Episode 16: Summer Rylander, on Traveling, cooking, and Living in Germany

Summer Rylander is a writer and a cooking enthusiast with a penchant for Swedish cheeses. She is currently living in Nuremberg, Germany with her husband.

BIO of SUMMER RYLANDER

From https://eatsomethinggosomewhere.com/

I’m a mid-30s writer, travel enthusiast, and burgeoning home cook. I moved from the United States to Nuremberg, Germany in December 2015 with my husband, Johan. While I’m originally from Oregon, I spent about 13 years in South Carolina before moving abroad, so feel free to take your pick as to which state I’m “from.”

How did we end up in Germany? Ah, it’s a classic love story, a tale as old as time: Girl meets boy, boy is from Sweden and works for a German company while studying in the U.S., girl and boy bond over hoppy IPAs and a mutual appreciation for absurd internet humor, girl travels to Stockholm and Nuremberg with boy for a few years, girl and boy buy a house together in SC, boy’s employer summons his return to Germany, girl has been clamoring for an opportunity to move abroad and wholeheartedly encourages this relocation, boy relents and the two cross the Atlantic and live happily ever after.

Aside from going places, I also like to eat stuff. And cook it. (Or bake it.) I have a penchant for Scandinavian cheeses, particularly those of the Swedish persuasion. I love food and the experiences surrounding the preparation and enjoyment of something delicious. I love to learn about the role of cuisine in a culture, how food evolves over time, and how societal trends shape the things we eat. I’m not entirely sure how someone goes about obtaining the title of Food Historian for their professional lives, but I imagine that it is something I would like very much for myself. My Amazon ‘saved for later’ cart is always filled with cookbooks and food memoirs, and working with recipes from German-language cooking magazines is one of my favorite ways to practice the language. 

While I’ve always enjoyed cooking and the general restaurant experience, it has only been over the past few years when I’ve realized that the part of the day I find myself the most excited for is when I retreat to the kitchen to start making dinner. I’ve worked primarily from home since making this move, and there’s little question that the lack of commute and inherent schedule flexibility has contributed to furthering my interests in cooking. There’s quite a bit more time to spend on such things when one is able to grocery shop or chop veggies or put on a sauce to simmer between work tasks!

Presently, I’m a freelance writer and an English teacher here in Germany. (If you’re curious about other CV-esque details, I graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in European Studies, a minor in Advertising & Public Relations, and shitload of student loan debt. I’ve worked in both residential and commercial real estate, manufacturing project management, as well as business development and marketing.) 

SOME OF THE TOPICS COVERED

  • How it’s never too late to make your first trip.
  • Favorite foods from cultures around the world.
  • Things to do in Nuremburg, and around Germany.
  • How began her love affair with Swedish Cheese.
  • Cultural differences between the USA and Germany.

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CONNECT with SUMMER RYLANDER

Twitter: https://twitter.com/summeroutside
VIsit her website at https://eatsomethinggosomewhere.com
Follow on Instagram
Connect directly through email at: summer@summerrylander.com

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TRANSCRIPT

You can read the transcript below or download here.

Zach Ireland:

Hello, everyone! Welcome to the Expat Chitchat show. I’m your host, Zach Ireland. Today, I’m filling in for the Troy Daniels Band. Troy Daniels Band could not be here today, unfortunately, as they had to deal with an exorcist in order to deal with their gambling problem. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during these trying times. Welcome to the studio, writer, travel enthusiast and self-described burgeoning home cook, Summer Rylander. Summer is owner and proprietor of the website eatsomethinggosomewhere.com and you can also find her either on her website or her twitter handle, @summeroutside. Welcome, Summer.

Summer Rylander:

Thanks so much for having me.

Zach Ireland:

Thank you for joining us. I’m very excited to have you today in the studio. I told you before when we were doing our pre-interview that I actually decided to hold off eating lunch before having this because I can’t decide what to eat and I figured, today’s we’re going to be discussing about cuisine and travelling and maybe I’ll get some sort of inspiration from you about what to eat today.

Summer Rylander:

I hope I can be helpful because I’m having the same dilemma for myself on what to have dinner tonight so maybe we can both come to a conclusion.

Zach Ireland:

Yeah, that is the point of the interview. It’s not actually to find out where to go and what to eat but actually just for us, what we’re going to eat today. 

Summer Rylander:

Sounds good to me.

Zach Ireland:

Sounds fantastic. So before we go into cuisine and food and things like that, let’s go ahead and start out with you. go ahead and tell our listeners where are you from?

Summer Rylander:

I’m originally from the U.S. but I’ve been living in Nuremburg, Germany for 3 and a half years now. I am married to a Swede and he’s been working for a German company for quite some time. We met in The States. His boss wanted him to come back so that’s why I ended up in Germany. The long and the short of it. Yeah, I write. Well, I write sometimes. I work as a project manager during the day remotely for a brand-consulting company and yeah, just kind of hang out and enjoy the expat lifestyle.

Zach Ireland:

And I was reading on your website, eatsomethinggosomewhere.com, that you are a bit different from other expats in the sense that you ended up leaving the U.S. and traveling abroad the first time when you were about 28 years old.

Summer Rylander:

That’s right, yeah, I had a late start on that, for sure. He was my boyfriend at the time but yeah, a Christmas trip to Sweden was my first venture outside of The States. I’ve done quite a bit of travelling around The States as a kid and a young adult but I had not ventured outside yet and after that first trip, it all just became so much more attainable, really. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing but I think, with myself and many other Americans, you kind of put Europe and the rest of the world almost on this travel pedestal and it seems like this thing that you really have to save up for and it’s this big quest but really, you just buy a plane ticket and get on the plane and then you get there just like anywhere else and it’s really great to have that door open.

