Quark: A Medical Marvel
The British have a problem that troubles Germans on a regular basis. It is not called Brexit, nor is it sabre rattling over Gibraltar, what actually terrifies most Germans when they think of the British is the concept of small talk. Worse still, is the fear that at any point the British might begin the age old tradition of talking about the weather. I have watched wide eyed Germans, trapped in office corners by well meaning British business men as they wax lyrical about grey clouds and various types of rain they have experienced. It is a horror scenario that Germans employ me to prepare them for, in much the same way survivalists stock pile munitions and tins of beans for the inevitable apocalypse. I teach possible strategies for turning a conversation from weather to safer topics such as corporate insolvency or mandatory redundancies.
The British are, in comparison to many other countries, obsessed with the weather. It allows the usually repressed culture of the UK to legitimately express strong emotions, without being in fear of offending anyone. That is unless it is sunny. If the weather even hints at creeping over 20 degrees, all complaints are silenced with a stern look and a slap of the wrists, for fear that whatever god has brought the strange orange orb in the sky, may hear the complaints and remove it.
Well, Cthulhu be damned, I hate hot weather. There I said it, may the great flying spaghetti monster crush me with his/her noodly appendage. I am, and have never been, built for hot weather. I hate shorts because they make me look like a child. My carefully maintained, overly quaffed hair helmet frizzes up at the first hint of humidity and my genetic predisposition for sweaty palms means that any money I have either slips from my grasp or becomes soggy before I can hand it over to a disgusted cashier. Worse still, for some reason, best understood by themselves, mosquitoes seem to think I am a one stop luxury buffet. To them my plasma is a caviar topped Pizza, wrapped in bacon and served on a bed of deep fried Mars bars.
This week alone, I have been bitten eight times on one arm, leaving me with a one regular arm and one oversized comedy Popeye arm, that makes me look like I am either incredibly lonely or competing in this years arm wrestling world championship (just to clarify, neither of these are true). As I sat dejected yesterday, my wife looked at me and soothed “Why don’t you put some Quark on it? It might help”. 'What is Quark?’ you might ask. Well my friends, Quark is Germany’s premier sour milk based product and unbeknownst to the rest of the world, the miracle cure to all problems.
Quark is made from warming sour milk, allowing it to curdle and then straining it. Although some believe it to be the same as cottage cheese, it is quite different. For Germans, Quark is a special and very separate product, like yogurt but not. It comes in three varieties: Magerquark which is almost entirely fat free, Normal Quark with around 20% fat and Sahnequark which is about 40% fat. At the most basic level, you can mix Quark with some fruit and have a simple dessert, but Germany being Germany, they have found innovative ways of putting it into so many delicious recipes.
Mix it with some herbs and you have Kräuterquark which goes nicely with potatoes, mix it with flour and oil and you have Quarkölteig which can be baked like normal dough but without the requirement for yeast, take the Quarkölteig and throw in some raisins and you can make Quarkkuchle, little pancakes that I would happily walk over burning glass shards to eat. The fun does not stop there; Käsekuchen, salads and even the humble sandwich all can be made or enhanced by the addition of Quark. Yet, why would my wife suggest putting this lovely foodstuff on my mosquito bites?
Well, to put it simply, Quark is part foodstuff, part modern medical marvel. Sprained wrist? Get the Quark. Burn? Get the Quark. Sore muscles or pain in the joints? Get the Quark. Swollen appendage? Get the Quark. Bruise? Get the Quark. Sunburn? Insect bite? Missing limb? Temporary blindness? Slight feeling of unease? Quark is the answer.
Quark may be the answer, but the jury is still out whether a Quark poultice or compress is actually an effective method of treatment. There are few, if any, studies on the medicinal benefits of Quark, with medical experts suggesting that Quark is ineffective since it cannot penetrate the skin. It may be simply a placebo or it might contain an anti-inflammatory compound, no one seems to be 100% sure. The benefits of ingesting Quark are clear, but lathering it on a muscle injury may just mean you are covered in yogurt.
Quark as a cure might not be proven, but this has not stopped professionals from using it, with mixed results. In 2014, the Terrifying tyrant of modern football, Felix Magath took charge of a struggling Fulham FC, with only twelve games to avoid relegation. The German manager, renowned for his muscle busting fitness regimes, set about trying to save them. Nicknamed “Quälix” from the German Qua̱l for torment or torture, he was famous for constructing the “Hill of Suffering” during his time at VFL Wolfsburg, a large staircase that he would force players to endlessly run up and down. However, his time at Fulham will be remembered for one unfortunate translation error that made Magath a laughingstock. When defender Brede Hangeland pulled up with a thigh injury, Magath suggested that a Quark compress might be beneficial in aiding his recovery. The story was leaked to the newspapers, culminating in the rumour that Magath had told the player to put a “block of cheese” on his leg overnight, rather than simply a Quark compress. Magath saw his team relegated and the secret of the Quark went with him.
Whether you believe Quark to be a miracle cure or simply a delicious addition to many dishes, Germany stands firm over the various uses of this turbo yogurt. I did not opt for a Quark compress and although I am still suffering from bites and sunburn, I know at some point I can use Germany’s miracle cure to make some amazing pancakes, or a cheesecake, or a fruity dessert, or a pleasant salad, or some bread, or…