October 8, 2008

Warning - Don't read this on an empty stomach!

German food is great, especially in the colder months. There is every sort of bread you can imagine, with every sort of wheat, nut or grain that there is. Some of the breads are dry and boring – for example, the other day we had lunch at our club and I swear we were eating mud bricks but there’s no accounting for taste because Ralf ate his with gusto and several comments about how much he missed real bread in the US – but if you find a good one it’s really good. Munich is also the home of the big-as-your-head soft pretzel. These taste particularly good with Radler, which is ice cold beer mixed with Sprite, and Obatzda, which is a cheesy dip made of Brie, Camembert, butter and paprika and topped with slices of red onion.

Now let’s talk about dairy. The milk here is just good. German cows (at least the ones you can see from the highway) are fat, happy creatures that have nothing to do but look for the most succulent blades of grass to make the sweetest milk. This lovely milk also makes the creamiest butter and yogurt you can imagine. You can lose a lot of weight eating German yogurt because it fills you up for hours.

I never really thought of butter as a delicacy until I watched a French friend of mine lovingly butter a piece of baguette and eat it slowly with her eyes partly closed, as if she had all the time in the world for that perfect slice of buttery Heaven.

There are also obvious German delicacies like Schweinebraten, which is pork roasted in its own juices with a nice, crispy, slightly burnt crust that forms as the outer layer of fat slowly roasts. A good crust is hard to do and the mark of a successful Schweinebraten.

And let us not forget to pay homage to the cakes of Germany. My favorite cakes are the Sachertorte, which is a rich chocolate cake with apricot preserves mixed in, and Prinzregententorte, which is a 7-layer yellow cake with chocolate cream frosting between each thin layer.

And finally, there’s a category of specialty items that take some getting used to but once you like them you’re hooked. For example, Schmalzbrot is pork fat mixed with pork drippings and little pieces of fried bacon spread on dark bread and topped with onion, parsley and a dash of salt. Then there’s Handkaese, which is a hard, incredibly stinky rotten cheese that that is served over dark bread, soaked in vinegrette and topped with raw onions for accent. This dish is popular in the Frankfurt area and is typically served with a sour apple wine that tastes fantastic after you finish your second glass. And last but not least there is Pressack, which is a meat-based gelatin with actual meat chunks marinated in (you guessed it) vinegrette and topped with (you guessed it again) onions.

Mind you, although I enjoy Schmalzbrot, Handkaese and Pressack, it’s not for everyone. About 3 years ago I read a funny article about how some typical German food products were sent to Africa for sampling and the Africans were scandalized at how a rich country like Germany ruins perfectly good food.

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