Zach Ireland:

That’s actually quite common for people with larger land masses like Russia and China and the United States because regionally, it gets quite different so people just feel like “Oh, I don’t need to go abroad,” or “If I go abroad, it’s going to be so much more expensive than it is traveling within my own country,” but once people rip off that bandage and they actually end up going to a different country, they end up getting addicted, I usually find.

Summer Rylander:

Yeah, absolutely. I had always wanted to go abroad. I was particularly infatuated with Europe as long as I can remember so I’m honestly not sure where I would go but once I did, yeah, it was over for me.

Zach Ireland:

That ties into a bit with your undergraduate program as well, because you have an undergraduate in European studies, am I right?

Summer Rylander:

I do. Actually, I started pursuing that before I had even been to Europe and I was a “non-traditional student”. I finished that just as I had turned 30 so I had done some school on and off at a community college working for my associate’s degree and then, eventually finished that, decided that 2008 was a fantastic time to be in real estate so I got my real estate license right as everything crashed, tried that for a few years, ended up deciding that maybe I should go ahead and finish the bachelor degree before I got too old to bother with it so that’s where that came from.

Zach Ireland:

That totally makes sense. It’s unfortunate how that timing worked out with the real estate market but you know, without that, you wouldn’t end up where you are now.

Summer Rylander:

Yeah, exactly. I’m really fine with everything in this scenario other than the student loan debt, of course, that’s another story so it worked out.

Zach Ireland:

What was your impetus for getting an undergraduate in European studies?

Summer Rylander:

I thought if I was willing to bother to go back to school at all, I was working a fulltime job that I didn’t need the degree for, I was doing fine really, and I thought if I’m going to do this that I’m going to do it pursuing something that I’m interested in pursuing what I want and that’s where that came from. It was a tiny program. I think there were 9 people in European studies than anything, I guess, it’s not a high demand program in South Carolina but yeah, I just went for it because that’s an interest for me.

Zach Ireland:

Very cool. Now, with European studies, does it have a language requirement?

Summer Rylander:

Yes, there was, not necessarily a proficiency, just to stack up the [00:05:35] so I had this before. I had taken in college. In community college, I had taken some German and all of that, of course, was way, way before I ever knew that I would live in Germany so that also worked out rather nicely and yeah, I did a short study abroad program as well, actually. It was called a Maymester. For 2 weeks, I went around Poland and Germany studying. Actually, the holocaust. We were kind of tracing that path through there and that was also a great experience. The program really worked out well for me to get my degree as a full-time employee and at a later age and still study something that I wanted to.

Zach Ireland:

That’s fantastic and it’s amazing how it all worked out because now, you live in Germany so you’re putting those language credits to use.

Summer Rylander:

Yeah, it worked out!

Zach Ireland:

So let’s talk a little bit about your writing. How did you get into food writing, specifically?

Summer Rylander:

Again, just interest-based. I have always kind of pursued whatever I’m doing at the time to whatever would interest me at the moment and food and travel have always been interests of mine and then, of course, more so, once I actually moved abroad. Had a little bit more time schedule-wise as a freelancer and have more time to devote to cooking and all of markets and it’s just a different food culture in Europe, for sure, than the U.S., particularly where I was living at the time in South Carolina so, just kind of this whole world opened up to me and I just became more interested in that and decided to kind of focused writing efforts on food and/or travel.

Zach Ireland:

Now, you said that the food cultures are quite different. Being from the U.S. as well myself, I would say like Americans, we love to get down and eat, that we love, love, love eating. What would you say would make the two food cultures different?

Summer Rylander:

I think the standard of quality, honestly, and I don’t say that from any kind of pretentious standpoint but I think the EU, in general, has a little bit of a higher standard of quality for what goes into food, for ingredients. They’re more focused on eating locally and fresh, seasonal, eating seasonally and I know that’s, of course, taking up more and more in The States too and again, I spent the 13 years prior to Germany, living in South Carolina which is not, at all, in the same foodplain as maybe New York or places in California. Maybe there is more of an intuitive food culture. I think there’s just a more relaxed way of life over here. I think people take the time to sit down, enjoy a meal and really take the time to select ingredients and flavors that they care about and that are seasonal.

Zach Ireland:

That is true because I definitely remember growing up in Nebraska, or in just different parts of the U.S., there’s sometimes where people just don’t…how do I put this…sometimes I just couldn’t think before I was about to eat something like it would be in the middle of December and I’d be craving a banana and I’m like, “Why can’t I get the bananas? Why can’t I get the bananas?” well, you’re in Nebraska and you’re in the middle of a blizzard whereas, now, I haven’t lived in Europe but living in Asia for so long, it is a bit more of a, oh well, you’re not going to have a dish with strawberries in it until strawberries come in season.

Summer Rylander:

Exactly, exactly and that’s how it should be and I think we value those foods more. I’m still holding out. There’s strawberries in the stores now but I’m holding out just a few more weeks until there’s really time for them and they’re going to taste all the better for it.

Zach Ireland:

And I would say that that would definitely—it definitely made me a better and more resourceful cook and I would be craving to make a certain dish, okay I don’t have the ingredients for it but I do have a bunch of carrots. Let’s make something from that.

Summer Rylander:

Exactly. 

Zach Ireland:

Now, you say that you’re a burgeoning home cook. Can you talk to me about what do you mean by that?

