German food = sausages, right? Well, yes, there are a lot of sausages, but over the past six weeks I’ve discovered there’s a lot more to German cuisine than just Wurst. And it is gooooood. (Not so good for my waistline, but what can ya do? A gal’s gotta embrace the culture, right?)
German cuisine (just like the language and country as a whole) doesn’t have the same romanticised reputation as French, Italian or Spanish amongst most Brits, but in my opinion, it’s totally up there on the same level.
Moving to a new country is interesting on so many levels, but for me, discovering new foods is unsurprisingly a priority.
I could spend hours looking round the supermarkets, but one place in which you really can’t take your time in Germany is the check-out tills – they don’t have self-check-outs (as far as I’ve seen), so you have to go to a person. They whizz through your groceries so quickly, you pay, and then they’re straight on to the next person! Efficient? Yes. Stressful? You betcha.
On numerous occasions, I have found myself in a right kerfuffle trying to scoop up my yoghurts, chocolate and bottles of Pepsi (highly nutritious, of course) before the next person’s things come flying through too. In the UK, the till-workers always wait for you to put your wallet and receipt away, put everything into your shopping bags, sort your life out and leave the vicinity. Not the case in Germany, my friends. No, no.
But then that’s just one of many things they do differently here. Germany absolutely loves recycling too. All well and good, but there is one aspect I find marginally annoying: when you buy any bottle of Coke/ice tea/water, it comes with an extra charge known as Pfand. To get this money back, you have to bring your empty bottles back to the supermarket, put them through a machine, get a receipt and take your receipt to the till to get your money back. It’s all a bit of a palava, but if you don’t do it, you end up paying loads for your hydration. And without my beloved Robinson’s (slash Sainsbury’s own brand when I’m at uni) squash, I’m living off bottled soft drinks. Definitely not rotting my teeth in the process. Ahem.
What else is different? Well, Germans tend to eat their big cooked meal at lunchtime and then just bread and Wurst (obvs) for dinner. Equally, German people blimmin’ love every drink to be sparkling. Ask for natural water and it will be sparkling, and they love what’s known as Schorle – you can have Weinschorle (wine mixed with sparkling water) and all sorts of fruit juice ones. I myself am a fan of the sparkles (as with everything in life), but I know some of my British compatriots are less keen.
And you can NEVER get tap water. Anywhere. My thrifty student nature highly dislikes this, but you must always order an actual drink alongside your food in a café/restaurant. Asking for tap water simply isn’t done. In a club last week, I asked for some and they gave me little more than a shot glass worth. Great. Thanks. That’s really going to hydrate me.
Water issues aside, I’m a big fan of food and drink here in Deutschland on the whole. (I'll be honest, the Sauerkraut I could take or leave though.)
Allow me to share some of my favourite culinary findings with you…
The bakeries in general are amazing here (to quote my friend Caroline, ‘NOBODY WARNED ME ABOUT THE BAKERIES!’), so I’m a start with baked goods. Prepare to drool…
For the non-Germanophiles amongst you, I shall translate: potato-bread. It’s the bread of the month in my local bakery and is totally amazing. I don’t know how they make it or what the potato’s all about, but it’s seriously good: so so soft without being artificial and white, with a lovely crust. Delish with savoury topping yet also with jam. Oh, how I love a good versatile bread.
Bretzeln (Or pretzels to you and me.)
You may think pretzels hail from New York, but you’d be wrong. Sorry. They were actually brought to North America by Germans. Pretzels are particularly ubiquitous here in Franconia, and they really are jolly good. The classic one is just lightly salted (like Paul Hollywood said on the final of The Great British Bake Off last night, soft and chewy inside with a crisp outer) and is delish by itself, but you can also get them sliced in half and filled with all sorts of yummy stuff like melted cheese and bacon bits. Or, if you’re me, Nutella. Natch.
Whether on top of flaky pastry, short crust or cake, the Germans love their crumble toppings (or Streusel). Considering I’m missing crumble and custard season at home, these cakes are a welcome addition to my life.
Actually shall we just talk a bit about cake and pastries in general? Germany sure does make good ones, but I have to admit I’m seriously missing the likes of Victoria Sponge and scones. I’m just so very patriotic like that.
My favourite Lebkuchen are the ones my mum makes every year (she’s half German, don’tcha know?) – spiced dough filled with a little apricot jam and covered in dark chocolate. Amazing. And here in Germany I’ve also found them filled with plum and blackcurrant jams, which is somewhat exciting. It annoys me when Lebkuchen is translated as ‘gingerbread’, because it’s not. It’s a really special mix of spices and you just need to try it mmm kay? THERE ARE SO MANY DIFFERENT ONES HERE I WANT THEM ALL.
Another one Mama makes at Christmastime (and I know you can get it in England but still). Never had it? What are you doing with your life!? Stollen is the most delicious bready-cake, full of dried fruits and marzipan and covered in a good sprinkling of icing sugar. I feel so conflicted seeing it (along with all the other German Christmassy treats) in the shops already – excitement, yet also confusion. I want them, but it’s too early! Must. Resist.
