Category Archives: food

The incredible German appetite

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.

Germany

Before you can even enter the DIY store you have to negotiate the sausage stand

Getting the car serviced is stressful for anyone – but in Germany at least you can comfort-eat your way through the experience.

German sausage stall

Waiting while your car is fixed? You’ll be needing sustenance…

And we all know that shopping should never be undertaken on an empty stomach… not that any German would dream of it.

German sausage stall

Shopping is such hungry work…

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…

German sausage seller

Roast chicken … the alternative for those who can’t eat a sausage without dribbling mustard on their clothes

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Germany’s secret cuisine with asparagus and strawberries

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.

Strawberrys and asparagus

Just another one of those 24-hour strawberry and asparagus places…

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:

Strawberry and Asparagus Risotto

Strawberry and Asparagus Salad

Coley with Strawberries and Asparagus

Caramellised Asparagus with Strawberries and Ice Cream

Asparagus in a Strawberry Vinagrette

Asparagus and Strawberry seller

Germany’s secret cuisine…

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!

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Walpurgisnacht and Tanz in den Mai

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.

Germans behaving in a disorderly manner.

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).

The Maibowle... a recipe which must never be allowed to fall into the hands of Germany's enemies...

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.

Woodruff flavoured jelly. WHY?

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!

 

 

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Spargelzeit in Germany

It is officially Spargelzeit. Asparagus season.

Asparagus is the first home grown fresh crop of the season, allegedly. After a long winter of Sauerkraut and pickled gherkins, the Germans can’t wait for fresh food to come round again, so they tell me.

Now, before you start sending food parcels, let me point out that in the days of supermarkets and year round fresh produce, this simply isn’t true … but the Germans still manage to believe it, despite all the evidence in their fridges and pantries. In reality these days, Spargelzeit is a bit like having chocolate at Easter when you didn’t actually fast during Lent.

Of course Spargel has been in the shops for weeks now – but that’s foreign asparagus. German asparagus is just coming into season now. It’s grown all around Germany – you can spot the tell-tale signs of an asparagus crop because you’ll see what looks like some sort of military or industrial pipeline installation. Sometimes all you see is black ridges of earth – as though giant moles had been crawling in parallel lines across the field. This is, of course, just a method of keeping the asparagus white by ensuring it doesn’t see the light of day.

Asparagus growing under cover

Harvesting asparagus is back-breaking work… so on behalf of all ungrateful German gourmets I hereby offer heartfelt thanks to all the migrant labourers who schlepp over to Germany from Eastern Europe and beyond and do the awful job for the minimum wage (if they’re lucky). Every shoot has to be cut by hand and packed into a box for transport.

Lower back pain guaranteed....

German restaurants abandon their entire regular menu at this time of the year, and introduce a special Spargelmenu… asparagus soup, asparagus salad, pasta with asparagus, ham with asparagus…. but the absolute classic is asparagus with sauce hollandaise and potatoes.

Germans dream of this all winter, apparently.

As a result of this culinary obsession with asparagus, conversation in Germany becomes very tedious at this time.  Where there used to be animated debate about politics, literature, art and science, now there is only one topic which occupies the excitable brains of the teutonic nation.

Does asparagus make your urine smell?

 

 

 

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Easter in Germany – chocolate galore!

Now that Karneval is over we are into Lent and living on a diet of Bullshitters of the Lord and Nuns Farts.  But there is hope in sight. Easter is just around the corner… already the shops are starting to fill up with fine Easter fare. And lets face it, nobody makes Easter look more chocolatey and delicious than the Germans.  Come Easter Sunday, chocolate rabbits and eggs will be the breakfast, lunch and dinner of choice for anyone under the age of…. er…probably 95…

Easter

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German Christmas markets 2011

Over the past few weeks in most German towns, little wooden huts have sprung up on squares and along the main shopping streets. Behind shutters we heard scuffling and hammering, mysterious bags and boxes were unloaded, cables laid, lights tested… wafts of aniseed and cinnamon and ginger…  a general air of mystery and excitment.

And now, this weekend most of the Christmas market stalls are finally opening up. The bratwurst and waffles are sizzling, the wine mulling, the stalls full of craftwork and sweetmeats are overflowing with novelties.

I walked through part of the Duisburg Christmas market yesterday lunchtime and got an impression of what they have to offer there… for a start the choice of food was surprising. One stall was just beginning to roast a whole hog…

Spit roast

Why settle for a Bratwurst when you could eat the whole pig?

Another was starting to flame-grill some salmon…

Salmon smoking

The smoking ban clearly doesn't extend to salmon...

Traditional sweets, nuts and candied fruits are everywhere…

Toasted Almonds

It wouldn't be Advent without toasted almonds

Being only a short distance from the Dutch border, there are plenty of specialities from the Netherlands too – sold from Dutch gabled huts

Poffertjes

Poffertjes are technically a Dutch speciality - but the Germans love them

I’m not entirely sure why there was a Viking ship in the town centre selling Glühwein – but it certainly stood out. I didn’t see any Vikings, and the figure of Saint Nicholas on board looked decidedly tipsy…

Glühwein stand

Glühwein served from a Viking longship? Well, I suppose it gets cold up North....

No Christmas market is complete without a German Christmas Pyramid. This one was a fine specimen because it actually has an integrated Glühwein stand…  no German city should be without one!

German Christmas Pyramid

Glühwein served from a German Christmas Pyramid

 

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So here we are in August…

… and in the shops you can see amazing bright coloured cardboard cones everywhere.

Starting school in Germany

Like a Christmas stocking on the first school day

These are essential accessories for every child starting school for the first time. Their parents fill the cone with sweets and little gifts (often school related, like pencils and crayons) and the child takes it to school on the first day. At the end of the first school day, they are allowed to open it and have all the contents. Of course school-life goes downhill rapidly from this glorious start!

Of course the end of August is the right time for these cones to be in the shops.

I was rather less enthusiastic to find the first flush of Christmas Lebkuchen clogging the aisles though.

German Christmas biscuits

Premature Christmas Fare...

I know the weather’s been chilly… but surely nobody thinks it’s Christmas yet?

 

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