The Diet (and Pant Size) Adjustment

Since moving to Germany, there are several items that have asserted themselves as staples of my diet. Items that, when I lived in Australia, weren’t all that prominent. Items that, in hindsight were never going to not result in a lovely, well distributed weight gain of ten kilograms. I marvelled, while stuffing my face with Doppelkeks (I think that’s was the point at which it all started going downhill, or uphill, depending on whether you’re looking at my discipline or the scales) at the slimmness of the Germans, given what stocks their grocery aisles. I assumed, given I had never been so cold in my life, that my body was burning through calories and fat reserves to keep me warm, and so I could keep eating as if I was carbo-loading to climb Everest. I also entertained the notion, each time I ducked in and out of a bakery for a Berliner, if perhaps the cold had shocked my metabolism into overdrive, and all of the bread and sugar and chocolate and cream was basically akin to eating air.

In the three years since I first discovered Milka costs 79c a block and Ja! Doppelkeks are outrageously good, I have reined myself in a little. Learnt how to do a shop without losing my shit in the biscuits and cakes aisle. Realised I ultimately prefer being able to do my pants up, to throwing myself at the mercy of German cuisine. At home, we cook a lot of curries and stir fries, try to stay away from the bread (although, ever since I learnt how to make it, it has crept a little further into the weekly diet). This winter, I am going to try and go with more soups and less schnitzels.

Nevertheless, there are certain foods that have weasled their way into my heart and diet, since moving here, foods I have had to learn how to coexist with, and not co-depend on.

Doppelkeks.
Doppelkeks.

Bread

There is plenty of good bread in Australia. Sydney even goes through bread trends (currently I think it’s sourdough, but I could be wrong. It’s probably something far cooler.) and I ate it every so often at home prior to moving to Bread Land, where the marriage of flour and yeast has reached its pinnacle. But I fell down in the ‘grabbing something on the go’ stakes, when it came to bread. (I have always lived in a 250,000ish city, or a 30,000ish town, so I say this pretty much excluding the big metropolises.) Bakeries here are such staples of daily life, they’re on every corner, proffering trays of filled brötchen and fresh cakes. Whereas once I would have tracked down a couple of sushi rolls while on the go, I was now grabbing a daily (cheese or creamy egg salad stuffed) brötchen, two, if I was working late, plus a sweet thing or two, if it was cold or I needed a boost. There is simply no shop or snack-type that rivals the German brötchen. The döner, perhaps, but it’s in a different category. it’s more of a meal. And, you know, not particularly good for keeping the button on your pants done up either. It didn’t take long before I was more reliant on bread than I had ever been in my life. It was a difficult break-up.

And let’s not even get started on the pretzels. My God.

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Flammkuchen
Flammkuchen

photo (42) summer (19)Cheese

I have always loved cheese. A sharp tasty cheddar, a soft Brie, a crumbly, salty feta, a piping hot, saltier halloumi … in fact, I think I went through a phase where I got all my calcium needs from feta alone. So cheese isn’t necessarily a new addition to the diet, but the quantities in which I consume it have absolutely changed since moving here.

Cheese in Australia quite expensive – bloody delicious, but expensive. Cheese here is ridiculously cheap. Cheap, plentiful and, of course, from all sorts of different cheese-producing European countries. I have eaten more cheese here than I ever have before, because it is just so affordable. A normal, weekly shop sees my trolley hold no less than a soft French cheese, a goats cheese, a normal sliced gouda, a Parmesan block, a feta, and a tub of frischkäse. Every couple of weeks I’ll ad a 500g tub of mascarpone. Outrageous? Yes.

In this country, when you order a salad with cheese, you GET cheese.
In this country, when you order a salad with cheese, you GET cheese.

Meat

Unavoidable. I came to Germany as someone who never touched processed meat and had to remember to eat red meat once every couple of months, for an iron boost. Ham? Not since working in a deli and seeing the bi-weekly chop up of a carcass. Pork? Never.

Germans are largely carnivorous. I don’t know how vegetarians do it here. I still cook mainly with chicken, but should we go a big old German breakfast of meat, cheese and brötchen, then give me the salami. A snack or quick lunch? A wurst in a brötchen often hits the spot. Schnitzel? Often. Pork? It’s Germany.

Grilling in the summer.
Grilling in the summer.
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Wurstschnecke.

Chocolate

So cheap. So good. So plentiful.

How and what we eat is so deeply connected to our culture, it’s one of the biggest adjustments to make when you move to another country. I’m still adjusting (so are my pants). Still getting into the groove of eating more seasonally – not having summer fruits and veg available year round, the benefits of living in a mild climate – and enjoying it. Still finding different things to substitute for the convenience and deliciousness of bread, still learning how to cook traditional German dishes, and perfecting the cuisines I miss having readily available, like Thai and Indian.

