I have to say Germany and Kiel were quite unexpected. I’ve been there before, but last time I didn’t really go looking for culinary uniqueness, it was a flying visit but this time was different. I was staying for nine days so consequently I had plenty of time to soak up the traditions, hunt for the unusual and generally eat the way the Germans do.
I’m not saying I ate out much, with five kids between us, four of them under nine and both families fairly skint, plans for expensive and elaborate dining were shelved, so we did what we always do best, cook at home, sharing ideas and preparation until we came up with a variety of hearty, wholesome home cooked dinners, using lots and lots of local produce. I suppose it was a busman’s holiday really, lots of cooking for lots of people, interspersed during the week with three days English language teaching at Kiel University, but the experience, even the work bit, was totally enjoyable all the same. Some of my students had even googled me before I arrived and discovered my alternative foodie occupation so we spent a great time discussing that as well.
Following our trip to the market on Saturday we were well stocked for the weekend. Easter Sunday began with the obligatory Easter egg hunt followed by a late and lazy breakfast which consisted of lots of different German cheeses, meats and salami, fruit, fresh bread and coffee. This was our friends usual continental routine. During the week muesli, fruit and yogurt started the day, but of course while we were staying there were much more lazy breakfasts like this. While the sun blazed we simply sat, relaxed, ate and even managed a glass of Easter Sunday champagne. Lunch was unnecessary since breakfast ran on forever, in fact it probably only finished a couple of hours before we began to think about the barbecue we were having that evening.
In between this we drank what became known as ‘girly beer’ (basically beer, such as Becks, ready mixed with lemon or lime, or grapefruit) and the occasional cup of tea accompanied by a traditional German afternoon tea cake (cherry and chocolate).
Later more friends arrived; we barbecued trout with herbs, wild garlic and lemon, some extremely phallic looking white asparagus marinated with olive oil and basil, chicken sate, ribs with a honey dressing and German sausages. For pudding the kids made Eton mess, a household favourite, with strawberries, cream and meringues.
I feel almost guilty to admit that every day was much the same; fresh rolls, fruit, cheese and salami, followed by cake and a large late dinner. We tried various specialities. At the coast we had Fischbrochen basically freshly caught fish either marinated, with herbs or smoked and served in a bun with mayonnaise or a sauce and salad. I had smoked mackerel with horseradish, particularly yummy. Another night we took the kids bowling. I’ve never seen as classy a restaurant attached to a bowling alley anywhere else, ever. After a couple of games we sat down to eat. Sean decided to try another speciality currywurst. Our local friends did warn him not to choose this but he opted to ignore advice. Currywurst is basically German sausage in a tomato ketchup kind of curry sauce. It’s very popular there although Sean did proclaim that he chose unwisely, I had a taste and it was absolutely foul. Probably the kind of thing you would pick up after the pub when drunk! The kids chose a hearty portion of sausage or fish and chips, whilst the sensible adults that chose wisely went for steak, local white asparagus and a sauce of some kind. Mine came with a generous helping of light, buttery Hollandaise sauce, while one of my companions went for an unusual sounding strawberry chilli chutney. It was certainly different but unexpectedly lovely. A little hint of a chilli kick, but not too much, and still with the distinctive strawberry taste and sweetness. It accompanied the asparagus beautifully. The decent sized steak came with a generous portion of garlicky herb butter and was fantastic, succulent, full of flavour and cooked perfectly medium rare. The asparagus was tender and cooked to perfection. I couldn’t have asked for more.
We ate so much yummy stuff it’s hard to pick a favourite …spiced pork roasts with apple sauce; lasagne made with smoked speck as well as mince; a variety of cheeses and salami and of course a mountain of apple cake, lemon cake, local marzipan and beer. Of course all of that means that my souvenir from Kiel is an extra half a stone, but hey it was worth it.
All of those tastes are still running through my head, but I keep coming back to that white asparagus and hollandaise. My lasting impression that there is more to German food than meets the eye, it’s not overtly elaborate but with so many unexpected high points, discoveries of tastes and flavours, I now know that there is definitely more to German food than just beer and Bratwurst.