Society eats: German Society – Cherwell
Have you ever wondered where all your German friends go every Friday of the 1st week around 5pm? Why are all of their things left in the library, as if they had gone on a rushed theft? Why don’t they join you for dinner in the lobby that day? Here’s the secret: your friends disappear for cake. On this special afternoon of the quarter, many Germans in Oxford give up whatever they are doing and rush to the German Society where they are going to have their fourth unofficial meal of the day, “Kaffee und Kuchen” (eng. and cake ‘). Perhaps the most essential part of German food culture.
When most people think of the German diet, our love for cake certainly won’t be the only stereotype that comes to mind. “Why don’t you eat Bratwurst?” A friend of mine at the Oxford Christmas market asked me jokingly last year, pointing to the German food truck, which was promoting its freshly fried Bratwürste. It took me a second to figure out why I should have one: As a German I’m supposed to be an enthusiastic meat eater. As much as I would like to say that this cliché is totally wrong – it is not. German cuisine may not be all about sausage, bread, and the occasional potato, but I can’t deny that all of these are considered staples of most traditional dishes.
“So this must be what the British call bread” – I was, frankly, devastated. It was around lunchtime in my first week in Oxford and I had dreamed of freshly baked bread that smelled delicious for days. However, where I was hoping to find an abundance of different breads to choose from, I was instead faced with piles of impossibly dry sponge that seemed to consist of more holes than bread. When I left the supermarket, I really wondered if I was going to survive the next two months without “good bread”. (Spoiler: I made it and actually had some good bread at the German University Society, but more on that later.) It’s not for nothing that the famous phrase “Food, glorious food ”by Oliver Twist literally translates to“ Bread, glorious bread ”in the German version. Our country’s love for breads is phenomenal. In Germany, bread is not just food, it is an art.
The German translation of Oliver Twist’s song, by the way, does not continue with “we can’t wait to try it” but with “ham, cheese and butter”, yet another strong indicator of what our nation likes to eat. . At breakfast and dinner, a variety of bread delicacies are tasted with an even greater choice of spreads and toppings, ranging from cheese and ham to jam and honey. Dinner is most often referred to as Abendbrot (ang. Evening bread), a name that easily speaks for itself. If you ever want to try it, the German Society usually holds a very authentic one, which also saved me from my severe self-diagnosed bread deficiency in Saint-Michel (I promise there will be more spreads than the liver!).
Enough about bread now, remember the Christmas market food truck with its menu rich in sausages, giving vegetarians far from easy moments. Even though the stereotype of a meat-loving Germany is slightly exaggerated since, in fact, we consume far less meat per person than some other countries (ask Google), many traditional dishes rely on meat as an essential component. With that in mind, it might not be surprising that you can find over 1,500 different kinds of sausages in German supermarkets! Perhaps the most famous is the already mentioned Bratwürst, which is basically just a general term for any barbecued sausage. Sausages are far from the only once-living and dead items to be found on the menu of traditional restaurants. The most famous meat dish is Schnitzel. Originally from Vienna, it is a particularly flat, breaded piece of veal. Equally famous is the Schweinshaxe, a giant roast ham knuckle, and certainly not the option you should go for when you fancy a lighter meal.
You’re probably waiting for me to tell you about the potatoes, sauerkraut, and cabbage, and there they are. Most traditional German dishes (at least the meat-based ones) usually come with a few variations of these. Granted, there isn’t much you can do with sauerkraut other than, well, sauerkraut, but you’d be surprised at how many different disguises you can find on the menu. a restaurant. Kartoffelknödel (ing. Potato dumplings), Kartoffelpuffer (eng. Potato fritters), Kartoffelsalat (potato salad) and much more. Only one vegetable seems to be able to compete with our beloved potato, and that is asparagus. Ironically, despite its short season, it’s sort of a star among vegetables. From April to June, some restaurants even devote an entire menu to it!
Finally, for many people, and certainly not the least, we should not forget German beer. I’m sure you’ve seen Erdinger Weissbier or Beck’s at Sainsbury’s before, maybe you’ve even tasted them. The occasion where most beers are served each year is the world-famous Bavarian Oktoberfest, attracting around 6 million visitors. Taking place at the end of September (despite its name), it lasts two whole weeks, and results in a beer consumption of several million liters. The atmosphere is not just that of an ordinary festival, it is rather almost carnival-like. If you want to (literally) get a taste of it, the German Society usually organizes one, which is definitely worth a try!
When it comes to special occasions, don’t miss our Christmas markets. I know there are British equivalents, like the one in Oxford, but trust me when I say they cannot be compared to the German original. With charming wooden cabins, beautiful fairy lights and decorated trees, they are already pleasing to the eye. But there is also the smell of delicious Christmas food. Schmalzgebäck (ang. Fried dough) and Stollen (a very special fruit bread!) And don’t forget the Bratwürst, of course.
You might think that was it, but let me tell you the most important part is yet to come. I’m talking about the fourth unofficial meal of the day, the legendary ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ (English coffee and cake). These are the hours when cafes in Germany are overflowing with customers, bakeries are overflowing. Who doesn’t want something sweet in the afternoon? The Germans certainly do, and for most of us there is nothing that can beat a delicious slice of pie. Perhaps the most famous is Schwarzwälder Kirsch (eng. Black Forest).
See, now you know where, and most importantly why, your German friends usually disappear every Friday of the first week, and honestly can you blame them? In fact, you might even want to join them next time to learn about the mysteries of German culinary traditions. Oh cake, glorious cake!
Image Credit: German Society of the University of Oxford