Category Archives: food
… Yes, late Summer. When the Christmas stuff starts appearing in the German supermarkets.
They’ve still got all the Oktoberfest produce in too.
I only popped in for a carton of milk!
It was only a month ago when I commented on Germany’s discovery of flavoured crisps (or chips for any US readers dropping in), and already the Germans are amazing me with their inventiveness. Following hard on the heels of the Currywurst crisp, Germany would now like to present you with the very latest in snack flavourings… ladies and gentlement, a big hand for the Hangover Crisp!
I was out in Neuss today, when I noticed a sign outside Lidl advertising their upcoming British food week.
Now, aside from my incredulity that Germans would be flocking to the supermarket to stock up on English fare, I have to admit that I was curious as to what Lidl would have selected as “British specialities”. The whole array was illustrated on a tartan tablecloth, so I supected there might be a Scottish theme – but apart from the shortbread, I can’t say I spotted one.
So, without further ado… I shall reveal the selection!
Starting at top left, we have a ready meal of fish and chips. Alaska pollack pieces though, rather than North Sea Cod. The chips claim to be extra fat… but there is no mention of mushy peas or malt vinegar on the box, so authentic it won’t be.
Next up – three flavours of crisps. Confusingly these are referred to as Chips – but these are different chips to the ones you get with your battered pollack pieces. The flavours are sea salt and balsemic vinegar, lightly salted and sea salt and black pepper. Oh dear oh dear. I don’t think any Brits would be rushing to buy those then! No malt vinegar, no cheese and onion, no prawn cocktail or smokey bacon or worcestershire sauce… not even any hedgehog or tandoori….
The luxury caramel shortcakes look nice. I think my Mum used to make those once in a blue moon. But moving across, even I have to admit defeat at the tea selection. The first one is called English Tea Time. The second is called 8 O’Clock Tea and the third is 5 O’Clock Tea. Now, I suspect just a hint of Germanism creeping into these brand names. I’m familiar with English Breakfast Tea… but only a German could be so precise as to dictate that it should be drunk at exactly 8 a.m. The same with the afternoon tea. Last time I looked, afternoon tea could perfectly well be taken any time from around 3 in the afternoon up to about half past six. Only a German would define tea time quite so rigidly. I’m thinking that the only option is to buy the one called English Tea Time… which by definition is any time you want a cuppa.
Across from the tea is some cheddar cheese. What a shame that for British week they picked the only type of English cheese regularly available in Germany anyway. Surely it would have been more interesting to have picked a crumbly Lancashire or a mature Wensleydale…
Next to the cheese is a tin of baked beans (not exactly Heinz, but at least I’ll grant them that it’s authentically part of the British diet). There are also what look like fake After Eight Mints… (though here the Germans are remarkably silent on the appropriate hour to eat these).
But I do confess to being very confused by the final items – which are three flavours of Joghurt British Style. At first glance these seem to be no different to anyone else’s fruit yoghurts…. but maybe I’m missing something here. What on earth is a British Style Yoghurt? Anyone?
Summer holidays have started in Germany – and to beat the traffic, many Germans will be taking to the trains.
Of course no self respecting German would embark on a lengthy train journey without first grabbing a Wurst or two at the station…
… and of course a bag of Prezels, just in case the buffet car is crowded….
… and maybe a Fleischsalat on the side. Germany is the only country I know where you can buy “salad” which doesn’t actually contain salad.
There’s plenty to see if you pick the right route. In Köln the railway bridge is guarded by imposing statues… and of course the central station is only a few yards from the famous Kölner Dom. (Zero out of ten for town-planning – though if you have to change train, it’s a chance to pop out and visit one of Germany’s most impressive sights).
I also recommend the slow train from Köln going South which runs along the banks of the Rhine. Spectacular views of the vineyards, castles and the Loreley rocks. Definitely worth the extra time it takes.
Before you know it, you’re abroad….
One of the things which all British expats in Germany have yearned for over the years has been flavoured crisps. (For Americans reading this, crisps are what you call chips. Confusingly what we call chips is what you call French fries… but I digress….)
Crisps are a sort of soul food for the Brits. We take them on picnics, we order them in the pub with our beer, we nibble on them in front of the TV and hand them out to our children to keep them going until lunchtime. And British crisps come in all kinds of fabulous flavours. Salt and vinegar, cheese and onion, Worcestershire sauce (Americans – that’s pronounced Wuster), prawn cocktail, smokey bacon….
