Food preferences in Germany aren’t universal. In areas closer to the French border, noodles are popular, as well as snails and quiche-like tarts. Wine is used instead of vinegar in sauces and marinades. In areas closer to the eastern Europe borders, people make more use of items such as caraway, paprika, vinegar, and dumplings.
Schleswig-Holstein uses a lot of butter, cream and eggs, because of Danish influences (which it’s near to and in fact used to belong to.) Fish is more popular in northern areas with access to the sea: in Hamburg, for instance, eel is eaten. Southern Germany prefers wheat bread; the north prefers dark rye.
What has changed now about regional food, however, is that whereas you used to be about to get the traditional regional foods only in their home areas, now you can get them throughout Germany.
In general, though, it is a meat-and-potato cuisine, with the popular cooking techniques being braising and stewing. The main sources of dietary starch are bread, potatoes, dumplings, and noodles. Sauces are thickened with flour, sour cream or egg yolks.
Popular vegetables remain potatoes and cabbage. Root vegetables were traditionally important, such as carrots, celery root, parsnips, turnip, onions, and leeks. Salsify used to be a favourite as well, but people were fed so much of it during the Second World War that it became and remains wildly unpopular.
As of 2006, Germany has 2,500 public food inspectors.
Beverages in Germany
Coffee is very popular; teas can be either black teas or herbal teas.
Both beer and wine are popular alcohols; the preferences in beer taste are highly localized . In most places, though, beer is served refrigerator temperature.
Most tapwater in Germany is groundwater. It is almost never drunk, though. Germans prefer bottled water to tap water owing to lingering suspicions from the old days when water pipes were made of lead. So, for instance, you will see almost no public water fountains.
On the whole, tap water quality in Germany is not a Federal jurisdiction, rather the jurisdiction belongs to the individual States (“Länder”.) Still, there are some Federal and EU standards that, combined with those of the individual States, actually end up setting higher standards for tap water than are set for bottled waters.
Even if they were aware of this, though, Germans would still prefer bottled water over tap water, because they also prefer carbonated water over still water (“stilles Wasser”) — and you can’t get carbonated water out of a tap. However, as people realized that some brands of artificially-carbonated popular waters that they were buying were just German tap water that had been carbonated, counter-top carbonating machines for home use started to become popular. As of 2006, 25% of homes in Germany had such a device, allowing them to use CO2-cylinders to carbonate their own tap water at far lower cost, and without bottles to heave home from the store.
In 1996, Munich, which draws its tap water from the alps, began an advertising campaign to promote the quality of its tap water for drinking to its citizens. They even released a mineral analysis of the water, comparing it favourably to bottled mineral waters that people were paying for.
German’s don’t care for iced drinks. They feel that they aren’t healthy, and they will argue that they don’t actually cool you down in warm weather — they think warmer drinks work better at cooling you down. And, whereas North Americans feel “ripped off” if they don’t get enough ice, Germans feel ripped off if they do, because ice is the cheapest part of the drink — they feel that ice dilutes the beverage. They also have lingering doubts about the quality of the ice if it was made from tap water. At some fast food places now such as McDonald’s, you might get 2 ice cubes (which no doubt leaves North Americans feeling ripped off.) Some North Americans consequently have joked, “Why don’t they make ice cubes anymore in Germany? — because they lost the recipe.”
Dairy in Germany
Margarine was never banned, as it was in some countries such as Canada. There was, though, a divide between those who thought it was beneath them, and those who thought it was a healthier choice than butter. Adolf Hitler would only eat margarine. Margarine became more important for everyone, though, during the two 20th wars — at least for a short time until it too, like butter, was rationed. The first ad on radio in Germany was for margarine.
Eating Out in Germany
Germany produces a large number of professional, demanding chefs and as of 2006, at least 100 restaurants in Germany had at least 1 Michelin star. As in other northern cultures, however, there’s a wide gulf between everyday home cooking and its haute-cuisine. Some Germans blame the gulf on America — that haute-cuisine might have trickled down to the masses, had America not invented fast food. This is something richer middle-class people everywhere might say, however, not realizing that, historically, workers, whether agricultural or industrial, have had to eat fast food on the go while working and particularly in Protestant countries, where one ate a quick bit of food in order to return to work faster. In any event, the most popular fast foods — such as currywurst and sausages — are uniquely German.
