Family Ties

Making Waffles in Karachi

hani yousuf2.credit.Susanne Tadić
A snapshot of author Hani Yousuf (far right) visiting Germany with her mother and siblings in the summer of 1992. The baby belongs to her German godmother Susy.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germans are engaged in a national debate about how an unprecedented number of immigrants will change their country. But what do things look like to non-Germans?

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The author’s mother was the daughter of South Asian immigrants to Germany.
    • Yousuf grew up in Karachi, but often returned to Germany to visit her mother’s family during the summers.
    • She attended a Catholic school in Karachi that was run by Irish nuns, while her mother had German friends and her father spoke Burmese, Bangla, English and Urdu.
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  • Audio

    Audio

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When I was a little girl, my mum made waffles in a round beige waffle iron. Sometimes she’d let me help.

I’d hold the electric hand mixer in place as she added small quantities of sifted flour and baking powder to the sugar, egg and butter mix. She always added a small packet of Dr. Oetker’s Vanille Zucker, or vanilla sugar, which she carried back from our summer trips to Dreieich, a small town near Frankfurt where she grew up.

I would stir the batter with a big spoon in her tall brown mixing bowl. And when it was ready, she’d pour a small amount onto the waffle iron and slowly close it. As a treat she’d sometimes let me do that for her, but not without worrying that I’d burn my fingers on the hot iron.

In September this year, I almost did just that. I pulled out her old waffle iron, which was lying unused in the storage cupboard in my house. “Does it still work?” my mum asked when I hooked it up to an electric outlet and turned on the switch. The jagged texture of the waffle iron’s innards warmed instantly to my touch. I think she was still afraid I’d burn my fingers, but 30 years later she didn’t quite show it. “German quality,” I called back.

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