serious outlook on life, but in terms of culture, I’m not German at all.

And then one day, amid a barrage of now-forgotten frustrations, a word escaped my lips–a word I’d heard out of my dad’s mouth a thousand times if I’d heard it once, intermixed with exclamations of annoyance like, “Aw, foot!”

“Awk!” I said.

(As an aside, it looks ridiculous in typeface.)

And a light bulb flashed.

I raced back to seven years of music history classes, of operas and art songs filled with this bizarre exclamation that went: Ach! You know, with that long gutteral khhhhhhh in the back of the mouth. Every time I saw it in the music, I rolled my eyes. What an affectation! Who would actually say something like that: “Ach!”?

Uh…(raises hand). I would, it turns out. I do.

It may not be a long, proud tradition of culinary and enological excellence…but by golly, I’ve found my German connection at last.