I have a cookbook from Michigan, America. It contains a selection of recipes collected by parents for their school cookbook. My aunt contributed to it and dutifully bought lots of copies of it herself to give away to all her relatives.
Admittedly I only use it to look up her cookie recipe, but recently while leafing through it, I stopped every time I saw a german dish like “Rouladen”, Stuffed Cabbage (Kohlrouladen), Marble Cake (Marmorkuchen), Torte (well it said Torte, although I think a Germans would call it a Streuselkuchen) and wondered where the contributors got these recipes. Where they family heirlooms and pointed to a german heritage? It is hard to imagine that somebody would use them otherwise. They somehow don´t fit in the trend of “let´s try something different like greek or italian or chinese”. Can you imagine anybody saying “Gee, there is this fantastic German restaurant around the corner. They have Rouladen to dream of. I wish I knew how to cook those.”
Nah, can´t imagine it.
Yet, when I grew up I loved going to eat at my friends houses. I was used to my mother´s cooking, which was a mix of italian, english and american fare. We had two warm meals per day, while my german friends had a warm lunch, but a “Brotzeit” in the evening, which meant sandwich meat (sausage) on dark bread.
While my friends went wild over my Mum´s Spaghetti al Tonno I wanted to get some of that Lentil soup with a shot of vinegar at their house or enjoy the “Bienenstich”, a cake coverend in almonds, honey and cream. And I got the chance quite often, as my best friend lived close to school and I did not. In those days school canteens were non-existent, students younger than 15 rarely went to school in the afternoons. All this is changing now, but then I was stuck everytime there was a break before my rare afternoon classes.
I tried bringing soup in a thermos and went alone in an unheated “Aufenthaltsraum” (day room), because the school didn´t realize that there was a student who would actually use the room. When my friend´s mother heard, she wouldn´t have it. I had to spend my breaks at their house from then onwards and I was glad.
Another friend asked me over for a Brotzeit. I love dark german bread, so that was fine by me. What suprised me though was that they did not offer me anything to drink until after dinner. The sandwich meat is quite salty and heavy and together with the dark bread I became very thirsty. It does have the effect that you have to chew longer. Many part-time dieters will recognize this method of reducing the amount you eat. It did not seem to work for the father of my friend then, but that might have something to do with the beer he would consume before Lunch on a Sunday.
Apart from the chewing, german cooking or eating habits seem to be less suitable for dieting purposes. The food is very rich and heavy. The meat dishes of my youth were covered abundantly in sauces, salads swimming in mayonnaise were the norm and if you went to one of the really German restaurants, like the Schnitzel Farm in Eberstadt, you had to bring a LARGE appetite to finish their enormous portions. Anything but meat dishes was hard to find.
Fortunately this has changed. Most times you will find a good offer in salads (just watch out for the sauces!) even in the most traditional places. I don´t know if the Schnitzelfarm still exists and I don´t feel the urge to go there. I would like some of that Lentil soup with vinegar again though. Must be my german heritage showing through.
Mmmmhh. May be time to call on some old friends.