Tuesday, July 19, 2016

German Food: Guest Post by Evelyn

Fresh strawberries!
"German food definitely has a bad rep in culinary circles, and I would say undeservedly," writes Evelyn from Augsburg, where she and her family are spending the summer with her in-laws. She continues:

Yes, wurst, potatoes, schnitzel, and spaetzle are common dishes, but the unsung German emphasis on fresh unadulterated ingredients, and the willingness to place those ingredients front and center of a meal are exactly what the entire slow food movement is based on.

Germans view strawberry fields the way Americans view cupcake shops - the place is full of them. We were thankful to end a hot dehydrating run next to a strawberry field. If you can't make it to a strawberry field, then you can buy your strawberries from one of the popup strawberry stands in the shape of a strawberry that appear every couple of miles all over the country in season.


This time around, we missed white asparagus season, but people go crazy for it. My first experience was many years ago when a cousin got a tip on a farmer who was about to harvest his white asparagus. He took orders from all the aunts, uncles, and cousins in the family, drove to the farm before sunrise -- if it is not harvested before sunrise, the asparagus turns green and chewy rather than pristine white. He spent the rest of the day on family deliveries. I was told that pretty much every stalk of white asparagus in the country is coveted in this way. (Illustration from a previous trip in season by Mae.)

Munich, the Viktualienmarkt  

Chanterelle mushrooms: Pfifferlinge.
The Viktualienmarkt in Munich contains many stands featuring chanterelle mushrooms: Pfifferlinge. Every traditional German restaurant and Gasthaus has an added seasonal Pfifferlinge section of the menu.
Spices and other good things in a shop window.
Olives at the market.
Prepared food counter at the market.
Bakery counter.
We got our sandwiches from Nordsee, a chain featuring seafood dishes. At two for 4 Euro, I chose pickled herring on a baguette (known as a Bismarck Bagette) and smoked salmon with hard boiled egg slices and aoli. For an extra Euro, I picked up a water flavored with lemon and fresh mint.

Cheaper than water.
One just has to live with the fact that ordering tap water is not a legitimate option. One might be calmed by knowing:
  • Tips are 10%, so overall the price will be less inflated by water cost than in the US and
  • Most restaurants have an exclusive contract with a local brewery, implying that beer is literally cheaper than water.
Munich brew pub.

Home Baking

Home-made cake in Augsburg.
Perhaps the cakes already have the reputation they deserved. In the last two days, we have had home baked rhubarb cake (photo), apple tart, and a "bee sting cake" - a cream filled cake topped with almonds and honey.

My personal favorite cake is a prune plum cake called Zwetschgendatschi. It is a local specialty only available in this particular region and only in the prune plum season. Every local person seems to have their own special recipe. 

Zwetschgendatschi is of sufficient importance that it features prominently in the children's story Der Räuber Hotzenplotz, in which two children must go on a quest to retrieve a grandmother's stolen coffee mill. If they are unsuccessful, the grandmother threatens that she will never make another Zwetschgendatschi.

Dining outdoors with cousins.


Debra Eliotseats said...

Beer cheaper than water????? :) Great post. Thanks for sharing.

Kitchen Riffs said...

What a fun post! Delighted to "meet" you, Evelyn. And happy to have that beer tip. :-)

Beth F said...

Ha! When in Germany, drink beer! Love your photos -- those pastries look amazing.

Tina said...

It's been many many years since I traveled in Germany but I loved all of it. I agree, some people thing of wurst as the representative cuisine but I remember enjoying many healthy home cooked meals. Great post.

Vicki said...

I don't know why German food would have a bad rap in culinary circles. I grew up with an aunt from Germany, and I remember loving everything she made.

Jackie McGuinness said...

I have been to Germany a few times and loved the food.

Katherine P said...

What a fun post! I read a book not too long ago and they mentioned asparagus season. I've never been a big fan of the vegetable but now I'm thinking I need to give it another try to see what I'm missing!

Margot said...

I didn't know German food had a bad reputation. All you've shared here looks terrific.

Claudia said...

Just going by your post, I would go to Germany just for the food! I've heard Oktoberfest may not happen this year, due to pork products and beer offending some? And no more sausages in the public schools now.

Mae Travels said...

Claudia --
Munich's Oktoberfest for 2016 plans plenty of beer AND sausage. Their webpage:

Snopes has a very detailed report on a number of false rumors about pork being banned in German (and also in English) public schools. The summary: "Germany hasn't eliminated pork or sausages from school canteens to appease Muslims." See this snopes article:

Amazing how these rumors are amplified!