Summer Rylander:

I should probably update that [laughs] because I wrote that as I started the website close to 2 years ago. That was kind of when I was realizing how much I enjoy cooking to the point where that was becoming my favorite part of the day and I wanted to grow that as more of a hobby rather than just a means to an end each day. I am constantly experimenting in the kitchen, cooking from different cultures. I have a vast cookbook collection that I’m always adding to just based on whatever is inspiring me at the time so, yeah, just trying different things, different food projects. Sometimes I’d be into pickling a little bit. Sometimes, I have sourdough starter that I’m just determined to get a good loaf out of [laughs]

Zach Ireland:

How would you describe your cooking style then? Do you cook for more Scandinavian, more European, more Asian?

Summer Rylander:

Asian, a lot actually. I just made some Mapo tofu last night and that’s something I make, probably, on a weekly basis. I love it so, yeah, it just depends on…I’ll get into these modes where sometimes I’m really into Szechuan cuisine and then I’m going to be into a northern Thailand and for a little while, maybe into polish food or something. I kind of jump around and it just depends on what is inspiring at the time.

Zach Ireland:

If you have a good recipe for Mapo tofu, I’m going to have to ask you to send it to me because I’ve been living here for 8 years and I still can’t figure it out.

Summer Rylander:

Yeah, I definitely will. I actually got the recipe out of a memoir that I was reading and I tried it out and it’s just fantastic so I did it.

Zach Ireland:

Oh, nice! That actually leads me to a really good question. Where do you get most of your recipes from? I know you have tons of cookbooks as you said and this one you got out of a memoir?

Summer Rylander:

Yeah, I’m reading a lot. I read a lot for pleasure and much of it is either expat memoir, food memoir, something centered around these central interests that I have and so, I particularly like food and travel memoirs because, oftentimes, there are few recipes thrown in there from the author’s experiences and I found them to be generally, rather authentic and yeah, just a great resource so yeah, I find recipes through books, cookbooks, Pinterest sometimes. I’ll just scroll through. Twitter feed maybe and see a link from Bon Appetit that looks good so they kind of come from everywhere.

Zach Ireland:

Very cool. Now, have you always been a good cook or is this something that you did later in life or…?

Summer Rylander:

I’ve always been interested in it. have I pursued it as actively as I am now? No, not always. It just depends also on the living situation, I think. It’s a little bit more fun to cook when you have a decent kitchen, I think, and access to interesting ingredients that are reasonably priced and so, I have been cooking more over the last 3 or 4, maybe 5, years than I did when I was younger but I think it’s natural too. As you get older, you kind of refine your interests and your techniques.

Zach Ireland:

I hear from a lot of people who say, “Oh, when you’re really good at cooking, how did you learn to do this? Did your parents teach how to cook? Have you done classes?” A lot of people think of cooking as something that exists on this massively high pedestal and it’s so incredibly hard to do. I find, in my experience, is that you just got to get into the kitchen and do it and experience and just experiment and find out what works and what doesn’t work. What sort of advice would you give to people who have always wanted to cook but really have no basis and they don’t know where to start from?

Summer Rylander:

Just do it. really, just take a dish that you’re interested in or that you already know you like, find a recipe that looks realistic for you and just start trying. Cooking, I think, is such learn by doing. You can watch all the food TV you’re on, you can read cookbooks but until you actually get into the kitchen and get your hands on some things, you’re not really going to develop your skills or your palate and figure out what you do and don’t like so you just get in there and do it!

Zach Ireland:

Now, that you’ve been cooking for yourself and cooking for other people for several years now and you have your own palate defined and your own style sort of worked out, do you find now with your style of cooking, are you the person who has to go out and find the recipe, follow it to a T or do you sometimes just go into the kitchen and be like, “Mmm, I kind of want this flavor, let’s see what comes out”?

Summer Rylander:

Definitely more of the latter, yeah. I can throw things together based on what’s in the kitchen or just popping out for 1 or 2 ingredients add to it but I rarely follow a recipe specifically to a T unless it’s baking. That’s a little bit more precise and kind of a struggle but for just cooking, I’ll modify based on what I have versus what’s similar the recipe’s calling for but I like to just play around for a bit.

Zach Ireland:

I’m glad you said that you struggle with baking because I absolutely hate baking. It’s too…it’s not stable enough like with cooking and stir-frying everything’s in front of you, it’s happening so quick, there’s fire, you’re throwing things into a pan, you can taste as you go. With baking, they always say cooking is a science, no, wait—cooking is an art but baking is a science and I was never good at math and I just hate that process of you put everything in a pan, pop it into the oven and just sort of hope it turns out.

Summer Rylander:

Yeah, exactly. Is there anything more stressful than baking a cake for an event and not having any idea what it’s like in the center until it’s out there for the world. I mean, how do you know it’s good? [laughs]

Zach Ireland:

It’s the same reason I probably haven’t had kids yet. You put all of your hope and wishes into this child and then you pop it into the oven, well not into the oven, into the school and then you hope, after 18 years, it turns out just fine. You never know until you have the [00:15:58]

Summer Rylander:

Yeah, and that’s a much bigger risk than a cake.

Zach Ireland:

That’s very true, very true but you got to break a couple legs to make a good cake. That’s a weird analogy [laughs]. You mentioned a little bit about developing your palate. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

Summer Rylander:

It’s kind of in the way that maybe someone would purchase wine, let’s say, maybe you know on a general level that you like wine, you enjoy wine but you want to learn a bit more about it but you can only do that by tasting and trying things and figuring out what you do like as much as figuring out what you don’t like so that you can continue to learn so just…I guess figuring out the flavors that you like and flavor combinations, I think, is a big one too. I think what intimidates some people about cooking is they don’t really know what can be combined with what ingredients can be combined. If you read food blogs, for instance, you’ll see somebody’s posted a recipe, maybe for, I don’t know, let’s say, raspberry muffins and then, inevitably, there will be a comment on there saying, “Well, I don’t have any raspberries, is it okay if I substitute blueberries?” and I’m just like what, what, what is that? that is kind of how some people think about cooking, the process so, if the recipe calls for mint and you only have a little bit of basil on hand, are you just going to scrap that whole idea because of one ingredient that you’ve left out? So, I think the more that you cook, the more that you taste, the more that you experience food in general, the more comfortable you become to adapting to what you have in front of you and what is accessible.

