When people think of German food and drink, beer tents full of raucous revellers swigging from over-sized beer steins and chomping down on amusingly-named sausage is what often comes to mind. However, this is only a very small part of a larger and more refined culinary picture.
Here in the southern region of Germany known as Swabia (Schwaben) there are many local delicacies. Just as in various Mediterranean lands, pasta is traditionally eaten here, often more so than potatoes, which are consumed more readily in the less temperate climes of Northern Germany. There is even a German pasta, known as Spätzle, often served on a Sunday, which is as beloved (and varied) as the British roast potato. Due to the expansive landscape and good soil, fruit and vegetables are often grown, bought and sold locally, resulting in very seasonal meals.
Meat is an important part of most German’s diet and pork (including the ubiquitous sausage!), chicken, turkey and beef are eaten in relatively large quantities. This meat-lust is perhaps best demonstrated with the story of Maultaschen (“gob bags”) – a pork and vegetable mix, wrapped in pasta (think giant ravioli meets Cornish pasty). During Lent, eating meat was forbidden. This was quite a hard task for a group of Swabian monks, who decided that if the meat was minced up with spinach and onion and then concealed in pasta pockets, the Lord’s eyes would not see it any more and so it would count as vegetarian!
The art of baking is not something taken lightly here in Germany. In any small village bakery you care to visit, you will be met by maybe 50 different types of bread. Bread baked with seeds and grains are particularly popular, and half-white breads are a staple. Pretzels are also beloved in this region and are often eaten at Vesper, which is a cold evening meal consisting of various breads, cold meats, cheeses and pickles. Cakes, flans and tarts tend to be creamy, fruity and not too sweet. Coffee and cakes is a traditional meal to be taken at around 3 o’clock, but usually only on special occasions such as birthdays.
Germany is of course known for its beer. Each small region often has its own brewery or two and there are hundreds upon hundreds of varieties. However, lots of visitors to southern Germany are surprised by the amount of regional wine there is on offer too. Forget the awful sweet whites that are exported to supermarkets across Europe, the red and white wines produced on the Weinberge around Stuttgart and in Baden are dry, delicate and light.
Being situated in the centre of Europe, Germany naturally has had many influences on its cuisine from other lands. Italian, French, Hungarian, Turkish and Swiss food in particular have been adopted and adapted into the culinary architecture and most Germans seem keen to try something different.
Germany is a country that really enjoys eating and which really has a different food for all occasions. There is something to suit most palettes, and always something to wash it down with! Just don’t forget to wish your fellow diners…
Einen guten Appetit!