The Breakfast Debate

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You can tell a lot about a people by looking at what they eat for breakfast. Or, more aptly, what they consider suitable breakfast food.  You can essentially cover most Australians under the three-pronged umbrella of cereal, toast (Vegemite) and tea. Germans, the great dairy, meat and bread consumers of the world wedge in any of the aforementioned foodstuffs in various incarnations. Canadians eat bacon with their maple syrup and pancakes, the Brits revel in their multifaceted Full English and Americans presumably eat bags of sugar. The Chinese steam their bread and do imaginative things with eggs, Mexicans embrace a spicy tomato/chilli sauce first thing in the morning and the Greeks are more than happy with a black coffee and a cigarette.

Here, I am continually locked in a debate with my German compatriots, based on what constitutes appropriate breakfast foods, courtesy of a little discovery I made a few months back; a particularly repellent little pot of raw pork, topped with sliced onion. Mett. In this fair land, smearing raw pork on a bun at 8 o’clock in the morning is considered completely appropriate. Nay, delicious. Raw. Pork. Pink and shiny and seasoned lightly with salt and pepper. At 8 o’clock in the morning. Appropriate. Delicious.

When I first saw it happening, whilst sharing a breakfast with my students, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was seeing. A little bowl of what appeared to be raw mince meat, was being generously applied to half a bread roll and eaten with lip smacking relish. I politely enquired. My worst suspicions were confirmed. I retched. And we have been debating ever since.

What is consistently wielded as rebuttal by my carniverous adopted kinsfolk, in this ongoing debate that now encompasses not only mett but fleischsalat (strips of, yep, ham – there is no part of the pig that goes to waste in a German abbatoir – in a creamy, mayonnaise -inspired sauce, also smeared on a bread roll and perhaps washed down with a yoghurt drink, supped straight from the tub) is my beloved, beloved Vegemite. It is routinely referenced with disdain, wariness, hostility. It is fired back at me as if by simply saying the word, the debate is over. Imagine – a salty, delicious yeast spread, deemed more offensive than raw pig  on a bread roll. What is wrong with the world?

As a servant of Vegemite, I am all too aware that the normalising of the more peculiar aspects of one’s national cuisine depend entirely on the fact that we grow up with them. I can sort of understand how one might find a yeast-spread  mildly difficult to wrap one’s mind around; but for God’s sake, pork so fresh and pink it is still wriggling, you can still hear its trotters trotting mere minutes after you have woken up – is there even a comparison here?

The debate rages. I feel I must appeal for your thoughts. Raw minced pork or a salty yeast spread. Cast your vote. End the madness.

A Mett Hedgehog. Don’t ask.

Image 1

22 Comments

  1. Eric

    21 May, 2011 at 11:40 am

    I just had a maple syrup and bacon nostalgia pang…

    I have to confess that I actually like fleischsalat… I used to eat something similar at home all the time (from an Austrian deli, no less), but here it is a bit too mayonnaise-y for me. Mett on the other hand… I just don’t know! The few times I’ve tried it, I’ve told myself “no but it’s probably kinda cooked with smoke or lemon juice or something… right??”

    I’m also not a huge fan of vegemite… I can down it, it’s not too bad and at least it’s not raw meat, but I would never reach for it on my own. I think every culture has that kinda icky something that you have to grow up with to appreciate. Soy Milk comes to mind, have you ever tried it? Vile, but you *could* get used to it…

    • admin

      24 May, 2011 at 6:38 pm

      Oh Eric, you’re a true German now – Fleischsalat!

      I have not had pancakes in SO long – we should do a Nationality Brunch. You bring pancakes, I’ll bring Vegemite and you WILL eat it.

  2. Pingback: Why Aren’t Germans Fat? « A Big Life

  3. Sarah

    8 June, 2012 at 2:08 am

    I’ve just discovered your blog and love it!

    My partner is German and I discovered mett on our first trip to Germany together – I ate it at a Christmas market and loved it! I’m sad we can’t get it here in Australia, so I always eat lots and lots of it whenever we go back to Germany. (Sorry to gross you out, lol).

    PS I love Vegemite too!

    • Liv

      8 June, 2012 at 6:14 am

      Phwoar, you’re brave. Mett I cannot do. I am getting better with wurst, but there are some things I can’t stomach.

  4. Paul

    28 June, 2012 at 5:43 am

    Love the “and Americans presumably eat bags of sugar”.. Are Australians (especially European wannabes) compelled by law to be condescending towards Americans or is it just a hobby of yours? Americans gave the world probably the greatest breakfast I’ve ever had namely Eggs Benedict, and last I checked Australians actually outweighed them (http://www.theage.com.au/news/health/australia-worlds-fattest-nation/2008/06/19/1213770886872.html).

    Other than that I enjoy your writing.

