My German wife and I have only been married since 2012, so I’m not an expert or anything, but being a good listener seems to be a pretty important part of marriage. That is, if you want to stay married, I mean. If you’d rather catapult yourself through a sudden divorce, go ahead and let your eyes glaze over whenever your spouse starts talking to you. Hold your thumb down on the TV remote, steadily increasing the volume until the sound of her voice is drowned out entirely. You’ll be on your own in no time.
But being a good listener doesn’t necessarily mean you have to actually do anything. In fact, the less you do while your spouse is talking, the better. When it comes to daily communication — like when you tell one another about your respective workdays — listening is really all about being present. Face your spouse. Keep your eyes open. Nod every once in a while. Maybe throw a grunt or two in there. It’s so easy! By merely being present (in body, if not in mind), what you’re actually doing is allowing your partner to vent. You’re refraining from doing or saying things which might hinder the verbal diarrhea your partner so desperately needs to spray you with. Just square up to that fire hose and take it in the eardrums.
Obviously there are times when you need to actively comprehend what you’re hearing and then offer up some kind of response, like, “Yes, honey, it sounds like that woman on the train was being a bitch. That bitch.” — but those times are pretty rare. On a daily basis, most people just need to unload their emotions onto something slightly more animated than a freshly painted wall. This is why, when my wife comes home and tells me in vivid detail all about her day at work, I just shut my dirty hole and watch her talk. And for this small amount of effort — 9 times out of 10 — my German wife will reward me by wrapping things up with a sigh and saying:
“Thank you for your open ear.”*
*Translated directly from the German saying, “Danke für dein offenes Ohr.”
The term latte macchiato translates disturbingly to stained milk. It is a coffee beverage prepared by adding espresso to foamed milk, and true coffee nerds like to pour the espresso in gently, so it floats between the liquid milk below and the frothed milk above. When done correctly, the layers stay separate, like an adorable little metaphor for racial segregation. You can buy these cups of Apartheid for $5.00+ at Starbucks, or you can just make them yourself at home. (Or you can be like me, and not drink them at all because you don’t give one piece of flying monkey shit about coffee anyway.)
My wife takes great pride in preparing her own latte macchiatos. (And then telling me how much money she’s saving every… single… time.) She uses this little reverse espresso thingie, which sits directly on the stove and bubbles the water up through the grounds. Check it out:
But the problem has always been how to properly froth the milk. My wife started out using an absolute piece of garbage milk foamer, which looked like this:
…but the foaming process took so long our breakfast would get cold and then I’d get all hungry and pissed off, like a little bitch. So thankfully, my wife graduated to a real milk foamer, which looks like this:
Aww yeah! This thing can foam the shit out of some milk. It’s from a chain of German coffee retailers called Tchibo, which, inexplicably, sells completely unrelated products as well. One week you can roll into Tchibo for some coffee and a complete set of running gear, and the next you’ll get your coffee while enjoying a sale on electronic gadgets. Makes no sense to me. All I know is the logo — which is supposed to be a steaming coffee bean — looks more like a smoking vagina after a particularly exhausting porno shoot.
So anyway, my wife has been making these stupid coffee drinks for herself every weekend since we moved into our new house. She’s the only one who drinks them; I just take pictures of her efforts so I can mock them. What follows is a list of my German wife’s top 10 attempts to make the perfect latte macchiato:
Oh come on, honey! That looks like a glass full of toilet water! There’s hardly even any foam on top, and that gradient from milk to espresso… for shame. I cannot award this attempt with anything higher than 1 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds:
Dear God, this one’s about to spill over! And I bet I’ll be the one to clean it up! What is that coming out of the top anyway? A stool sample from the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man? 1 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds for you!
Alright, now this one is lookin’ better. I don’t see any spillage, and the foam has a nice, non-fecal shape. But dude, there’s more espresso in there than milk! The ideal proportions should be 1:1, or so say the rules I just totally made up. This one scores 2 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds.
Now we’re gettin’ somewhere. Nice rounded foam top. Visible gradient lines between milk and espresso. The ratio is still off, however, and I know you’re better than that. Again, 2 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds.
Wow! Excellent foam, better ratio. Your technique has really improved, my dear. But what is that brown streak running down the side? Looks like a skid mark. Filthy, but much improved. You’ve earned 3 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds with this one.
Solid foam top, distinct layering and a decent milk-to-espresso ratio — although a bit heavy on the espresso. But my main concern is THAT GIANT FESTERING TUMOR ON THE SIDE. Are you really gonna drink that, honey? Better lance it first and then cauterize the wound. Jesus Christ. 3 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds.
I like where your head is at: good ratios, graceful foam formation and no malignant tumors. But what’s with the turbo skid mark? Looks like my undies after an hour on the stationary bike. “Honey, I sure hope today is laundry day!”
Again, I’m not a big fan of the skid marks down the side, but I must applaud your attention to detail. The foam comes to a pleasing apex, and the espresso is clearly separate from the milk. (Though you’re still using enough milk to drown a dairy cow.) 4 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds.
Oooo! Now that looks professional! I hate to see that little brown star on the side, and the milk could be in better balance with the espresso, but still, great work! The ratio is still too heavy on the milk, however, and the German I married would never settle for second best. That’s why you get 4 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds, mein Schatz.
Ahhhh, perfection. Look at that generous heap of milk foam. It’s like a pile of baby dreams. And the milk-to-espresso ratio? Perfect. Why, you can even see two distinct layers in the coffee. It’s a two-tone work of art! Congratulations, my little German wife, you’ve finally achieved 5 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds.
But what do you think, Dear Reader? Which of these 10 latte macchiatos is the best one? The comment section is open, and we’ve even got a survey in which to make your preference known!
After my wife finished her time as a Referendariat teacher-in-training — AKA: 18 months of stress-induced psychosis — she was faced with the grueling task of applying for jobs in various German cities. We were already living here in Hannover, but weren’t sure if we wanted to try someplace new, like Hamburg or Bremen. One thing we knew for sure, however, was that we did not want to move any further south.
I find the social dynamics between northern and southern Germans completely hilarious; they make fun of each others’ accents, food, weather, soccer teams — even their attitudes toward life in general. Northerners think of southerners as overly conservative, self-entitled brats with too much money and one great big boner for Jesus Christ. Southerners look at northerners as depressing, humorless robots with lumps of coal where their hearts should be. I love it. (Especially because the rest of the world is pretty sure all Germans are humorless robots.)
So as my German wife was applying for jobs back in 2013, she explained her search criteria to me thus: She would only be applying to cities in the north because we are not “Southies.” She went further to clarify why she would be choosing between certain job offers, saying…
“Right now, I want to pick out the raisins where I have a good stomach feeling.”