Zach Ireland:

Yeah, absolutely. I hear that all the time. People say, “I can’t find this ingredient here, so I’m just going to scrap the whole recipe,”

Summer Rylander:

Yeah.

Zach Ireland:

So, here’s a question, right? There’re all questions in an interview. So, living in Asia sometimes is hard for me to find ingredients that are more prevalent in the west or more prevalent in Europe. Are there any ingredients that you are always looking for in a recipe and you just can’t find in Nuremburg where you live?

Summer Rylander:

It took a while to find peanut butter that wasn’t overly processed and gross. That’s out of the way. I think the common thing I see people talking about, and I experience this as well, are things like brown sugar. You don’t really find that super packed, almost wet, brown sugar that we have in The States. You don’t find that here so much. There is brown raw sugar and that’s usually what I use and I can honestly tell you that I noticed the difference but now, I think it’s been the opposite for me. I’ve found so much more out there that I’m just…I love going to the grocery store, honestly. Every time is just an adventure and that’s still over 3 and a half years but I like the possibility and all of that so yeah, I haven’t really—I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that I have desperately searched for and I just cannot find.

Zach Ireland:

Even for foods like Mapo tofu or things that are incredibly Asian-centered cuisines?

Summer Rylander:

No, that’s even better. I have two Asian markets within a couple blocks in my apartment and there’s an even bigger one 15 minutes away in town so…now, actually the Asian ingredients I find the easiest to access.

Zach Ireland:

Oh nice, that’s so funny.

Summer Rylander:

Yeah, it’s fantastic.

Zach Ireland:

That’s amazing because I have so many Chinese friends who live and study abroad and whenever they go back from their home to Germany or France, wherever they’re going, their suitcase is just full of food. It’s just absolutely filled to the brim with food.

Summer Rylander:

Yup, I know a lot of people go to The States and they’ll bring back snacks that we can’t get here like Goldfish or, I don’t know, Oreos used to be hard to get. I think you can find them now but Yeah, just different… Cheetos and things like that so mostly kind of the junk food but core ingredients I think, yeah, it’s a pretty good selection here, I would say.

Zach Ireland:

So, say, you’re back home and staying in South Carolina or Oregon where you’re originally from and you’re just out to head back to Nuremburg, what are you packing in your suitcase to remind you of home. What are the things that you need back in Nuremburg?

Summer Rylander:

That’s a really interesting question for me because I don’t really go back to visit and if I did, it would not be to Oregon. I haven’t been there for many years. I don’t really have any family there anymore and South Carolina, I never honestly never liked for the whole time that I lived there so going back to The States for a visit is not really high on my travel list when I have the resources to go anywhere so, to that note, I don’t really experience anything that you could consider homesickness. There’s not much I miss. Maybe a Chick-Fil-A sandwich? That’s not really something that I can bring back in my suitcase so, and that’s why I have it a little bit easier than some other expats.

Zach Ireland:

I’ll tell you something. We can or can’t include this in the podcast if we want. A while back when The Muppets were fighting with Chick-Fil-A over same-sex marriage, which is hilarious to me as a chapter in our cultural history as Americans, but a disgruntled employee got really mad at Chick-Fil-A and actually released their secret recipe so you can find it online.

Summer Rylander:

Yeah, it’s just a lot of effort to fry the piece of chicken, I guess [laughs].

Zach Ireland:

That’s very true, that’s very true.

Summer Rylander:

Messy but yeah, I know it’s out there and maybe that’s why I haven’t done it yet. I’m kind of anticipating one day, though, I am going to tackle that rub and try to recreate a Chick-Fil-A sandwich.

Zach Ireland:

There you go. Here’s a question for you: because we’re both from the U.S. and you being from South Carolina and is similar in the fact to my family being from Louisiana and from Nebraska, I’m curious as to what your palate was like growing up? What sort of dishes were you eating quite a bit?

Summer Rylander:

Nothing elevated, that’s for sure. I was kind of a picky eater as a kid. I would order my McDonald’s cheeseburger plain so, I didn’t want anything to do with ketchup or mustard or pickles. Never liked mayonnaise, still not a mayonnaise enthusiast. Coming around to where it has it’s place sometimes so, neither one of my parents were really cooks and that said, I don’t think they enjoyed that process too much and my mom was definitely into that ‘90s low fat everything fad so, there was lots of Lean Cuisines and low-fat cottage cheese and things like that growing up. So, the food discovery kind of happened on my own later. Later into adulthood.

Zach Ireland:

Incredibly similar to my background. When I was growing up I was incredibly picky eater. The only thing I ate was like chicken nuggets all the time and I didn’t discover onions until I was 25.

Summer Rylander:

That’s tragic.

Zach Ireland:

Yeah, I didn’t actually start eating vegetables until I was 25 or something and now, lately, I’m almost practically a vegetarian and a lot of people say that if you’re a picky eater when you’re a kid, as you’re an adult, you’re going to continue that habit. You’re going to be a picky eater. Do you find that that’s, I mean obviously, it’s not true for yourself, would you say it’s true for other people that you know in your life?

Summer Rylander:

Yeah, I’ve definitely heard that and I could think of a few people who are picky eaters and always have been. I think it comes down to the willingness to try things, again. What you maybe don’t like as a child, maybe in 20 some odd years, maybe give it a try again [laugh]. Coffee, for instance, is an acquired taste. Iced tea, I remember distinctly not liking iced tea as a child and I think it’s great now.

