It’s funny. Until you leave your home country, you don’t really realize all the things that are so particular about your country. Tiffany of No Ordinary Homestead picked food as this month’s topic for the Blogger Stammtisch aka the perfect opportunity for me to tell you about some of the foods that to me are so inherently German – even if it took me moving halfway across the world to realize that they are German. So, what would be considered popular food in Germany? Read on
One of the first things I noticed when I moved away from Germany is that breakfast is vastly different in every country. For some reason this came as a surprise to me as I figured everybody would have bread, cheese, and cold cuts on their breakfast table. I don’t think there is any German that lives abroad who doesn’t miss the vast variety of breads and Brötchen (literally “little breads”; dinner rolls) we have in Germany. When Marco and I go home to visit friends and family in Germany, we always go to a supermarket sometime in the beginning of a trip and buy our favorite things: Gouda and Brie (delicious cheeses), ham, Kassler (smoked ham), Brunch (sort of like Philadelphia, but better), smoked salmon and fake caviar (for Marco, not me), ACE juice (literally “vitamin A, C, and E juice; it’s a mix of orange and carrot juice), and of course coffee and milk. We also usually pick up some Brötchen that we can warm up in the oven the next morning in case none of us wants to get out and go get fresh ones from the bakery.
Fast Food in Germany
Something else you notice as different very quickly when you leave your home country are the fast food options – all those goodies you turn to when you don’t feel like cooking, when nothing edible is in the house, or you just feel like it. My first expat experience was in Safaga, a small city at the Red Sea in Egypt. I started missing all my staples very quickly. I still do, because while they have more fast food than anybody could ever want where I live now (Texas), they don’t quite have the same things we eat in Germany when we’re on the go. What would I give sometimes for a simple Currywurst (grilled sausage with ketchup-curry-sauce)! Or, when you’ve had a few drinks and are craving something salty? The go-to food in Germany would have to be a Döner or a Gyros. I know that neither is actually German, but believe me, these meat-filled bread goodies from Turkey and Greece, respectively, are very ingrained in German food culture. More traditional German fast food would probably be a Frikadelle (grilled meat ball), a Bremer (Brötchen with fried fish paddies and sauce), or a belegtes Brötchen (a Brötchen with cold cuts, cheese, veggies, etc.) from a bakery. Typical fair food, as I described in my post about German Christmas Market Food, would be for example Backfisch (fried fish) and Reibekuchen (grated and fried potatoes).
Potatoes = Kartoffeln
Once I moved in with Marco, he started making fun of me for eating so many potatoes… in my defense, it’s not actually that much (maybe 2-3 times a week?). But it probably is more than his Italian palate was used to. And it probably is more than some other cultures eat as well. While in Germany you’ll find plenty of rice and pasta dishes, we do have potato dishes in all shapes and forms: french fries, mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, baked potatoes, roasted potatoes, Bratkartoffeln (potatoes fried in a little oil in the pan), Kartoffelgratin (potato slices baked in oil and cream), Kroketten (mashed potatoes that are then fried) and I’m sure many more Do I sound horribly biased when I say that German potatoes tend to taste much better than the ones I usually find here in an American supermarket? They do though! They are usually of the yellow variety and have a much more buttery taste and less floury texture.
German Food and Regional Specialties
There are some foods you can find all across Germany, like for example the potato dishes above or the famous Schnitzel (with or without sauce). While many foods are similar across Germany, every region has its own specialties and ways of serving food. When I started college close to Stuttgart, a region called Swabia, certain things became much more common on my plates than they had ever been. They weren’t necessarily completely new, but became much more prominent. Instead of having the regular Brötchen for breakfast, I would eat Laugen (also a Brötchen, but more similar to a Pretzel in taste). Instead of getting a Brötchen with cheese and cold cuts at the bakery for a quick lunch, I would swing by the butcher and pick up a Brötchen with Fleischkäse (literally it means “meat cheese”; it’s kind of like hot dog meat and, to Americans, looks like spam). They also had a funky dish with Spätzle (German pasta), lentils, and a Wiener or two (hot dog – but better ). These are just a few examples as every region had their own specialties.
Seasonal Produce, Dishes, and Goodies
I think eating in Germany is far more seasonal than it is in the US. When I go grocery shopping here, I can’t even really tell what is in season and what isn’t because everything is pretty much available year-round. A lot of times I appreciate it, but other times I miss the seasonal produce in Germany. It means you are eating more local produce, change your dishes depending on the time of the year, and it’s actually kind of fun to be more aware of it. For example, you will know when asparagus (Spargel) is in season in Germany since everybody goes crazy for it – especially the white one that barely even exists in the US. You’ll see it in supermarkets, on the side of the road, in restaurants, everywhere. When there are neue Kartoffeln (new potatoes) potato dishes take on a whole new meaning.
Sweets also go very much dependant on the season. They kind of are here in the US as well, but I think in Germany there are more festivities that bring with them specific goodies. We both have of course chocolate Easter bunnies and chocolate Santas, but in Germany you’ll also find for example Berliner during Karneval (a pastry filled with jam) and Weckmänner (sweet bread in the form of a little guy) during November for Sankt Martin. There are also a lot of cookies that are only available before and during Christmas (as I described before: German Christmas Cookies 1 and German Christmas Cookies 2).
Something else that is different from country to country are the foreign restaurants. Not only are the kind of foreign restaurants you find very different, but even the foods you find in them. For example, most Italian restaurants in Germany offer fairly authentic Italian food (with the odd pizza with tuna and/or corn that I was surprised to find out is not actually Italian). Many Italian restaurants in the US serve food that is American-Italian and would never be found in Italy. Examples? Ricotta cheese in lasagna and pasta with Alfredo sauce don’t exist outside of the US. So, sometimes I miss an authentic pizza or a Chinese spring roll (as prepared by Chinese restaurants in Germany – not the actual Chinese food).
Next month’s topic of the Blogger Stammtisch will be drinks. Is there any topic that would be better suited to follow up food? As usual, all posts will be up by the 15th of the month. But until then, enjoy some of my fellow blogger’s musings about food: