German Meat, Meat and More Meat by Lauren
I’ve always had the travel bug. I can’t seem to sit still…like ever. I like to GO,GO,GO,DO,DO,DO. We’ve had a holiday planned to go back to the U.S. and see my family at The Compound in Dallas since November. I’ve since gotten booked on a job that interferes with these plans. So our vacation pushed back till March, I was really starting to get itchy feet to go somewhere. I mean, I live in Europe now for christ’s sake, we should be exploring! Cheap flights abound, and an hour on a plane you are in a completely different culture, different language, different history, different food.
We decided on a 4 day trip to Berlin, a city both of us have been wanting to go. Even though it’s probably going to be colder than Amsterdam (and I’m pretty much dying for warm sun and a margarita). It’s a city that really has it all. Intriguing history, thriving art scene, world-class museums, interesting architecture, vibrant nightlife, heart-stopping cuisine.
We hit the ground running with a 4hr hour Berlin walking tour. But in order to fuel up, we tackle our first German meal. Figuring when in Rome, (or Berlin as the case may be) I silently surrender to eating pretty much nothing but meat for the next 4 days. Although Germany isn’t particularly known for their cuisine, my mom reminds me of all meat products I need to tick off the list: Duck, Wiener Snitzel, Bratwurst, etc. As their vegetable crops contain mostly potato and cabbage, getting something green (besides lettuce) this vacation might be challenging
I start with German Boulettes, which is a meat patty with consistency somewhere between a hamburger and a meatball and served with different sauces. I had mine with “gypsy” sauce (no idea why it was called that, when it was a mix of tomatoes, onions, and paprikas), and pomme frites. Filling and delicious we set off to learn about Berlin.
Our walking tour gave us a great overview of the city, and concentrated mostly in East Berlin where most of the history and landmarks are located. The Lustgarten is haunted by the scene of Hitler booming propaganda to the German people surrounded by swastika flags as a pre-war cry. At the remaining of the Berlin wall, which was erected overnight in 1961 and not torn down until 1989, we hear stories of each unique escape attempt, many ending in being shot to death by guards. An eerieness blows through the barren trees as we stand on top of the site of Hitler’s bunker where he spent his last few days, married his mistress and on their honeymoon they both committed suicide. At twilight we enter the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, a massive city block of hard-edged concrete cubes of varying sizes, resembling gravestones, forming a sort of cold sinister maze. History lingers at every corner and we are sponges soaking it up.
Stefan finds it somewhat ironic and funny that he’s taking a Jew to Berlin. After all, Ik ben een jood. (I am a Jew). And I know some Jews shy away from going to the country that came up with the “solution to the Jewish question” with the idea of extermination. As a Polish-Russian Jew, having lost family members in the war, I embrace visiting Germany, because we need to remember. Because as humanity, we constantly forget, it’s easy to go back to our normal lives, and move on. So first on our Jew Day hit list is the Topography of Terror, a museum on the site of what used to be the Gestapo Headquarters. This extensive historical museum is overflowing with old photographs, newspaper articles, and minutes from SS & Gestapo meetings. It’s shocking to see the signed papers by key Nazi leaders for the A-OK to eradicate 11 million Jews. Needing some fresh air and a snack before we head over to the contrasting Jewish Museum, we stop for a snack. Known for their “curry wurst” this strange sausage concoction is as famous as the Hot Dog is to NYC street vendors. At Checkpoint Curry, I happily order the “Berliner” and the attendant grabs a meaty link, generously sprinkles curry powder up and down the sausage, and then to my surprise, cuts it up in bite size slices before drowning the entire thing in ketchup. Definitely skeptical, I take a bite and it’s exceptional, exceeding any of my (ok, low) expectations. The curry wurst reminds me of my favorite foods in the world the White Trash “pigs in the blanket” which I always ate with ketchup (a trait I picked up from my father) while the rest of the world loves mustard. But here in Berlin, apparently, I am considered normal! Hurrah! Finally!
Luckily Stefan likes to sightsee like me, essentially pounding the pavement for about 12hrs a day, taking in sites like the TV Tower but mixing it with cocktails at the top at 368 meters (1027ft).
Or hitting Europe’s largest department store – Ka De We – where the top floor is a dedicated gourmet food court. Each booth not only selling mouth-watering expensive artisanal foods, but pull up a stool to order fresh meals with these products. After tough decision between the tender meat, chicken stand, iced seafood, or colorful salad bars, we decide on what other, but the meat vendor. For my last meal and not yet having had any wiener schnitzel, I decide on a variation made of two thin patties of pork dipped in egg and cheese, and pair it with typical German Spatzle, a flour and egg noodle side dish.
Although I left Germany about 3 kilos heavier than when I came, we absolutely loved Berlin and think it would be even more amazing to visit in the summer when the beer gardens are full of bubbling locals clinking glasses in the sunshine. This “Poor But Sexy” city (Berlin is essentially bankrupt, and high unemployment) is one I could actually live in.
German Spatzle from All Recipes:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 pinch freshly ground white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 gallon hot water
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Mix together flour, salt, white pepper, and nutmeg. Beat eggs well, and add alternately with the milk to the dry ingredients. Mix until smooth.
- Press dough through spaetzle maker, or a large holed sieve or metal grater.
- Drop a few at a time into simmering liquid. Cook 5 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
- Saute cooked spaetzle in butter or margarine. Sprinkle chopped fresh parsley on top, and serve.