When I first arrived in Germany the crisp scene was dismal. There were two sorts of crisps. Plain or paprika. For about the first fifteen years of living here, nothing much changed. Oh, there were launches of other snack types… Pringles and Nachos and things… but real crisps with added flavours still remained a rarity – and any attempt at copying a gutsy taste like salt and vinegar had to be watered down for the German palate (balsemic vinegar and sea salt… it just doesn’t come close!).
So imagine my surprised and delight when I discovered the Germans starting to experiment with creating their VERY OWN crisp culture. A big round of applause ladies and gentlemen, for the first all-German flavoured crisp!
…I want to be the person who gets to name German breakfast cereals!
Beats cornflakes into a cocked hat!
The German nation shops on its stomach.
Germans, it seems, cannot undertake any task without first stoking up with a sausage. This has inspired a cunning generation of German sausage vendors to pitch their vans everywhere and anywhere where Germans might be more than ten minutes away from their own fridge.
If you need to find the entrance to a German DIY store, it will be located behind the sausage stand. Because no German would face a half hour perusal of drills and planks on an empty stomach.
Getting the car serviced is stressful for anyone – but in Germany at least you can comfort-eat your way through the experience.
And we all know that shopping should never be undertaken on an empty stomach… not that any German would dream of it.
Of course a typical German sausage is a mighty beast – the size of a toddler’s forearm, with a very precise line of mustard (or ketchup) squirted across the top. The difference between Germans and me, is that Germans can manage to eat their sausage without the mustard slopping all over their shirt. In areas with a high immigrant population (and therefore the highest shirt-soiling quota) there are often alternative snacks – like entire-roast-chicken stands. Because even messy foreigners can’t be expected to shop on an empty stomach…
At this time of year, wherever you travel in Germany, you will find odd little stalls everywhere. It’s that season of the year you see. The strawberry and asparagus season.
What appears odd to the non-German, is that these stalls only sell strawberries and asparagus. Nothing else.
This of course sparked my curiosity, because as they say… what’s sold together, goes together. Do the Germans have a whole range of secret culinary gems which use strawberries and asparagus in the same dish?
So I called upon Uncle Google and discovered literally dozens of recipes including:
So I shall be racing along to the nearest late-night strawberry and asparagus place to stock up… there’s a whole new German secret cuisine to discover!
It’s a big night tonight in the Fatherland!
If you happen to be a witch, warlock, hobgoblin or demon (and I think some of my regular commentators would fall into one of those categories) then this is Walpurgis night – the night when you are allowed to fly about on broomsticks and cause trouble. Of course, as a modern German miscreant, causing trouble probably means filing your income tax late or failing to have the emissions tested on your car… but if you want to do the traditional thing, you’ll fly on a broomstick to the Brocken (tallest peak in the Harz mountains) where the coven will be celebrating. Apparently.
For those of us (and I include myself in this) that are altogether less witchlike or demonic, or just don’t happen to own a functional flying broom, the alternative is to pop down to the local pub. They will be celebrating Tanz in den Mai tonight – fundamentally this is a dance to welcome the Spring… the name indicates that we’ll be dancing the month of May in, rather than dancing in the month of May, if you get my drift.
The actual quality of the dancing tonight will be largely determined by the amount of the Maibowle which has been consumed. This is a lethal German weapons-grade fizzy punch which contains the world’s most obnoxious herb – Waldmeister (woodruff).
In my experience, the effect of the Maibowle on a living human organism is to cause a vast increase in physical energy combined with almost total muscular paralysis. The result is that you will end up dancing like a demented stick insect, although for some reason you will be convinced you are performing Swan Lake at the Bolshoi. The spiking of your drink with Waldmeister adds the complication that you might actually hurl the entire contents of your digestive system at any moment….as may all the people performing stick-insect pirouettes around you.
Waldmeister is so noxious that the German tobacco industry is actually banned from incorporating it into its products. So what do the Germans do? They feed it to their kids. Sweets, desserts, fizzy pop…. the list of treats which are infested with the stuff is endless. When attending kids’ parties in Germany I make it a firm rule never to eat or drink anything that’s green. If it’s too nasty for the tobacco industry, I’m not eating it.
So tonight, I’ve decided that the lesser of the evils will be to mount my Vileda Wischmop and fly off to the Harz mountains. Let’s hope there’s only eye-of-newt and toe-of-frog in the cauldron!