British cooking shows such as Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef (translated into German, minus Jamie’s phrases such as “easy peasy” and “Johnnies”) have become very popular. Celebrity chefs include Tim Mälzer, Marcel Biró, Rolf Zacherl, Alfred Biolek, Rainer Sass, Sarah Wiener and Johann Lafer (the latter two from Austria.)
Turkish restaurants are everywhere now in Berlin and in the rest of Germany; you can also find French, Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese and Thai restaurants.
All major fast food chains are present in Germany, as of 2006: Burger King, McDonald’s, and Pizza Hut. There are also a few Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets scattered throughout the country.
A great deal of the fast food consumed, though, is sold from Imbissstands (aka Imbissbude, Würstelstand, Schnellimbiss, Imbiß.) The food stand can be in a building or free-standing in a mobile trailer. The food stand may provide tall tables outside, but only for standing at — if you provide seating for eating, by law you must then also provide toilet facilities, unless it’s at a special event where the condition is waived because toilets are elsewhere. The food is served on paper or plastic plates with disposable plastic cutlery.
The stands sell sausages (such as Bockwurst, Bratwurst or Krakauer) either on a bun, or with a bun or a piece of bread on the side. As well, they sell currywurst, pizza, Döner Kebabs, stuffed rolls, half a roasted chicken with fries, meatballs etc.
Chips (aka French Fries for North Americans) are usually served with mayonnaise, or ketchup, if you wish, but you have to pay extra for either at these fast-food stands. Chips with both mayonnaise and ketchup are called “red-white chips” (“Pommes Rot-Weiss”.) You can only get vinegar for your chips in Irish-style pubs.
For drinks, the stands will sell beer or soft-drinks.
Some feel that the best and most famous Imbiß is Konnopke’s in Schönhauser Allee at Eberswalder Strasse station in east Berlin, which was started in 1930. In 2002, though, Witty’s (in Wittenbergplatz) was awarded the “Prix du FOODING 2002 du meilleure curry wurst.” The “best”, though, really just depends who you talk to — allegiances vary. Some fans, including many taxi drivers, swear by Krasselt’s Imbiss on Steglitzer Damm in Berlin.
Germans like sweet and sour or savoury and sour combinations. Sweet side relishes are popular; the sourness of sauerkraut on the side is very traditional in winter.
The main flavourings used are black pepper, caraway, cardamom, dill, juniper, marjoram, onion, paprika, parsley, rosemary, thyme, vinegar, and white pepper.
Smokey bacon (“fetter Speck”) is used as a flavouring agent in savoury dishes. Souring agents used include lemon juice, pickle juice, and vinegar.
Meats and fish are often marinated in something sour.
Breakfast is coffee or tea, and bread rolls or toast. On the bread, you might put marmalade, butter, nutella or slices of cheese or cold cuts. Sometimes, a cereal such as muesli or boiled eggs are eaten as well.
Lunch was traditionally the big meal. It still is, with older people, and in homes where the mother is home during the day to cook it. But now some people are changing to accommodate modern working schedules, and for them the big meal is becoming dinner instead. Dinner traditionally was just cold foods. Now, for those getting home from work around 6 to 8 pm, it is more likely to be what they would have had for lunch: soup, meat and veg, and something sweet after the meal. Meat and the side courses are served together on the same plate.
If people go out for dinner in restaurants, usually they eat between 7 and 8 pm.
Fancy desserts are served on their own, not as “dessert” after a meal. On Sundays, in the afternoon, coffee and cake is served.
Meat in Germany
The most popular meat in Germany is pork, with beef and chicken now coming close.
Sausages are particularly popular still. Sausage use is governed by a German law called the “Hackfleischverordnung.” It states that raw (non-cured) sausages must be used on the day they are made (or if they are made in a restaurant that closes at 1 or 2 am the next day, by then), or frozen and used within 6 months.
