Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Foods of Germany, Part One

Let's face it, you'd be disappointed if you were in a foreign country surrounded by the same foods you have at home. I didn't do a lot of research on the food before leaving for Germany, since I'd lived there before and was at least partially familiar with the food, but there were still surprises.

The first half focuses on restaurant food. It's image-heavy, so click to continue!

If you're searching for comfort food, you're in luck. Fast food like we think of it does exist, though the options aren't always the same.

They have some one-euro options, though not a full menu like McDonald's here does. A McChicken sandwich, for example, is $1 here, but over 3 euro there. A chicken burger, on the other hand, is 1 euro. So what is it? Basically a McChicken, but with a sweet chili sauce (like what you'd dip egg rolls into) instead of mayonnaise.

When I was researching, I kept coming across variations of the same thing: "Germany's version of fast food is  döner kebab," gyro-like Turkish food. It is sort of like fast food, in that it's cheap and everywhere, but it's not really portable, since it's kinda messy. Bakeries, on the other hand, are a much more apt comparison. They're everywhere, cheap, and the food is definitely portable.

An assortment of baked goods are always available, of course. These are the best: a schoko-croissant (above-left) and a marzipan-croissant (above-right). Croissants, muffins, donuts, and other bread products are plentiful. If you really want real food, sandwiches are available. But beware: they slather on the butter.

Different from bakeries are cafes. Bakeries are smaller, have food you can take on-the-go, but may offer sit-down space and drinks like tea. Cafes, on the other hand, are made for sitting down so  you can grab a bite of lunch or something sweet.
This is an Eis Schokolade--ice chocolate. You can describe it as either a chocolate float made with chocolate milk instead of soda, or a milkshake made with chocolate milk that was never blended together. However you choose to think of it, it is delicious and the perfect size for a mid-afternoon snack.
If you want something bigger, try a Spaghetti Eis. Ice cream cranked out to look like spaghetti noodles over whipped cream, crowned with sauce. The regular dish is actually vanilla with raspberry or strawberry sauce--therefore actually resembling the pasta dish, but you'll often find other variations of this. This chocolate one was amazing
Cafes are full of sweets that you can't get in the U.S., so don't be afraid to try something new. I never did find out what this was called (having had to fall back on the "point at something" method of ordering), but it involved chocolate, marzipan, and cake, and so was definitely worth it.

If you are not a college student and cannot, therefore, run solely on sugar and carbs, cafes vary in what kind of real-food menu they'll have, but soups are often available.
Germany and soup: they go together, married by bread. Only in this marriage the guests eat half the couple and also the minister.
 In restaurants, pizza is often available, but don't go confusing this with American pizza. It's much thinner--it'd be hard to pick it up to eat with your hands even if you were supposed to. Which you aren't: pizza is a knife-and-fork deal. Also, pepperoni doesn't exist, but the salami is a pretty good substitute.
If you want something quintessentially German, you can't go wrong with schnitzel. If possible, sprinkle lemon juice over it for added tastiness.
 Outside a restaurant or cafe, street vendors are a good source of food. The above is a currywurst with "ketchup." I was expecting the tomato-based red stuff, but German ketchup is a kind of sweet barbeque sauce. Beware!
This, on the other hand, is a brotwurst. It's tougher than the currywurst, which is sort of an oversized hot dog, and tastes much better.

As for drinks, I previously mentioned how horrendously expensive and tiny the sodas are. I resigned myself to drinking a lot of tea, which was actually similar in quantity and price but at least it's not something I ordered a lot in the U.S. so I didn't feel like I was being gypped.

Something I tried once--and only once--was a kiwi-schorle. It's kiwi, it's juice, it should be good, right?
Am I the only one who sees a skull in the bubbles? A skull with a fancy hat with a feather? No?
Actually, it wasn't all that bad, it's just that it wasn't sweetened at all. Schorle is apparently carbonated juice, but carbonated with mineral water (disgusting and unsweetened) rather than, say, Sprite. So if you don't mind mineral water, then by all means order a somethingfruit-schorle.
Sure, there were a few things I missed (affordable drinks. McDonald's hamburgers that don't have cardboard-tough buns), but all in all I think the U.S. could learn a thing or two from Germany. Especially in the area of dessert.

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