Still learning to close my eyes when I walk down the cake and biscuits aisle at the supermarket.

 

23 thoughts on “The Diet (and Pant Size) Adjustment

    1. It has always been my downfall – a combination of the cold weather (which makes me ravenous, like a soon-to-be-hibernating bear) and the ubiquity of delicious bread. Horrible combination. And the little bakery sections in the supermarket, always have something covered in cheese and baked. So hard to pass by.

  1. It will be even harder with the Christkindlmarkets ahead of us….I’m thinking of Baumstriezel and Glühwein and all the other dangerous edible things sold in those little wooden houses all over town.

    1. Schneebällchen, those fried balls of deliciousness. So much glühwein. And the süßigkeiten … and who am I kidding, pommes mit mayo …

  2. As non-Germans, my husband and I have been on a diet in preparation for the ´feastive´ season. And yeah, being a vegetarian in Thuringia, home of the würst, is probably increasing my chances of becoming diabetic with switching meat-based snacks to meat-free sweets!

    1. I don’t know how you do it with the vegetarian thing! With meat, I find myself relying a lot on chicken, and eating fish when we’re up north. I really, really try not to go too hard on the pork or processed meats, but I have noticed an increase since moving here. Am also in preparation for the feastive season (love it)! Playing it low key until a guest arrives the day the Christmas Markets open, then I fear it’s no holds barred, all month. Just 30 days of eating. God help me. And my pants.

  3. Haha this is excellent. While I still think UK supermarkets are superior to most of what Germany has to offer, the bakeries here just win at everything. If I were to go back now I would miss them SO much. When I first got here I was so excited to figure out our best local bakery (because you inevitably have at least 3 in close proximity) and go there and get fresh rolls for breakfast. Even now over a year later we never argue over who’s turn it is to do the bakery run on a weekend because I still love to do it haha.

    Oh and the cheeses. Love it. Although the one niggle is that most things here are pre-sliced which annoys me, but I can live with it.

    And tbh it’s surprisingly easy to be a veggie in Germany. I’m not really vegetarian, it’s a long story but basically for various reasons we decided a while back to mostly cut meat out of our diets so we rarely eat it now. But there’s always so much veg available and the Bioladens offer loads of amazing alternatives that I really don’t miss it.

    1. Yessss, isn’t there just something ever so slightly romantic about strolling the bakery for fresh bread on the weekend (although I always stroll out with some chocolate/jam/almond covered/filled thing as well)? Totally agree re the sliced cheese thing, and I actually don’t like the sliced stuff that much (I miss a good, sharp tasty cheddar, you know?). So I tend to buy the goats cheese and camenbert and feta and halloumi (in BULK). You’re right re the Bioladen supplies, though – I think, when cooking for yourself, avoiding meat is doable – how do you find restaurant no-meat alternatives, though? Enough? Varied?

      1. Ha well going out to restaurants is when we do eat meat really. I try to avoid processed meat as I’m generally not a fan of it (both taste and nutrition-wise) but in reality, I’m in Germany, I’m gonna order a huge schnitzel and chips at any opportunity. I think these days though veggie options in restaurants are getting better and better and I’m the kind of person who reads a menu cover to cover before choosing so I always check them out. Plus, there’s an amazing burrito place here where you can substitute your meat for either spinach (the fresh stuff not the frozen crap Germans seem to inexplicably love) or mushrooms or BOTH. Brilliant.

        Oh yeah it’s definitely romantic. I always feel so smugly European walking back from the bakery with a paper bag of rolls under my arm… (despite the fact I am European, British hardly counts as Euro though). I don’t have much of a sweet tooth so I don’t get tempted by the sweet section very often, though every now and again I do love me some Pflaumenkuchen…

  4. My girlfriend is vegetarian, so I’ve learned how the German herbivores do it! There’s a brand of tofu that is made in Germany (Taifun, using non-GMO, bio soya), which is recommendable. But we do a lot of stir-fry too, or couscous or chickpeas. The bioladen, though expensive, have quite a lot of options. Spätzle and cheese is classic, and even JA! spätzle and gouda work… I still have a dream to market the dozens of varieties of (vegetarian!) ‘brotaufstriche’ in Canada someday and get rich from the vegetarian masses there. Even if the cans looks like cat food, I regularly buy them (DM has a good selection). Of course this necessitates eating more bread. I still am fond of meat, though I also don’t eat much red meat, but pork is the cheapest thing here… You just can’t avoid it sometimes. Another thing I’ve unfortunately become fond of is vegetarian Schmalz, or straight up palm/coconut grease (Tartex or Zwergenwiese being the best). The kräuter or apple+onion kinds are just insanely delicious. Fry your eggs in that, you’ll never go back (goodbye waste size).

