Germans are sometimes a bit shy about their cuisine, which tends to be simple, rustic, and with regional ingredients. We are often made fun of for our use of potatoes, sauerkraut and sausage, and with time we just learned to keep our mouths shut.
We might not use fancy ingredients like the French, nor do we have the reputation of a life-prolonging cuisine like the Italians do, thanks to their olive oil. But we do have our own cuisine, and yes, potatoes, sauerkraut and sausage are an important part of it. Happiness often lies in the simplest things, no?
First let me say this: the per capita consumption of cabbage (including sauerkraut) in many countries, even in the USA, is much higher than in Germany. ‘Nuff said.
Now let’s talk sweets. Sadly, delicious desserts and divine pastry are not people’s first association when they think of German food. But you have no idea what amazing sweet treats you are missing out on. Admittedly, for some of them we share custody with our Austrian neighbours, but of course Germans do it better!
Who wouldn’t want to indulge in apple strudel, powdered with a thin layer of sugar, bathing in a creamy vanilla sauce; thin pancakes with thousand different sweet fillings; Black Forest cake, featuring layers of chocolate cake between tons of whipped cream with sweet cherries; or coated and deep-fried sugared apple slices. You’ve got to try one of the various sweet main dishes like Kaiserschmarrn or Scheiterhaufen (old bread marinated in milk, baked in layers in the oven with apples, cinnamon, almonds, and — in the grown-up version — with rum-marinated raisins).
While this traditional cuisine (pork aside, we also eat beef. Sometimes.) still exists, it is a remnant of the past, when people didn’t yet spent the whole day sitting in front of the computer and could use a few extra calories every now and then. There are still households and many restaurants where you can get these hearty, often meat-and-potato-loaded deliciousnesses like beef rolls, roasted pork leg or potato dumplings, but in general the new German cuisine consists of low-fat adaptions of traditional dishes, inspired by a modern lifestyle and the internationality of Germany’s population. Vegetable casserole and countless salad variations will help you to keep in shape.
There is no way to deny this, we do drink a lot of beer. We didn’t become the nation with the 3rd highest beer per capita consumption sitting on our couches sipping tea. And yes, we have some of the oldest and most famous breweries in the world like Weihenstephan, Weltenburg, Erdinger, and Beck’s. But never forget that we have amazing wines too! Due to favorable climate mostly concentrated along southwest Germany’s river valleys like Mosel and Rhine, Germany has first class wine regions to offer. Nothing can beat drinking some Riesling, or a heavy Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) directly in the vineyard where it was produced, overlooking the Rhine castles.
White sausage with a pretzel, sweet mustard and beer is a traditional dish from Bavaria. In earlier days, meat was easily perishable, so the sausages were made freshly in the morning and eaten soon after that. Derived from that is a saying that white sausages must not be allowed to hear the noon chime of the church bells. Today we have fridges, and you won’t suffer from an upset stomach if you eat your white sausage after 12. But it is still a good excuse for drinking beer for breakfast!
Nowadays, it is hard to determine what German food actually is. We have incorporated foreign food in our daily lives and adapted it to our own tastes. What would Germany be without its döner kebab shop around the corner? Or without all the pizza delivery services that save the lives of thousands of couch potatoes daily? What would the stressed office worker eat during lunch break if not Chinese fast food? Like in most other European countries, you can get whatever country cuisine your heart desires within a heartbeat in every bigger town.
Somehow contradictory to point 1, isn’t it? But let me explain. For one thing, the south, especially Bavaria, is influenced by the Austrian cuisine and all the countries that once were part of the Austrian Empire. The north is influenced by the sea and the Scandinavian cuisine. In the south you’ll find more meat on your plate, but you should not miss out on the well-seasoned, grilled fish on a stick. Travelling north, things will get a little fishy and herring will be your new travel buddy, but meatballs and salted pork leg will never be too far away.
Secondly, Germany in general is a very diverse country when it comes to landscape, culture, and language as well as cuisine. You maybe can talk about things like a Bavarian cuisine or a Hessian cuisine, but for sure not about a German one without extremely over-generalizing it. Every state, even every village has its own cuisine, its own specialities and it would take you years (and several upgrades of your pants-size) to try them all.