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Feb 21, 2008 08:50 PM

what do Germans eat?

I'm sure not every German eats the same thing, but...I'm curious. Aside from the stuff Americans think of as German, or things I've seen on the Food Network, but if that's all went by, I would think everyone had beer for breakfast, sausage for lunch...for example, do more people drink coffee in the morning, or tea? Big hot breakfasts, or small, like the French? What's a typical workday lunch?

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  1. Hmm. As you suggest, I'm sure there isn't any one answer. But as my non-representative case study, I will say that my sister's German / Swiss boyfriend does, indeed, eat a lot of meat (different varieties of wurst and cold cuts) and potatoes (rosti, boiled). He generally eats a roll with cheese and deli meat for breakfast, with hot coffee. He drinks cold coffee all throughout the day (ugh). He makes great spaetzle for dinner, served up with bitter German pale ale and more cheese. And he downs grilled steaks / burgers like a champ. I've seen him eat vegetables maybe twice in my life, and then, it was only to be polite. I'm surprised he hasn't died of scurvy.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cimui

      My fav...spaetzle! with braised pork , kraut, and brown gravy!

    2. Watch Bourdain's No Reservations Berlin when it comes back around on reruns.

      I lived there for 3 years in the 1970's, in a small town in the Black Forest - my landlord was a Baker and the Metzger (butcher) was across the street. The local vegetable/canned goods place was a couple of blocks down the street. The refrigerators were half-size compared to ours, but everybody pretty much went shopping every day. We all walked to the stores, carrying small bags (they never had paper or plastic bags, just expected you to have your own).

      Coffee, definitely, rather than tea. The beer usually started with lunch. The local brewery delivered beer the same way that milk used to be delivered here. You would leave the empties out on the steps, and in the morning, you'd have fresh beer! Breakfast was continental plus - plus fish, (herring, smoked salmon or trout), plus cold cuts, but not usually bacon or sausage. Cereals and fruits with yogurt was common.

      Lunches were like ours - could be anything from a sandwich to a small salad (klein salat - a mixture of pickled vegetables), to a hot meal. I think my friends enjoyed most, buying a schnitzel-brot and a beer from the roadside trailers - the equivalent of fast food before Germany was totally invaded by our fast foods. The Germans made a medium-hard crust, airy crumb rolls called brotchen, about half the length of our sub rolls, and it could have a small cutlet (veal or pork) in it (schnitzel-brot), or pickled herring (herrings-brot) and just about anything else.

      Supper was the big hot meal - a nice schwein mit kraut, sauerbrauten, or a rost beef - certainly schnitzels, wursts, rolladen. Lots of boiled potatoes, vegetables. Nice slabs of bauernbrot (hearty rye bread). Lots of spatzle (a cross between dumplings and egg noodles).

      Of course, I remember the nights - going to the local ratskeller or club. The foods there were some of my favorites: Schinken brot - a slice of the bauernbrot with thin sliced schwarzwald schinken; Schmalz brot - the same bread with a spread of rendered goose fat with bits of crunchy onions and skins (grebenes!); and a hearty gulasch soupe, with lots of meat chunks.

      Our town (Hofen) was on the Enz river, and there was a fiorellen (trout) fishery built into the side of a hill that had a creek running into the river. You could select the trout you wanted from one of the pools dug into the hillside, they would net it, bonk it over the head with a club, clean it and you could take it with you, or they would cook it up for you right there on their grill in some foil (with their own seasonings). You could sit by the creek, eating trout after trout and drinking some of the best lager ever from the local brewery.

      We would go to a festival - the xmas festivals were best - marketplaces full of little tents with sellers of everything form xmas ornaments to hand-made crafts. But the thing was the food - even if you bought nothing, you could buy some gluhwein (hot mulled wine), buy a curry wurst, or any of a dozen kinds of wursts with rolls or on a stick, or maybe a brotchen with smoked trout... walk around, freezing to death, but being kept warm by the hot wine. There was a weinachtsmarkt in virtually every city - the biggest of all was in Nuremburg.

      Here's a few of good sites for German food:

      3 Replies
      1. re: applehome

        Here's another source for wurst, etc. for Bay Area folks:

        1. re: applehome

          I was stationed in Nuremburg at William O'Darby Kaserne in 1979, and I was sponsored by a German family throughout my time there. Most foods I always loved was saurkraut and brats, and german potatoes. Mornings were as what was described for breakfasts: Continental with lots of cheeses, breads, and heavy dark rich coffee. My favorite food was 1/2 hanchen, which is 1/2 side of chicken on rotisseri, and their form of calzones. We had a bread factory and every morning at 4:00am, with the windows open, we could smell it in the barracks. That was always our wake up call. I also learned about calamari/squid in Germany and I loved it there. So whenever I get the chance here, I will have it.

