Sunday, December 4, 2016



So far, most of the books I've read for this project have been by male authors, so I've been actively seeking out books written by women. When I found Brigitte Schwaiger's Why Is There Salt in the Sea? in the European Women Writers Series, I knew it was going to be my book for Austria.

In the book's afterword, translator Sieglinde Lug says the author viewed this book as an "inner monologue," rather than a novel. That's a perfect description, as the book follows the thoughts of the narrator in her attempts to come to terms with her existence in what is very much a man's world. Tellingly, we never find out her name, although we know the names of the men in her life.

As the daughter of a doctor, the narrator is encouraged to go into medicine too. But she doesn't like the field, and nothing else she thinks of doing seems good enough to her father. She ends up getting married instead, and regretting her decision even before the wedding takes place.

In spite of her desire to "be able to talk to someone without being set straight," her husband Rolf is not that person. On the contrary, Rolf is the kind of person who says things like, "A woman without a man, what kind of thing is that?" Or, "I find it touching to see how you sit there and look as if you are thinking about something important."

The narrator looks for solace in a lover, but he doesn't give her the fulfillment she seeks either. Her struggle to find her way continues through the end of the book, and the reader is left to ponder whether the narrator will ever feel like a complete person in the patriarchal society in which she was raised.


The narrator of Why Is There Salt in the Sea? is not much of a cook. At one point in the book, she is perusing her cookbook. "Do put that book down, Rolf says, you don't learn cooking from books, you learn it from experience." The narrator observes that, "Flaky puff pastry is his favorite dish."

I'm not much of a cook, either, and the thought of trying to make a flaky vegan puff pastry was pretty daunting. A recipe for an easy three-ingredient vegan apple strudel on a blog called Elephantastic Vegan saved me. I used vegan fillo dough from my local natural foods store and added in some chopped walnuts, since I think everything is better with nuts. The resulting strudel was a little dry, but the filling was tasty. I suspect the recipe would be even better with melted vegan butter brushed onto the fillo dough sheets.


My donation for Austria has been sent to an organization called kinderhaende, which provides instruction in Austrian sign language to deaf children and their families. They are currently raising money for five classes in which children in Vienna, ages six months to seven years, and their families can learn sign language, get an affirmative perspective on deafness, and develop a positive image of people who sign. More information about this project is available at



  1. Sounds like a very interesting book--albeit somewhat depressing. Vegan pastry dough? Who knew! I'll have to try some. Thanks for the tip.

    1. Can't believe I didn't know there were comments "awaiting moderation." So sorry it took me this long to respond. Yes, it was a depressing book, but it apparently resonated with many women when it was published. With respect to the vegan pastry dough, it probably would have been better off in the hands of a cook who knew what she was doing!