Germany has a long-standing culture with countless diverse and unique festivals spread across the country's territory, as well as a special and attractive cuisine. To better understand the German cuisine and eating habits, don't miss any details of the article below.
Food always plays an essential role in German culture. Even a famous German fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel, involves food. Two brothers Hansel and Gretel discovered a house in the forest made of gingerbread and candy. King Frederick II (King Frederick the Great, 1712-1786) introduced potatoes, an indispensable dish in the German diet. He gave residents seed potato’ seeds and taught them to grow these seeds.
Frederick II inspects his land and talks to the potato grower
But war doubly caused food shortages and hardships throughout the twentieth century. After Germany was defeated in World War I (1914-1918), food became scarce and soldiers gradually starved to death. After World War II (1939-1945), even less food was available in the country, but this time those nations which defeated Germany, including the United States, helped Germany to rebuild the country.
In 1949, after World War II, Germany was divided into East Germany and West Germany. This division causes the two distinct halves of the country to develop distinct cooking styles.
- East Germany, closely associated with neighboring Russia, has a Russian-like cooking style.
- West Germany continues the traditional German dishes.
Northern and Southern Germany cooks differently. In the North, restaurants in Hamburg and Berlin are famous for their aalsuppe (eel soup), eintopf (seafood stew) and weissebohnensuppe (white bean soup). In the center of the country, breads and cereals made from buckwheat and rye flour are German favorite dishes, the other one is birnen, bohnen und speck (pear, chickpeas, and bacon). There is an area near the Netherlands known as Wesphalia that is well-known for its spargel (asparagus), especially white asparagus, and pumpernickel bread. And throughout Germany, westphalia ham, served with spicy mustard, is considered as a popular dish.
Eel soup ( Aalsuppe) in Hamburg
Frankfurt to the south, is home to a kind of sausage called Wüstchen. This sausage is similar to the American hotdot, sometimes called "Frankfurter" of Germany. In the south, a mysterious dish called Himmel und Erde (Heaven and Earth) combines potatoes and apples with onions and bacon. The southern region of Bavaria is famous for its rugged mountains and Black Forest. Black Forest cherry pie, as well as Kirschwasser, are two famous local brands of this area. Spätzle (small dumplings) is a version of KNODEL (potato dumplings) in the North. Lebkuchen is a spicy cookie specially prepared for the Christmas season.
Himmel und Erde (Heaven and Earth)
Germans tend to eat their fill including meat and bread. Potatoes are a staple food, and each region has its own way of cooking them. Some Germans eat potatoes with pears, bacon, and beans. Others cook a special stew called Pichelsteiner, made of three types of meat and potatoes. In Berlin, people eat potatoes with bacon and spicy sausages. Sauerbraten is a grilled pork, beef, or veal dish that is popular throughout Germany, and the flavor varies depending on different regions. In the Rhine region, this dish is flavored with raisins, but is often cooked with a variety of savory spices and vinegar. Fruit (instead of vegetables) is often paired with meat dishes to add a sweet-sour flavor to a meal. In Germany, desserts made from apples are very popular.
Knödel, or dumplings, are accompaniments to many meals especially in the north. In the south, the small version spätzle is more common. Knödel can be cooked with mashed potatoes or bread (or both), and then boiled or fried. Germans eat bread in every meal, with rye, pumpernickel. Sourdough bread is more popular than white bread. Soft biscuits can be found almost anywhere.
When eating in Germany, it is polite to keep your hands on the table, but your elbows should not rest on the table. It is considered impolite to “leave” food on your plate. Waiters can ask for 5-10% tips. Another type of restaurant is the bierhall, which is usually served Bratwurst and beer.
Breakfast, or Früstück, consists of jam, cheese, eggs and meat. Coffee or tea can also be served. Zweitesfrüstück is a mid-morning snack at work or in school. These can be belegtesbrot (black bread), a small burger or cheese, and fruit.
The main German meal, Mittagessen, is around noon or sometimes later at 2pm. Meals almost always begin with suppe (soup), and some of the items below (see the following menu).
Rollmops (herring roll fillet)
Königsbergerklopse (meatballs with cream sauce)
Armerritter (French German Toast)
Cheese and crackers Cookies with coffee
In the afternoon, Kaffee (a snack with coffee) is usually served with cakes.
Abendbrot (dinner, literally "evening bread") is a lighter meal than lunch, usually a sandwich with ham and cheese, served with coleslaw or fruit. . Cookies and candy are always included, especially for children, at any time of the day.
Oktoberfest is a festival occuring in October in Germany. In other areas, this festival is held in the last week of September in Munich, late summer or early fall in the United States. Many cities hold Oktoberfests to celebrate German culture, especially German beer. At the German Oktoberfest, the traditional beer is decorated into a large stone tower called the Bier Stein (Stein beer). Germany has more than 1,200 breweries, making over 5,000 different types of beers.
During Christmas, honey cakes called Lebkuchen are baked in square, heart, crescent, or little bear moulds and decorated with cherubs (angels) and bells. About 5 to 7 small cakes are tied together with a ribbon and given to a young girl, then she will hand them to a boy that she chooses on Christmas Day. Springerle (cookies), marzipan, and Stollen (a coffee cake with candies and dried fruit) are also popular Christmas desserts. Along with cookies, Germans drink Glühwein, a hot wine. The favorite drink of teenagers is Apfelschörle, a fruit juice. A traditional Christmas dinner would include roast goose with vegetables and Kartoffelknödeln (potato dumplings).
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