          1. I think both cimui and applehome got it right. I lived in Germany for a year doing a Study abroad in college (1998) and lived with a family for a month in 1994. We ate Brotchen (beautiful little hard rolls you bought daily from the local baker) for breakfast, covered in butter and then topped with either cheese slices (butterkase usually) or cold meats. The also did butter and jam, and sometimes we had Musli but with yogurt, not milk. We drank juice, but they diluted it 50% with carbonated water - they thought it was too sweet straight. And nice, strong, black coffee. Lunch was a sandwich of the same stuff from breakfast, but maybe on sliced Bauernbrot, a dense, brown bread. For dinner there were often "Wurst" - a million kinds of sausages either boiled or grilled. Lots of boiled or roasted potatoes, but new potatoes, not russets. Not much in the vegetable department, as the others mentioned. I think cucumber salad was about the only salad I saw that year. And "steak"...pork steak, beef steak, any kind of meat steak. And never any further clarification beyond "steak". They were always grissly pieces of meat, unlike the beautiful fillets we eat here. Often smothered in sauces too. But they're not kidding when they say meat & potatoes. I once had Raclette at a party, which is a special cheese you put in these little mini pans with choped meats and veggies, then slide into a little oven to melt. I think this might be the German version of fondue - or actually, maybe this is Austrian? I've seen raclette cheese at Whole Foods, but it's stinky stuff and I've never found a use for it without the special oven. Oh - pretzels!! There are pretzel stands everywhere with these amazing soft pretzels!
            As far as a workday lunch, when I worked for a German company, the HQ had a cafeteria with hot food every day. They also had beer in the vending machines at work. It's no unacceptable to have a beer with lunch at work - in fact, it's cheaper than soda.
            And since applehome mentioned the Weihnachtsfest, I have to bring up Gluhwein, which translates to "glowing wine". It's hot, spiced red wine mixed with a little fruit juice that you drink to stay warm at these outdoor Christmas festivals. It's awesome! I've tried to make it at home, but it's just not the same.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jboeke

              Raclette is Swiss/French, actually, but popular pretty much everywhere. See this recent thread:

            2. I also lived in Germany for a couple of years in the '70s and agree with applehome. I especially remember brotchen for breakfast, with cheese, cold cuts, and jam. I was most intrigued by things that one culture takes for granted but are unheard of in another, like the fact that Germans eat breakfast not off of plates but off of small boards, like little cutting boards. It's just a given that this is how you eat breakfast. They also eat eggs with breakfast but generally hard or soft boiled, not fried. And never cooked meat in the morning - I remember how horrified my roommates were the one time I fried up some bacon for breakfast - they almost kicked me out of the house for stinking the place up!

              The bacon itself was Danish, by the way, it's not a German product. They have a product called speck that looks like bacon but is not smoked and is typically used more the way we might use fatback.

              10 Replies
              1. re: BobB

                Having been to Germany numerous times it all boils down to "pork and beer"....kind of an inside joke with my co-workers....

                1. re: BobB

                  Oh, we eat off of plates. I've actually only seen those boards used for dinner. Go figure.

                  1. re: linguafood

                    Strange. My experience was the same as Bob's: everyone ate breakfast off of little round boards. This was in Bavaria, so could be a regional thing.

                    1. re: pikawicca

                      Nope - I lived in Hamburg, about as un-Bavarian as you can get.

                      1. re: BobB

                        Well, lingua's voice is the most authentic one on this board, IMO, so I don't know where that leaves us.

                        1. re: pikawicca

                          I agree, lingua knows her Germany. Perhaps instead of regional it's a generational thing - as I said, I lived there in the mid-70s. Could be the younger generation has changed things up.

                          1. re: BobB

                            I think it's more likely that dishwashers make eating off of plates a little more practical than it was in the past. In any case, I can confirm that those little boards are still used, and still used for breakfast. Really, they are used for small bread-based meals, so breakfast and "evening bread" dinners. It is a little old-fashioned and informal, but not just for old people.

                      2. re: pikawicca

                        I've only eaten off of rectangular boards :-)

                        I think it might be both regional and generational. I've always eaten breakfast off of plates, but recall now that my dad had small wooden boards that we'd eat off of our Abendbrot. Not round, tho.

                        1. re: linguafood

                          We also had rectangular boards, I don't recall ever seeing a round one.

                          1. re: BobB

                            Must be a Bavarian thing. Those crazy mofos.

                  2. Wow! applehome sure gave you an impressive low-down of our national culinary treasures already. If I, as a born-and-raised German, may chime in:

                    Breakfast: I think most weekdays, people go with coffee, perhaps a glass of milk, and the aforementioned Brötchen (the ubiquitous breakfast roll - if it's done right: crusty brown on the outside, fluffy and soft on the inside). It's impossible to get a decent Brötchen in Berlin, unfortunately. It's like eating decoy Brötchen -- they taste like cardboard. Must be the water.

                    The weekend breakfast, however, is an elaborate one: brötchen and a variety of bread (with poppy and/or sesame seeds, rye rolls, schwarzbrot, pumpernickel); a variety of cold cuts: mortadella (w/pistachios), leberwurst & teewurst, smoked and/or boiled ham, jams, honey, etc. Lots of coffee. And what would breakfast be without a soft-boiled egg :-D.

                    Lunch used to be THE large meal of the day, as dinner (aka the aptly named Abendbrot = evening bread) tended to consist of sliced bread, more cold cuts/cheeses, and perhaps some salad on the side. I would say this is still the case in many families.

                    It's also not unheard of to have a beer or two with lunch, and then *gasp* returning to your workplace.

                    I've never been much of a lunch person -- that said, I am also probably not a very typical German, so for me, the main event is dinner.

                    Potatoes are big in Germany, undoubtedly. You won't find a lot of low-carbers there :-D. Pork is also still popular, but there is a great variety of local foods and regional specialties such as smoked/pickled/marinated fish in the North, and all kinds of doughy things like spätzle, dumplings, maultaschen (ravioli) in the South.

                    On top of that, there is an abundance of ethnic restos all over Germany, and Germans are quite happy with eating all kinds of international food. I'd say most Germans who go out for dinner wouldn't necessarily seek out a German resto, but go for Italian, or Greek, or Chinese, etc. etc. etc.