Zach Ireland:

Wait, you’re from South Carolina and you didn’t like iced tea?

Summer Rylander:

Well, I’m from Oregon originally and so, this was unsweetened tea. I still think sweet tea from South Carolina is disgusting. No offense to the South but yeah, I guess the bitter flavor of coffee, tea, those were not…but also, think about alcohol. When you steal a sip of your dad’s beer when you were 12, did you like it? I did not.

Zach Ireland:

It’s absolutely disgusting. Same with coffee, yeah. All of it’s an acquired taste. So, I noticed something on your website, eat somethinggosomewhere.com, very interesting that I haven’t noticed from other food journals is you tend to go city by city as opposed to country. You have things listed like 4 nights in shanghai as opposed to 4 nights in China or strolling along in Paris as opposed to strolling along in France. Can you talk to me a bit about that?

Summer Rylander:

Yeah, there’s really no strategy to my blog-writing, actually. That’s something I’m working on both consistency and developing more of a real plan for it so what you see on there right now is written based on what I felt like writing at the moment, so it made more sense to me to do, for example, 4 nights in shanghai, versus what to do in China because my experience was there in shanghai so I tried to, at least, focus on what I have done rather than writing about something in a broad sense but it’s mostly all just whatever I feel in the mood to write at the time based on how much time I have, what the photos are like and yeah, how motivated I am [laughs].

Zach Ireland:

Very cool. For me as a reader, and I’m sure for your other readers as well, it’s really a great resource because sometimes you go on to website and you type into Google, ‘what is there to do in Shanghai?’ and then all of a sudden, you get a list of like, “Oh, if you’re in China, go to the great wall, see the terra cotta warriors,” Alright, well, I’m going to shanghai for 4 days. I’m not going to fly up to Beijing. I’m not going to Xi’an or if I’m going to France, maybe I’m going to be in Marseilles. I’m not going to be able to go up to Paris during this time and also, I think for food blogs, it definitely helps because the cuisine in Hội An is very different than the cuisine in other cities in Vietnam, for example.

Summer Rylander:

Right, exactly. Keeping it specialized to a particular city or, eventually even a district to that city, I think, makes it a little bit easier both for readers to digest and for me to put out there at once. The whole travel blogging world, I think, is something that’s constantly changing and the trend now seems towards writing more for SEO purposes and what will show up on Google and that doesn’t always translate to a readable, enjoyable post so, first and foremost, I want to write things that are pleasant to read and flow nicely and maybe that doesn’t put me high in the rankings on Google but at least, I’m trying to stay true to myself.

Zach Ireland:

Absolutely and I think that’s something that we as creative people always run into. How do we stay true to our creative heart? How do we stay true to our art that we’re trying to make and still put food on the table?

Summer Rylander:

Exactly, that’s the challenge.

Zach Ireland:

Yeah, and also, I think, by going to city to city and by area to area, I think that definitely helps your readers a lot, as well, because sometimes, people tend to lump all of one country or culture’s cuisines altogether. Recently, there was a culture fest somewhere in the U.S., I forgot specifically what university, but he went on his twitter and said, very famously, if I’m ranking all south east Asian cuisines, I would say the Filipino cuisine doesn’t have anything to offer to the world. It’s the most bland, I don’t like it and then, all of Filipino twitter jumped on him and it just simply isn’t true because the Philippines are an island archipelago that has several different ethnic cuisines althroughout.

Summer Rylander:

Yeah, I think you find regional diversity anywhere even in the smallest countries, I think. There’s going to be specialty cuisines in different areas. To lump foods together, even just saying German cuisine, for instance is a little limiting. People think of Germany and what they’re thinking of, in terms of stereotype, is Bavarian food. All the sausages and the pretzels and the giant beer and the girls and the dirndls. That’s Bavarian culture but if you go around Germany then the cuisine is quite varied and interesting so, yeah, I always cringe a little bit when somebody says, “Oh, I don’t like Chinese food.” Okay, well, it’s a massive country [laughs] with a lot of different intricacies. How are you going to say you don’t like Chinese food as a whole or American food? There’s just…yeah, that’s a pet peeve.

Zach Ireland:

And it’s constantly evolving as well. If you go to Germany, I know friends that go to Germany and they say their favorite thing to eat while in Germany is a kebab.

Summer Rylander:

Oh yeah, it’s one of the best things about living here.

Zach Ireland:

And actually, it leads me to my next question talking about ethnically-specific cuisines and maybe, I’m particularly interested in this because I’m currently living in Asia where cheese is hard to come by. It’s thin in the ground, thin in the air, all around a bit slim. You have quite a well-known article, ‘All About Cheeses,” can you talk a little bit about that?

Summer Rylander:

Yup, I have a thing for Swedish cheese, in particular, I got into that. My now husband, then boyfriend, had gone to Sweden for a visit and he went back to The States and he brought with him a piece of Vasterbottensost which is a cheese from the region of Vasterbotten in Sweden and it’s a hard, aged cheese. A lot of people compare it to parmesan or some kind of cheddar. I guess, it’s close to some kind of combination therein but it’s just a very special cheese to me. It’s fruity but it’s a little bitter. It’s a little bit sweet. I don’t know, it’s just this magical cheese, I thought, and I had never, living again in South Carolina, had never been exposed to cheeses in Sweden and just kind of perked my interest and, of course, that escalated more as I started travelling to Sweden with him on visits and tried different cheese and I realized there’s this whole world of cheese production in Sweden that people didn’t know about and you do mention Swedish cheese, they think you meant swiss.

