Sunday, April 11, 2010

Curry Wurst

I have a confession. It is probably something I do almost every morning, as normal as some open their newspapers with a cup of coffee. In fact, I don’t even think I have ever really admitted it to anyone, so consider it an acknowledgment to a guilty pleasure. After checking some emails, I open my googlereader, my stream of subscribed blogs, and check what is new. My confession: a large portion of them are food blogs. I have already posted a clip from Anthony Bordaine, one of my favorite TV personalities, under my Berlin clips, and that may have been a clue.

Another blog that I read often is David Lebovitz, an American covering the sweet life living in Paris, France. Both, amongst the other bloggers that combine their love for travel and food together [ are they even separable?], tell a story of their cultural run ins, or new experiences, and the texts are lined with incredible table panoramas or still shots of palate tempting entrées or ingredients that document the daily lives of the people that use them. When I read these types of blogs, I wish I could capture the scene as well as they do – a skill proving that the taste buds can share just as much about a capital city as the sights and sounds of the people and architecture.

Paraphrasing from Bordain’s travels to Berlin, Germany as a whole, collaborated from all of its small lands and cultures bound together, has created a cuisine that makes thick pork cutlets and sausages, sided with krauts, potatoes and hearty breads [ soaked down by beer ] all refined tastes. Is that all the modern German diet consists of? Of course not, but some echt deutsches Essen sure tastes good. [ If I made the same sentence showcasing America, at least from the German perspective, we savor thick doughy pizza, a burger and fries, extra salt, a dense brownie downed by a coke – I guess the brown German cuisine gets the last laugh].

[ Kölsch in the round ]

Before I go on, however, in defense of American food – yes, American cuisine exists – the cookbook Inge gave me for Christmas is actually a challenge, because the ingredients range over the entire world – asian and indian spices, recipes from Jewish, Native American, Italian families to name a few. This is in addition to the regional fare that complements these flavors – one recipe calls for alligator… I can’t even get that in Michigan. So side by side with the stereotypical bold, overpowering indulgences, there are American dishes that showcase the Multikulti – to use German slang – land that America really is, and that once again uses food to develop an idea about a people.

[ Apfel Shorle - simple enough, but becoming the perfect beverage once again as the weather is warming up. In the Winter, take a Glühwein to warm you up ]

As I was in Berlin, as a perfect coincidence, David Lebovitz had just posted his observations from his subsequent trip to the German capital. The timing was perfect. Some of his photos were commonplace to me – Volkorn wholegrain breads, ok. Milchkaffee everywhere, ok. Shops with Wursts hanging like garland, ok… I had seen this all – and that is probably what I needed. I needed to see Germany again from the perspective I had months ago, when the concept of a bakery on every street was WOW! [ a detail I may have buried into my subconscious because it is a direct acknowledgement to Germans that we fare off bread they only would give to the geese in the park…].

Germany has a lot of pride in its food. Each small dorf may have its regional wurst, aged for months, making them all look the same, but there is still a regional pride for tradition that I find exciting. Germany also has pride in its diverse diet representing the crossroads in Europe that is represents with northern fresh fish, Western influence of rich French and Belgian fare, to hearty mountain specialties of the southern alps. Half of the adventure is seeing how the languages of Germany’s neighbors influenced the names of food, or vice versa [ an entirely different topic that probably could only fascinate me and maybe Galina]. For example, the other day, Inge made a special dessert called Crème Bavaroise [ Bava WAZZZZ as Andreas and I would respond to Inge’s immediate correction of our blasphemous French diction for this Bavarian dessert. ] Bavarian? Or is it French – why don’t we just call it Bayrischekrem – ah, your right… the French sounds better.

Reading David Lebovitz’s post had me excited again to reacquaint myself with the new tastes that Germany had to offer – ok, we all know I have been tasting – at least understanding what the tradition was and the story of some of the foods that I had been enjoying.

Take the story of the Curry Wurst [ I think it is one of the most difficult words in the German language – the u & r combo of both words evolves into some cluster of alliteration in my throat that was invented as a right of passage for Germans to know who is a native speaker]. Is it a pretty food? No. But I have heard of this famed snack food the entire year, and it has taken me months to finally try it.

I was in Berlin at the perfect time and was able to go find a metro train station stand – usually cornered under a bridge in a little greasy imbiss, clustered by people wanting their order of the Berlin classic. The imbiss is Germany’s way of making fun of Americans that we have too many fast food joints, but retaining the guilty pleasure that is not-healthy-for-you-but-oh-so-good-at-one-AM fast food. Usually the Imbiss is a Turkish stand selling Döner Kebabs, or an asian place with a box of noodles creatively called ein Nudelnbox.

The Curry Wurst isn’t foreign – even though no one knows its origins. It is simple – a sausage with the casing crispy and cracked from being fried, then dices into pieces topped with curried ketchup and more curry sauce, then glamorously eaten with a little plastic toothpick fork. Sound unsophisticated? Tell that to the crowds of people from T-shirts and jeans side by side with leather black shoes and high heeled business workers inhaling their midday snack. It tastes great, but it has to be the entire experience that makes the Berlin Curry Wurst the institution that it is – there is even a museum for this dish in the city! The little Imbisses, may not have loud signs out front, but the cluster of people, eating with toothpicks standing around little tables in it unglorified greatness amongst the unique bustle that is Berlin is the whole picture. The one where I stopped in with a co worker is known for the most expensive in all of Berlin – a normal curry wurst, along with Champagne making the bill over 200 Euros.

[ Getting together with friends and cooking up a big German meal has always been fun this year as well ]

Stopping at the Curry Wurst stand was another perfect experience of being in Berlin. It demonstrated the fun of walking into a restaraunt or Imbiss bar and, amongst the crowd of people, watching the food be prepared and seeing what was new and foreign about it. This may not be Japan or France, where the photogenic food makes one want to take endless photos of their food before finally enjoying it, but Germany's brown, hefty cousin sure makes up for its awkward modeling abilities on camera with a great, hearty taste.

1 comment:

  1. soo...given that you read all these food blogs and given that i now read david lebovitz religiously, any recommendations? send me some links!!!