die Streu

This morning, as I was drinking my coffee and reading the paper, I came across an ad for Katzenstreu. That got me thinking about Streu, which relates to an old word in English: to strew. Die Streu is anything we strew, sprinkle, spread about, or scatter (streuen). This means it can crop up in all sorts of combinations. Das Streusalz is salt we scatter, so it’s salt used for de-icing roads and sidewalks. Das Streulicht is scattered or stray light. Die Katzenstreu is kitty litter, which cats like to scatter around even if we don’t want them to. Die Einstreu is animal bedding–something we scatter in a place (einstreuen).

But streuen and einstreuen are also actions we perform in cooking, and that brings us to an interesting relative of Streu: der Streuselkuchen, or the streusel coffeecake. Die Streusel (English: streusel) is a crumb topping that’s been sprinkled over a dessert. Not so far from die Katzenstreu, when you think about it.

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