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.
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.
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.
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.
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.