Zach Ireland:

No, honestly, that’s exactly what I thought as well. I read the article a bit ago and in the interview, I was thinking, I was like, I don’t remember if it’s Swedish cheese or if it’s swiss cheese because when we think of cheese, we think of Switzerland, we think of France, we think of Italy even or, I mean, I think about the middle east before I even think of Sweden.

Summer Rylander:

Yeah, exactly. It’s just under represented in the cheese world, so to speak, and I thought, a year or so ago, that it would be fun to shed a little bit of light on that so I went to a cheese festival in Stockholm and it was just what you would think a cheese festival. Essentially, trade show of cheese producers, tons of samples and, just really, a great day and started talking to some people. Went back the next year to the same cheese festival, really determined this time to start speaking to some of these producers and then, trying to turn that into a project. My initial plan was just to write about it for my own blog. Talk to some cheese producers, tell their story so, I had met some folks who live in the north of Sweden and they have a farm up there called Svedjan ost and they—one of their cheeses had won the popular vote at the cheese festival several years in a row and it is absolutely delicious for sure and I spoke with them one year at this festival and I said, would you guys ever be interested in me maybe coming to visit and then writing about what you do? And they said yes, of course, so some months later, I reached out, set up that meeting and ended up planning a trip to drive from Stockholm up to the north Sweden to, not only visit this farm, Svedjan ost, but also, to stop by the Vasterbottensost Visitors’ Center. The cheese that really started it all for me and so, once I had this trip planned out, I thought, why don’t I try to sell this? I want to write about it so let’s try and make an article out of it and there’s a cheese magazine, a print magazine in the U.S. called Culture and they cover all sorts of cheese things so I pitched the story idea, they liked it and it’s currently available in their spring issue. Long story, sort of long—

Zach Ireland:

No, it’s good, it’s good. I was also wondering, you mentioned that this cheese in particular was a bit bitter, but herby but then also quite fruity, is that pretty typical for the Swedish cheese palate? Or is Swedish cheese as diverse as any other cultures’ cheeses?

Summer Rylander:

There are a lot of different cheeses up there but I would say the two most common there is a hard, aged cheese, kind of a farm cheese and blue cheeses. Those are both commonly seen in Sweden. The harder aged cheeses they do take on a similar flavor profile, yes, kind of a little fruity, little nutty almost, little bit bitter. This particular cheese, the Vasterbottensost, this cheese kind of has a mystique surrounding it because they cannot replicate this cheese anywhere else. The demand for it within Sweden itself is so high that they have tried to produce it elsewhere and they just can’t do it outside of this tiny little village in the northern Sweden, even using the same milk, same everything, they can’t do it so, it’s just so unique to the flora and the environment up there and that’s what makes it so interesting to me. There’s a real story there. There’s a real history and then on top of it, people think I meant swiss cheese when I start talking about this stuff and it just kind of turned into let’s see what we can do with Swedish cheese.

Zach Ireland:

Well, it is quite amazing and I can definitely see why, on your website, you describe yourself or, you say that the job, the job, ideal job that you want to have is being a food historian.

Summer Rylander:

Yeah, I think that would be so interesting. I’ve always idolized people on documentaries. Doesn’t matter what the documentary’s about and they’re sitting there and they’re an expert and they have this clever title coming below their names and I just though, “oh wow, that would be so interesting to be a food historian.”

Zach Ireland:

Well, it is quite amazing because a lot of, particularly being from the United States, so many of the foods that other cultures ascribe to us, for example, hamburgers or pizza, are not originally from our country by any means. We all know hamburgers are from Germany, pizza is from Italy and yeah, we’re a country of mutts.

Summer Rylander:

It is true and with a short history at that, in comparison to other parts of the world, so yeah, there’s such a limited amount or—sorry, cut that—there is such a diverse array of food in the U.S. and so much of it does come from cultures that are from far off lands.

Zach Ireland:

Yeah, or even a lot of things that we view of being from other cultures, for example, Chinese food in the United States is, very distinctly, American food. It’s Chinese-American food like General Tsao’s Chicken, all of these dishes a lot of people tend to think, even  the fortune cookie is invented in the United States which was very disappointing to me when I came to China. I realized , “Oh, I don’t get a little cookie at the end of every single one of my meals,” [laughs]

Summer Rylander:

Nope, no. that kind of thing is fascinating, though. It just adds a different layer to the history of the cuisine itself but also the region where it came from and the stories of the individuals who started that. Somebody came up with the idea of the fortune cookie and it went from there. It’s fascinating.

Zach Ireland:

Are there any particular stories of food that has developed other than Swedish cheese or Chinese fortune cookie that you particularly find interesting that other people may not know?

Summer Rylander:

Nothing that I have pursued but I am always interested in many different things at one time and I have a difficult time focusing in on one idea long enough to know everything with it so actually, the tea culture in China is something I’m very interested in and I would like to learn more about. I would like to learn more about tofu. I would like to learn more about honey and it’s different varieties so there’s many things that I would like to dive into.

Zach Ireland:

If you ever find your way back over my way, I would be more than happy to take you around and introduce you to people who are experts into those sorts of fields.

Summer Rylander:

That would be awesome and I would definitely take you up on that.

Zach Ireland:

Definitely! We can put this on the interview or not but I work on a lot of talk shows and stuff so I meet people who have incredibly, incredibly specific interest or markets they work in like tea or I know a yak herder in Mongolia who makes cheese and Mongolian cheese is like its own thing. It’s so salty. It’s very good but it’s very, very salty.

Summer Rylander:

Oh yes, see, that’s fascinating. I would love to check that out. We’ll stay in touch for sure. I will hit you up.