    1. The Bioladen can be quite expensive, can’t it! There were a couple of really lovely ones in Kiel that I checked out, but small selections. And I get DM knackerbrot and Reiskekse and things. The options are there – but when I compare it to, say, Sydney, the options appear to be zero. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, everything-free, are just par for the course at home, the selection is enormous (and very good) for someone who doesn’t want to eat meat. I think here you just have to work a little harder (and obviously I am too busy eating hahaha). As for frying my eggs in schmalz, Eric, are you trying to give me a heart attack?

      1. Oh yes, the vegetarian options are definitely more varied at home in Toronto as well. It’s definitely harder here, though it is possible. As far as “exotic” flavours and such go, the German palate is definitely more tame too. I mean, for meat and potatoes and cakes style of cuisine, Germany is tops, but the flavour profile can be quite narrow if you’re used to, y’know actual spices and stuff… I’m in the local “Asian shop” at least every other week to stock up.

        As for the schmalz fried eggs, I only do it once in a while now, but a little schmaltz goes a long way! Definitely a fried fat overload, but so good. That’s not even how Germans use it, they smear it thick on a piece of bread! For me that’s a bit much…

  5. Knowing that we are moving to Germany next year from Sydney, I shall take this as a warning. And I am partial to bread already anyway. And we had bratwurst sausages for dinner last night…. Perhaps I should start heeding the warning now!

    1. Start preparing your constitution now. Increase your bread and bratwurst and chocolate consumption bit by bit, so it isn’t a shock to the system!

  6. I don’t blame you AT ALL. I loved the bread in Germany. The one with the pumpkin seeds was my favourite, but I still loved so many other things I ate: pastries, wursts, chicken at Oktoberfest, pork knuckle, soups. Yum. Yes, definitely don’t blame you.

  7. Liv, this resonates with me oh too well. I spent the first year trying everything the backeries had to offer – justified on the basis that of course Sydney’s apple danishes were nowhere near as good. In the first month I had already scoped out Düsseldorf’s best baked goods and patisseries. But what has hit me the hardest is the Rosinenbrötchen and the accompanying hunt for the best one (I have restarted the hunt here in Munich and its dangerous!). And the cheese – please tell me you’ve tried the triple-creme St. Andre – oh my! I’m slowly learning how to control things, but what’s an adventure in Germany without the delicacies that come with it!?

    1. Constant adventure – there is always a new cheese discovery, and I loooove Rosinenbrötchen. For me, the downfall came with those Laugenstänge. I think you have to let yourself go wild for the first little while, taste it all, get it all out of your system!

  8. Getting out of your system is really what its all about. After coming and going between NZ and Germany for five years, each time I was in Germany I would binge out on huge quantities of Zimt flavoured Milchreis, Hanuta (my worst weakness) Currywurst, Thüringerwurst, Prinzenrolle, Ritters chocolate, Bretzels, and don’t even mention the Kaffe und Küchen..it was a different obscenely OTT cream and berry laden edifice every day. Of course I used to put on a few kg, but the sheer sensual pleasure seemed worth it …and the feeling I had to maximise every opportunity to get a fix of the addictive sour-kirsch-cream-marzipan-smoky-salty taste sensations at unbelievably cheap prices and unheard of in NZ.
    Waiting for the 4pm closing sale of tasty treats from Kamps was a daily ritual over summer in Berlin..and yes..a lot of my clothes started feeling a bit ‘tight’.

    Now that I live here permanently Ive managed to get myself under some kind of control..that cute little village bakery will still be here tomorrow, and I really can’t eat a 10cm high slice of Black Forest cream cake three times a week.

    For the first month I went a little crazy and did the Kölsch beer, Bratwurst and exotic cake thing for lunch every day, but now I live a much reformed life. A block of Ritters Marzipan chocolate can safely live in my kitchen drawer for over a month now, and I can’t recall the last time I bought a packet of Hanuta. The Weinachtsmarkts saw me slipping back into old habits for a time, (combined with a visit from family), large quantities of Bratwurst, Lebkuchen and hot Gluhwein were consumed in the name of ‘cultural experience’ and demonstrating hospitality.

    So yet another new year …and yet another resolve to stick to the gluten free diet, cut out cakes and ease off the preserved Pork intake. All was going quite well until I read this blog and gave into an overwhelming urge to throw on coat and boots, race round the corner to the village bakery to buy the last Kurbiskern brötchen filled with cheese and salami..while I was there a lonely, irresistible chocolate coated Mandelhornchen begged to be taken home too….sigh….tomorrow is another day.

  9. My trusty old favourite jeans, which I bought with me when I got here a year ago, literally SPLIT at the bum yesterday. All that pretzel, cheese, bier.. plus Oma & her numerous schwesters’ Kuchen. ‘Ok, just one more piece. Ok, a bit bigger then. Danke’. Aaaargh! Don’t be so cheap, delicious & hospitable already, Germany!

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