It's a "Wonder" what can happen when you talk to strangers
If you've ever been on a plane, then you know there are typically three types of travelers.
- The Sleepers: Headphones on, pillow around neck, phone in airplane mode and are maximizing every minute aboard trying to catch-up on sleep,
- The Workers: Laptop posed to open as soon as the tray table can go up, and they are looking forward to using every minute on plane to catch-up on life/work/reading, and
- The Talkers. Those who want to make conversation with the person sitting next to them about where they are from, where they are going, and probably the weather too!
Put any of these three types next to one another and it can make for some awkward moments of claiming the arm rest or reclining the seat backwards. Now, I personally have definitely been known as a plane Worker and a Talker, but I have never been a good Sleeper, since I just can't zone out that quickly. My husband on the other hand is a strict Sleeper or a Worker - not the talkative type!
With this in mind, you can understand my amazement when Bill came home last January after a research visit to the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen. He told me how he TALKED the whole 1st leg of his flight out from BWI (Baltimore, Maryland) to his layover in Reykjavik, Iceland to the gentleman sitting next to him.
This never happens. Bill either sleeps or reads.
You can see from the picture that he's passed this trait onto our son!
I looked at him inquisitively wondering how they ever got talking. Bill explained that he was just reading a cookbook on the flight, when the gentleman sitting next to him, Konrad, asked if he was a chef. Bill said no, but attempted to explain his crazy relationship with food via experimental archaeology and that's when Konrad shared that he just started a bone broth company in Berlin, Germany! Bone broth! What are the chances?
As fate would have it, Konrad was actually on his way home to Germany after conducting bone broth research at Brodo in New York City. You can imagine my shock when Bill shared this news because he and I were just at Brodo - back in April doing bone broth research ourselves. What a small world!
When Bill and Konrad landed and parted ways in Iceland, of course they both did the socially obligatory "if you're ever in Maryland/Germany, give me a call and we'll get together." We've all shared this type of sendiment tons of times before, right?
Now here is the truly amazing part though
Bill actually took Konrad up on his offer to visit! When we moved to Ireland,
Bill emailed Konrad to see if we all could visit to see the bone broth business in operation.
And . . . drum roll . . . . Konrad said YES!!!
After a few emails back and forth over a matter of days, our family of 5 along with our good friend and Odaois Food owner, Jason O'Brien, had tickets booked to Berlin! Not only did Konrad show us the workings of his Bone Broth Business, BROX, but he had the kindness to give up his Saturday to take us all on a tour of his beautiful city, Berlin. First, we met him at his store front and had a tour of the inner-workings of his business, BROX. The kids loved seeing his creative studio where all the recipes were developed and items were photographed. It was inspiring listening to the story of how their business concept was derived, launched and now exploding with business! What a success story for nutrient dense food!
After listening to Konrad talk about his bone broth product, I could 100% understand how he and Bill totally hit it off on the plane. It's amazing to think that this relationship only emerged because Konrad struck up a conversation with Bill on a plane from the US to Iceland. What are the chances?
After being blown-away with the similarities of BROX's mission to Bill's research with the Food Evolutions Project and the Eastern Shore Food Lab at Washington College, we headed to visit Konrad's friend and fellow nutirent-dense food producer, Markus Shimizu of Mimi Ferments. Markus makes delicious miso, a variety of soy sauces, plus a few other fermented products. On our way through the streets of Berlin to Markus's home, Konrad was our personal Berlin tour guide showing us some famous landmarks that of course included a traditional German pretzel from a street vendor.
Arriving at Marcus's home, I was again overwhelmed with the kindness of strangers.
He and his wife run their fermentation business from their home in Berlin. I could definitely relate to all the bubbling jars, barrels and refrigerators spread throughout their tidy home! Not only did they open their home to us - a complete group of strangers from the US on a Saturday - but it was their daughter's birthday so they were getting ready to celebrate yet still made time to show us the inner-workings of their fermentary PLUS give us a tasting! I had no idea how many different flavors you can have in soy sauce until we tasted over 10 side-by-side.
Off to the Pop-Up
As we left Marcus's discussing the intricacies of soy sauce, we meandered our way through the streets of Berlin to Konrad's new Pop Up for BROX. I really didn't know what to expect when he said it was a 'Pop-up." Did it mean it was a portable tent like we would see at a market? I was definitely surprised when we walked up to his business right in the middle of posh stores. He had actually taken over an ice cream shop for the winter months to host his Bone Broth business. What a brilliant idea! Everyone in Berlin could certainly warm up during the cold winter months with some warm, healthy, nutrient dense bone broth drinks.