    • Liv

      30 June, 2012 at 8:43 am

      I am not entirely sure I am a European wannabe, but I can confirm there is no law compelling Australians to be condescending to Americans. Indeed, if there were, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed my four trips to your country so much, nor the company of my American friends, nor the products of your rich and varied culture. I was simply having a bit of a laugh and you’ll note I do not discriminate when it comes to having a laugh at the stereotypes of other countries … including my own.

      • Jessie Zimmer

        12 September, 2014 at 7:48 am

        I have to say, being an American, “the bag of sugar” bit made me laugh. I’ve just found you – I have plans to go to Berlin in 2015/16 – and I’m enjoying your blog immensely. Also, you’re from Australia. Your homeland is awesome. Went there in 2006 and would love to come back. :)

        • Liv

          18 September, 2014 at 1:12 pm

          Thank you so much! Will you live in Berlin for a little while, or just travel? There is a wonderful site called Überlin, if you haven’t checked it out already.

  5. eemusings

    26 October, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Cereal or toast are the only two acceptable breakfasts in my book. On the weekends, this can be extended to pancakes, French toast, eggs/bacon/hash browns and the like.

    My partner thinks anything from leftover Chinese food to curries is also fair game. >_<

  6. jörg

    1 January, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    hej liv, your blog is a wonderful view into a mirror for a german like me. i am from hannover, i love beer and bratwurst, sauerkraut and mettbrötchen.but germany is not all raw pork ! did you ever watch a handballmatch in kiel? best wishes for 2014

    • Liv

      4 January, 2014 at 11:01 am

      I haven’t seen a handball game yet, but I will put it on my list!

  7. Loyal

    17 February, 2014 at 12:20 am

    Hi Liv,
    enjoyed your “Americans presumably eat bags of sugar”. Yes, I do enjoy a sugary breakfast. However, I also enjoy Mett for breakfast, lunch or a midday snack.
    Vegemite, however, is not my favourite food. I tried to get used to it a few years back, but didn’t have the stomach for the salty yeast spread.
    Cheers,
    Loyal

  8. kiwi_me

    24 February, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    Vegemite?…bleh…Marmite all the way!

    • Kim

      10 August, 2014 at 2:35 am

      agreed!

  9. Realist

    3 March, 2014 at 11:38 pm

    You know, they would very likely be delicious together!
    Provided you don’t hold back on the onions!

    • Liv

      5 March, 2014 at 7:17 am

      This may be the best way to fuse the two … a Vegemite Mett Brötchen …

  10. kaiserdrache

    31 March, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Don’t forget the champagne!

    No real Mett breakfast is complete without some pearly french champagne. This is quite often seen in offices to “raise the circular flow” in the morning. And everybody’s partaking in that tradition – well, probably mostly to avoid being the only who doesn’t smell like fresh onions with black pepper coating in the office…

  11. Angela

    22 April, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    Hi Liz,

    I am German and have been living for the past ten years outside of Germany – most of the time in Spain where breakfast is a bit like you describe the greek one. What I miss most is – guess what – Mettbroetchen in the morning. My better half – who is French – loves them too. First thing I have when I visit Germany is Mettbroetchen for breakfast and a Currywurst for lunch. I wasn’t so crazy about those things when I still lived in Germany… but when you live outside your homecountry you learn to appreciate what you have or had at home… at least that’s true for me.
    I can perfectly understand why you would not like Mett though. I guess you either love it or you hate it ;)… Never tried Vegemite but if it’s anything like Marmite, I would probably not be too fond of it….
    Your blog is fantastic! It’s a real pitty my better half does not speak any English… your blog could help him understand some things so much better…;)

    Cheers
    Angela

  12. Markus Salvador Winter

    4 August, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    Hey: I invented the MettMiteBrötchen a few years ago (with onions, salt and pepper of course) when someone brought me marmite from england (loved it instantly): It’s incredibly delicious! VegeMite on the other hand seems to be harder to get than Marmite in Germany. Is it really that different?

    • Liv

      6 August, 2014 at 8:29 am

      MettMiteBrötchen, HA! My Husband would love that. Ja, Vegemite is much saltier than Marmite, and a different texture. Marmite is a bit smoother and ‘runnier’. But it is hard to get here, I haven’t attempted it yet, I rely on care packages from home!

  13. Miriam

    23 August, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Hackepeter! It’s the best! I totally support your theory of eating weird food, because we grow up with it. I keep telling my aussie friends that they only eat Vegemite cause their parents shovelled it in their mouths when they were babies and couldn’t defend themselves. No German kid would eat that stuff! “Oh, is that Nutella? — Ko**!”
    I think Hackepeter wins, though, I have never heard of a grown up that got introduced to Vegemite and actually liked it! I gave my mum some, and she said: I would use it as a spice, like Maggie, not on toast!
    Hackepeter rules…

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