While we’re talking about sugary goodness, let’s move on to…
Yup, just chocolate in general. It’s really rather fabulous here. Ritter Sport and Milka are probably the best German brands in my opinion, but there’s also a lot more Lindt than we have in the UK, despite being a Swiss company. I’ve decided that if I want to try all the amazing German Christmas chocolate before I leave for the holidays, I should probably make a start, well, now.
I first came across these in Vienna last year, from where the original Manner brand heralds. I brought some home for my family, and we are now addicted. It sounds so simple: sweet wafers sandwiched together with a hazelnut filling, but it is SO. GOOD. Trust me. Remember the Pink Panther wafer bars we used to have when we were little? Weren’t they good? Yeah. They were. Well, the hazelnut wafers are a little like that only BETTER.
‘What?’ You’re thinking. ‘Philly cheese is German?!’ No, that’s not my point. My point is that in Germany (and probably the rest of Europe) there are about a kajillion more Philly cheese variants and I am loving it. You know how we have Cadbury’s Philly in the UK? Well, here they have Milka, and it’s better. Spread it on your toast, use as a dip for sliced apples or eat it straight from the tub. Mmm hmm. I’m yet to try the Milka hazelnut flavour, but it’s only a matter of time. At a fraction of the calories of Nutella, could this put a strain on my long term relationship with my beloved Nutella? Watch this space. It could get ugly.
Aaaaaaalso: Honey Philly. I used this in my healthy peanut butter honey dip and it’s also delish alone (but I do like it with extra honey… Nightmare of a sweet tooth, me.)
And now I’m going to oh-so-smoothly move on to talking about savoury food by mentioning that the lucky Germans also have lots of savoury Philly variants – Wurst flavour, anyone?
I don’t think I need to say much about Wurst (sausages), do I? Bratwurst is the most popular type in my area – the sausages are usually grilled and served in a fresh bread roll with mustard. Simple and delish. And up in Berlin, Currywurst (Wurst in a curry sauce) is what it’s all about.
But there are over 1,000 different types of Wurst in Germany. It’s absolutely nuts! Whether served as sausagey sausages like Bratwurst or cold in big slices (like ham) for sandwiches, I have to say I’m a big fan. In the latter way, you can buy slices peppered with, um, bits of pepper, pistachios and all sorts, both of which I find extremely yummy.
Oh look at that – I went and said loads about Wurst.
OK, I don’t think I’m ever going to have a Schnitzel as good as the one I had in Vienna last year at the home of Schnitzel, Figlmüller’s, but I’m still a big fan. Thin, boneless meat covered in flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs and then fried, but so much better than your average chicken escalope. For authentic Wiener (meaning from Wien/Vienna, nothing to do with the American wiener) Schnitzel, it’s all about veal, but you also find Schnitzel made with chicken and pork quite often.
There’s a lot of pork. Pork, pork or pork? I think I’ll have the pork, thanks. (I’m definitely getting a bit porky…)
Speaking of pork… I’d never heard of Frikadelle until a couple of months ago, but have seen them a lot in German supermarkets. I’d describe them as a cross between mini burgers and dumplings, usually made of minced pork mushed together with onions, flour, egg and whatever else ya fancy. I myself have only tried one type, made largely of vegetables but with a bit of, you guessed it, pork. You can eat them hot or cold, but they’re really delicious. I don’t know about you, but I always loved the veggie nuggets at school - despite not technically being a vegetarian, I would beg the dinner ladies to let me have some - and these Frikadelle remind me of them.
These actually come from the region of Swabia, but my German housemate introduced me to them and I’ve never looked back. In my opinion, they look like giant ravioli (or as my family would say, pasta parcels), and aren’t actually that dissimilar. Maultasche consist of pasta dough around a densely packed filling made of meat (obvs), spinach, bread crumbs, herbs and spices. You can cut them into chunks and fry them, or boil them whole. Either way, they’re pretty darn scrummy. Extemely, actually.
Zwiebelkuchen (onion cake)
Not actually a cake (don’t worry, I haven’t lost all order and suddenly gone back to sweet foods, God forbid!), but more of a tart, and an autumn speciality. It’s made of sautéed onions, diced bacon and cream on a doughy crust and is really good, both hot and cold. Zwiebelkuchen is traditionally served with my new favourite drink…
|My fellow Federweisser fan, Charlotte|
Oh, I love Federweisser! The name actually means ‘feather white’ which makes no sense whatsoever as far as I can see, but I don’t care as it’s so good. Federweisser is an alcoholic beverage, but I like it so much because it doesn’t taste like it at all. It’s made from freshly pressed grape juice before it’s fully fermented, and is thus delightfully sweet and refreshing. Because of the usual time for grape harvest, Federweisser is usually only available in September and October (if you leave it longer it ferments too much), so I’m sure making the most of it while I can!
This, dear friends, is another darn good drink. It’s basically Prosecco mixed with elderflower syrup, lime, mint and sparkling water. Sehr refreshing and sehr delish. I think a Hugo is actually quite widespread around the Alpine and German-speaking regions, but I’d never come across it in the UK so I’m jolly well including it in my list.
Wow. I’ve been eating and drinking a lot, haven’t I? Can you see why though?
The chances are I’ll be updating this at some point as I know I’m going to discover more yummy things and feel the need to share them with you. So tell me, kind people, what have I missed? What should I be gobbling up while I'm here? (As if I could be eating more than I am. But ya know. YOIBO.)