Zach Ireland:

Yeah, for sure and I also pair it with milk tea. A milk tea that they do and the milk tea is unlike anything that I’ve ever had before. It has a consistency of melted butter and it’s very salty. It sounds—I’m so sorry to the Mongolian people at home. If you’re out there listening, with how the way I describe it, doesn’t sound very good but it’s absolutely delicious. It’s very hearty.

Summer Rylander:

Is it an acquired taste or did you like it right away?

Zach Ireland:

First sip, it was abrasive, took me back quite a bit because I was expecting something kind of sweet but then, as I sipped on it, it’s really good. It only took me one glass to really get used to it. It’s also very—if you know the history of the Mongolian people and just how cold Mongolia really gets, you can definitely understand why, why they drink it because it’s fattening, it has a high caloric intake—I think is the word for that—and also, you drink it and immediately, your whole body’s warm.

Summer Rylander:

That’s interesting. That’s another thing about food stories, in general, that I like is why a particular thing developed out of a certain region and at so many cases, it’s really working with their environment. It’s cool.

Zach Ireland:

Yeah, definitely.

Summer Rylander:

It’s cool.

Zach Ireland:

So I know your palate is probably, constantly—because I assume you’re a lot like me in the sense like right now, I’m really craving a lot of Italian food and next week, I might be into Turkish cuisine—what are your top 3 culture cravings you’re having at the moment?

Summer Rylander:

That’s a tough one. Italian, I think, is pretty standard. I like a good pasta. Usually end up doing something with that on the weekends. I think I mentioned Pad Thai before we started recording so I do have Thai food on the brain right now and Szechuan, have to go with that.

Zach Ireland:

Definitely. Is there any culture that you’ve come across or any cuisine that you’ve come across that you just said, “Hmm, not for me,”?

Summer Rylander:

Oh, that’s interesting. No. I have not but challenge accepted [laughs].

Zach Ireland:

That’s the answer I like to hear because I know some people who, like you said earlier, just like “Ugh, I just don’t like Chinese food,” how is that possible? It’s incredibly diverse. 

Summer Rylander:

It is. No, I have not met an entire culture’s cuisine that I am unwilling to investigate.

Zach Ireland:

Yeah, it’s hard to do. I mean, even for myself, when I came across Mongolian food the first time, I was like “Wow, this is a lot of meat. It’s very heavy,” and then I actually put it upon myself to go out and find a dish in their palate that I like and yeah, I love it. They make amazing horse jerky.

Summer Rylander:

Interesting.

Zach Ireland:

Yeah, they also do dumplings out of horses. Well, not out of horses, out of horse meat [laughs].

Summer Rylander:

Nice.

Zach Ireland:

Okay, I think we have definitely talked enough about food. I’m starving. I have a general idea of what I’m going to eat later.

Summer Rylander:

Good, so we’ve made progress.

Zach Ireland:

Yeah, actually, let’s go ahead and answer that question. I think I’ve decided, I’m going to have Mapo tofu. I think that’s what I’m going to order. Have you decided what you’re going to have for dinner?

Summer Rylander:

I think I’m going to go with a Pad Thai. I’m going to commit.

Zach Ireland:

Sounds great. So let’s move on a bit out of food because I’m sure some of our listeners who are driving in their car are just gnawing on the steering wheel at the moment. Let’s move into a bit about Germany and where you’re living now. So, let’s say, it’s a Tuesday, a Wednesday, whatever—even a Sunday you don’t have anything going on, what are you doing for fun?

Summer Rylander:

Honestly, I’m probably going to be lazy on the couch at home for a few hours in the morning then I’ll probably go to the gym, get in a good workout and then, after that, if the weather is nice, maybe ride my bike somewhere or take a walk through the old town. We have some lovely parks here, of course, we have the beautiful buildings, the cobblestone streets and the old classically German architecture so it’s a great little city to be out in. Nuremburg is a very midsized city, I would say, and that makes it feel very—it’s cozy but there’s still enough here that it always feels like there’s something to do and particularly, in the spring and summer seasons, there’s some kind of festival either in Nuremburg or in surrounding villages almost every weekend so there really is no shortage of activities.

Zach Ireland:

Cool! So, let’s say your friend, Tad, from college is planning a trip to come and see you in Nuremburg. He’s going to be there for a week so what do you take him to go and see? What are some things that you would take Tad to see that is off the beaten path that you can’t do anywhere else in the world?

Summer Rylander:

Oh, well, depending on interests, we do have quite a bit of world war II history here and that is something that a lot of Americans come to Nuremburg to see. We have the Nazi party rally grounds are here. The documentation center which was the big coliseum that they were trying to build and it’s about half-finished but they turned it into a fantastic museum. That’s the very interesting to see and, I’m not going to say that’s off the beaten path because a lot of people go to see it but again, that is something that’s very specific to Nuremburg and a big part of the history here so, beyond that, I think it’s essential to have a good beer garden experience. They need to sit outside and drink a beer and eat some of the local Franconian food. We have a little castle and I think the view over the city from the castle is quite nice that you should see and there’s several interesting day trips too that you can take from Nuremburg. We’re close to an area that’s called Franconian Switzerland and that’s due to the rolling green hills and it’s a great place for hiking and exploring some old villages. You can pop down to Munich, if you want. Würzburg, Bamberg are both close by so, it’s a good choice to come here for a week, I would say.

Zach Ireland:

Very cool. Now, what sort of advice would you give to somebody who maybe has been planning a trip to Germany for a while and is finally about to take the plunge as far as budgeting goes, how much money do you think they would need for a good week to two weeks or so in Germany?