Game is often marinated in buttermilk, vinegar and lemon juice, and sometimes served with a fruit compote or a jelly such as red-currant jelly. Pork is often served with sweet sauces.
A tainted-meat scandal broke out in September 2006 over out-of-date meat, largely centred in Bavaria.
Only a small portion of what is now Germany was Roman for any period of time (about 300 years.) The parts were east to the Rhine, and north to the Danube. This included cities such as Aachen (Aquisgranum), Cologne (Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium), Trier (Augusta Treverorum), Mainz (Moguntiacum), Worms (Augusta Vangionum or Vormatia) and Speyer (Noviomagus or Nemetum). The portion of Germany that was Roman, however, was successfully and solidly integrated into Rome. Some of the most intact Roman buildings in the world are still found in cities such as Trier. The Romans introduced vines in their eastern side of the Rhineland; the western side of the Rhine remained in “barbarian” hands.
In 1781, the beer brewers complained that coffee drinking was cutting in on their business. Consequently, Frederick the Great forbade coffee bean roasting, and even had government inspectors go around sniffing out where beans were being roasted.
Germany led the way in both commercial preserved foods, and in new commercially processed oils for the consumer market. Palm oil started to be imported after the Napoleonic wars. At first it was used only industrially, as it has a high acid content of 15 to 20 %. By the 1850s, though, oil producers in Hamburg, Germany had figured out how to reduce its acid content so that it could be used as food. It was a Hamburg firm as well that began importing dried coconut for processing into a food-grade oil.
By the 1850s, the German cities of Braunschweig and Lübeck were major centres for processed food.
Germany struggled to feed its population during World War One. Like other nations, it was unprepared for how long the war would go on, and it had neither the empire that Great Britain did to feed it, nor the vast agricultural plains of the United States. The food shortages hampered even everyday work.
In Germany, wheat consumption didn’t top rye consumption until after World War Two. But by 1975, Germans ate three times as much wheat as rye.
Potatoes were accepted more quickly in northern Germany than southern. By 1900, Germans were eating 600 pounds of potatoes per year per head. By the end of the 1900s, though, this number had fallen back down again, by half.
A well-known agricultural research institute is the “Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institute for Breeding Research”, founded in 1928 by Erwin Baur in Müncheberg, with its first focus on fruits. Work was interrupted during the Second World War, which also caused the loss of irreplaceable breeding stock, but recommenced in 1945.
Pounds of meat consumed per capita per year. Comparing Germany, France and England
|Just prior to French Revolution||2 oz a day|
|1855||< 44 pounds||> 66 pounds|
|1899||104 pounds (55 pounds of this was pork)|
|1913||99 pounds||105 pounds|
|1938||127 pounds||130 pounds|
|1950||81pounds (44 pounds of this was pork)|
|1975||187 pounds (99 pounds of this was pork)|
Egg Consumption, Germany per capita per week
|2000||5 ½ eggs|
Modern food milestones in Germany
- 1934 – Kraft set up operations in Germany
- 1961 – Philadelphia Cream Cheese arrived in Germany
- 1966 – Ritz crackers arrived in Germany
- 1971 – first McDonald’s in Germany opened at Martin-Luther-Straße 26 in Munich-Giesing, on 4 December 1971. A McDonald’s is still operating at the same location (as of 2006).
- 1983 – Pizza Hut arrived in Germany
Henderson, John. Chewing the fat? Not in Germany. Denver, Colarado: The Denver Post. 21 June 2006.
Hunter. Neil. Forget the “Mett”, Try a “Frikadelle”. Hamburg , Germany: Spiegel Magazine. 29 March 2006. Retrieved April 2006 from http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,408475,00.html.
Siebeck, Wolfgang. Would you like cabbage with your dumplings? Manchester, England: The Guardian. 23 May 2006.
Official: Meat Scandal Thus Far “Tip of the Iceberg”. Bonn, Germany: Deutsche-Welle News. 16 September 2006.