Konrad brought us into his shop and let us sample all the different broth recipes from chicken, beef and vegetable broth. Now, not everyone gets an insect garnish on their broth drink, but you know that Bill certainly took Konrad up on the offer for a grasshopper garnish as you can see in the photo above. I must admit that I was expecting a very different type of establishment. I thought we were literally just going to be handed a cup of bone broth - maybe of a different variety, say beef, turkey, etc, but I just imagined a plain cup of broth. I could not have been more wrong!
Konrad and his team have carefully created delicious broth drinks that I would compare to your favorite coffee drink - just in a savory format. What made the difference for me was that they blended every drink. You received a very smooth warm beverage that had a layer of foam on the top (plus an insect garnish if you desired). I found all the broth drinks extremely satisifying in both a "warm-you up" kinda way, as well as in a health-conscious -making a healthy choice for my body - kinda way.
I am thrilled to report that the kids tried EVERY type of broth drink too. They each had a different favorite, but they all agreed that the drinks were suprisingly flavorful and satisfying!
As we processed the benefits of this trip, one of the main take-aways was how delicious and satisfying the broth drinks were. We decided to start a Bone Broth Challenge when we got back to Ireland. Just a small shot of bone broth everyday till Christmas to see how we feel the health benefits when enjoying all the holiday delights. Follow-us on Instagram and Facebook to see the Bonebroth Challenge in progress!
After warming our bellies and souls at BROX, our final fermentation stop with Konrad was to BRLO Brewing Company in Berlin. You can imagine our surprise when we started our brewery tour and our guide said "It would be grand." We all looked at each other - no way? Could our guide actually be Irish? Yet another small world event, not only was our tour guide Irish, but he used to work at the brewpub a block from our house in Ireland that we frequent about twice a month - just crazy!
Now we have been on our share of brewery tours before, but the one Owen gave us at BRLO was over the top! He involved the kids with all aspects of the beer making process including tasting the hops, but what really stands out for me is how he broke down the chemistry behind how beer is created, The grand finale was that we all got to pour a glass of beer right from the fermentation vessel. Just epic!
After spending the day together, our Fairytale Foodie Day had to come to an end, but not before we met Konrad's wife. She was selling her beautiful handmade children's clothes at a Christmas market, and she was just as kind and outgoing as her husband. We are confident these two are going to do amazing things in the world and we can't wait to meet their child who is due to make an entrance this spring!
It's amazing how fate can bring two people from completely different parts of the world together but we know this will just be the 1st of many visits between our families!
My Italian Airline Magic
Now, I had a similar experience on our flight to Italy back in October. The 5 of us were seperated on the plane. As we flew from Dublin, I was seated between two Italian ladies who were friends. One spoke a little English, while the other spoke barely any. It would have been very easy to lose myself in a book or try and shut my eyes, but instead, with the help of Google Translate, we had a fantastic conversation that ended with my new Italian friends sharing some hidden treasures close to where we were staying at the Italian Culinary Institute.
As we got off the plane and walked across the tarmack, my two new Italian friends gave me a huge hug. This was just as the kids and Bill were walking towards me. I can still remember the look of surprise on all 4 of their faces when they saw me hugging complete strangers on the tarmac! I introduced my new friends to the family and they told the kids to "Have a nice life" which they a thought was absolutely hysterical! Following my friends' advice, Billy and I set-off on an adventure one night just before dark and found the spectacular St. Gregory's Grotto she had described.
If it wasn't for smiling, saying hello, and Google Translate, we would have missed out on this hidden gem!
It's a Wonder-ful life, when we appreciate those around us
We left the US for a year back in August and these two experiences of meeting remarkable, kind people on a plane have struck such an emotional cord with me. Both encounters started with simple gestures of saying hello and asking a question. I can't believe they evolved into a trip to Berlin with a personal behind-the-scenes foodie tour of the city or a glimpse into a local hidden treasure in Italy. Our family would have missed out on these truly once-in-a-lifetime experiences, if it wasn't for the kindness of complete strangers and both parties willingness to be open and engage in conversation.
When we got back to Ireland from Germany, we promised Alyssa that we would take her to see the movie, Wonder, that had just come out. She was been patiently waiting to see it ever since she read the book in her third grade class with her amazing teacher, Ann Niesz. As we sat in the theatre and watched the movie unfold about Auggie (a 10 year-old boy with a facial deformity) and his relationships with his friends and family, I couldn't help but think about the "Wonder"-ful experience we just had in Germany. The messages - or precepts - that flowed throughout the movie were evident in our encounters with Konrad, with all the fantastic foodies he introduced us too and also with the sweet older Italian ladies I met on the plane.
I hope our children will always treasure the experiences we are giving them this year, but realize that many are only possible because of the kindness of strangers and our family's outgoing nature to stike up a conversation with someone we don't know - yet. It truly is "Wonder"-ful to see what can happen when you slow-down, smile, take a moment to talk and watch how life unfolds.