Summer Rylander:

Depends on the time of year, for sure, especially around Christmas. Germany loves some Christmas so, with the Christmas markets, prices can be a little bit higher but if you just come, I don’t know, spring, fall is usually a nice time. You’ll find it a lot more affordable than places like Paris, for instance, or Stockholm. Particularly, Nuremburg, in general, I think is very affordable. Beer, for instance, is about 3 euros. That’s actually less expensive than water here so you can easily find hotel rooms for a hundred euros or under a night. I think it’s a pretty reasonable cost to visit here and the big tip, though, would be to have access to cash. If you’re not going to bring it with you, then make sure you have an ATM card that you can pull some cash out because Germany is not known for its modern forms of payment. Many places do not accept cards and if they do, it’s only the German debit card. They’re getting better about it. It is improving but there are still many small restaurants and mom and pop shops that are cash-only so that’s something to be aware of,

Zach Ireland:

I know, for a lot of Americans, some things that keep them from travelling is they worry about language barriers. Would you say a language barrier is something that you come across quite a bit in your daily life or something you probably not because you live in Germany and you speak German?

Summer Rylander:

Yeah, I  mean, my German, honestly, is not as great as it should be for someone that’s been here for 3 and a half years and who’s been studying on and off for several more than that but I can get around and no, I would not let that stop you at all. You’re not going to find in Germany the English particularly in this region in Bavaria, you’re not going to find the English that’s spoken, for example, in the Netherlands or in the Nordic countries where their English is better than a lot of Americans but people do speak English and they do understand. This is a city that tourists like to come visit and you can manage, for sure, so don’t let that stop you. I would say not to let that stop you anywhere in the world really, not just Germany. Just go. You’ll figure it out. It’s amazing what you can do when you’re actually in the environment and you need to figure things out. You become very resourceful and also, just the fact that we’re all humans so body language and gestures and any of that, that will get you further than you think sometimes.

Zach Ireland:

Alright, so we’re reaching the end of our interview. Summer, I want to thank you so much for being on the podcast. I had a really great time talking with you and I am sufficiently hungry.

Summer Rylander:

Oh, good, I’m glad and thank you, again, for having me, this has been a lot of fun.

Zach Ireland:

Of course, and anytime you can come on back, for sure. We hope that you will be a long-term friend of the podcast. Do you have anything coming up that you would like to plug right now? Anywhere that the people can find you? Any projects that you’re working on?

Summer Rylander:

You could definitely find me on both twitter and Instagram, I am @summeroutside on both of those and you can find me on my website which I have not updated in a few weeks now but I promise I will, soon. That’s eatsomethinggosomewhere.com and I am actually working on a podcast with a friend of mine, Stephanie Fuccio, in shanghai. She is a current podcaster herself and we are beginning a joint project and podcast all about creativity and its ups and downs called creatively complicated and we are in the early stages of that so it’s not on iTunes yes but it should be within the next month or so, so keep an eye out for that.

Zach Ireland:

Fantastic! If you guys are looking to have guests, I am more than happy to come be on that if that’s something you guys want.

Summer Rylander:

Yeah, absolutely, we’ll be in touch.

Zach Ireland:

Yeah, for sure, and if you guys are not following Summer on @summeroutside at twitter.com, she doesn’t just post travel advice or food blogs, she’s also a comedian. There is one tweet that really had me rolling and it touches back to my country roots. Ladies, if he’s benevolent, takes you off the streets so you can pour his tea in a 5-room hotel suite, gets you a Georgia mansion and an elegant New York townhouse but he’s not your man, he’s your one chance fancy.

Summer Rylander:

Thank you so much for calling that out because I’m so disappointed at the lack of engagement with that tweet. I was so proud of it and no one liked it so it’s very validating, thank you.

Zach Ireland:

It’s so funny, you know. I might be releasing a secret, and if it is a secret, we can cut it from the podcast but I actually, I personally don’t run our twitter account. That is run by our producer and director and that’s because I got so disappointed with Twitter. I would post these things that I think is so funny and I would get no engagement from it and I would say, “You know what? If you’re not going to play with me, Twitter, then I don’t want to play with you anymore,”

Summer Rylander:

Yeah, screw you guys.

Zach Ireland:

That is so funny and seriously guys, if you’re home and if you’re at twitter at all, go ahead and look her up, twitter.com/summeroutside. Alright and here we are toward the very end of our podcast for one of my favorite sections called what did we learn? Today, I learned that there is a whole world out there of cheeses. Not swiss cheese but Swedish cheese and it’s a very diverse world and I have no idea about that. I also learned that there is no limit on when you can be an expat. You can start travelling when you’re 5 years old or you can wait and start travelling when you’re 28 years old. I also learned that there is no shame in waiting to develop your palate. For me, for a very long time, I was always ashamed, a bit embarrassed to say that I had a very limited palate until I was in my mid-twenties and then it flourished. I know that there are a lot of people out there in the world who are just like me and yeah, I think that that’s a great thing. Summer, do you have any advice for the people at home?

Summer Rylander:

I would say following up on what you just said, better late than never, honestly. Just go for it. if there’s something you want to try, something that you aren’t sure if you like, just go for it. you’re never too old to try something new or to change careers or to travel or to pick up a new hobby so just go for it.

Zach Ireland:

Absolutely and you’re never too old to try something again. If you didn’t like broccoli when you were 7 years old, well, you’re 27 now. Maybe you’ll like it steamed and you’ll like it with feta cheese.

Summer Rylander:

Please try broccoli, it’s lovely.

Zach Ireland:

There you go. That is advice from Summer. Please try broccoli, it’s lovely.

Summer Rylander:

Perfect way to end [laughs].

Zach Ireland:

Thank you again for being on the show.

Summer Rylander:

Thanks again.

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