24 July 2007

Where's the Real German Food?

I have discovered that I do not like German food.

Not one bit.

And that includes the food served not only in Germany, but also in Austria, Switzerland and every German restaurant anywhere in the world I have ever visited.

Nope. I just plain do not like it.

This actually came as a huge surprise to me. Prior to moving to Switzerland, I thought I loved German food.

See, my mother is Austrian-American. Growing up we had Germanic food all the time. I love my mother's pork roast, potato dumplings, spätzle, bratwurst and just about anything else associated with Germanic culinary arts.

We would occasionally go to German restaurants in the United States, but I never liked them. I just figured it wasn't "authentic" German food.

A few years ago I made my first trip to Munich. I didn't like the food in any of the restaurants we visited. But I just figured they were tourist traps and not very good.

We now live in Switzerland. I have eaten at countless restaurants in Switzerland, Germany and Austria that all serve Germanic food.

Guess what? I didn't like any of them.

So I started to analyze it. What exactly do I not like about German food?

It's the excess fat and grease. After a typical German meal, I feel sick and have a terrible stomach ache. Even if I have eaten very little of the meal.

And then something occurred to me. In the United States we always bought the leanest cuts of meat. Even our hamburger contained only 3% fat, something which is easily found at any grocery store in the United States.

I have found it impossible to find meat that lean at the grocery stores in Switzerland. The closest I can find is the Weight Watchers brand of hamburger, which contains only about 10% fat. When buying beef, chicken or pork, I am constantly having to trim the excess fat off before cooking.

I also looked at German cookbooks. Not only do they call for use of fatty meat, but extra fat is added. And the fabulous potato dumplings? My mother makes them using only mashed potatoes and flour. That's it. But in the three German cookbooks I checked, lard was added to the recipe.

Lard? People still cook with LARD???

I had a revelation.

See, my mother also does not like fatty, greasy food.

Hmm. Do you think perhaps she was cooking traditional German food in a non-traditional way? Is it possible she was altering the recipes to include less fat? Do you think, just maybe, that I was trained to like German food cooked in a slightly healthier way?

I must call my mother and ask!

Note: I still like the desserts. Especially in Austria. Because you cannot add too much sugar to a dessert, now can you?

And yes, my mother has a sweet tooth that she passed on to all of her children.


The Big Finn said...

It's funny that you find the meat so fatty here, because I find it to be exactly the opposite. I've been complaining about how lean the beef is for the past seven years!
I think the butchers trim too much fat off of the pork and lamb. Of course, I'm usually looking to barbecue the meat, so I want some of the fat for adding some smoky flavor. Also, for grilling...I find the ground beef to have WAY to little fat. Perhaps that's because there is no true beef industry in Switzerland - just retired, old, dried up dairy cows. When I put the patties on the grill, there is no sizzle or smoke. I end up going to France to buy the beef - or I add ground pork to the mix - because I can buy ground beef with 20% fat (as well as beef with 5% fat).

Global Librarian said...

I eat next to no fat. I've never cared for the taste of it and it makes me feel ill when I eat too much. Too much for me is still far less than most people eat.

At one stage I had a doctor tell me I didn't eat enough fat. I had started to show some slight signs of malnutrition. He gave me a minimum amount of fat that I must consume on a daily basis to remain well nourished. Some days it is hard to force myself to eat even that much.

As I have gotten older I have found meat of any kind, regardless of fat content, to be increasingly distasteful. I cannot even smell sausages without feeling ill. I suspect it is merely a matter of time before I give up on meat completely and convert to vegetarianism.

And by the way, I cannot eat Swiss steaks. Yeech! GLH tried to sneak some past me one time and told me it wasn't Swiss. I took one bite and couldn't eat any more. When I do buy steak, which isn't actually that often, I make certain it was imported from the US, France or Italy. And that is has a minimum amount of marbling.

Greg said...

The 'German food' here in Switzerland is usually spiked with huge amounts of MSG. So much so that I'd feel really thirsty whenever eating 'German food', or food from most restaurants. It's a shame as most of the raw material is pretty good.

As for beef. We don't eat much 'Rindsfleisch', which I think translates in to "Old cow who had a nice live in the alps eating tasty grass, but finally doesn't produce enough milk so we can try to sell the meat". Well, at least the meat doesn't have all of the hormones and antibiotics that the stuff in the US often has. We usually eat the veal instead. Yeah, it costs more. However, the veal here in Switzerland live a pretty good life compared to those in the US. Veal here in CH also has a pretty good flavor, and can pretty much be used as a replacement for beef in a lot of dishes.

We haven't found a good local metzgerei (butcher shop) here in Thalwil yet, but the one we frequented in Muttenz ground meat while you watched, and the meat was ridiculously lean. To cook hamburgers, I would have to add olive oil to the pan first. It was tasty stuff, but it did have a bit of the 'grass-fed' beef taste to it. The stuff from COOP or Migros tends to have much more fat, but Manor has a ground beef that is pretty low fat. But, I think our local Manor is in Rapperswil or Zug. I'm not sure that the downtown Zurich Manor has a big food section.

swissmiss said...

I also find the meat (especially from a good butcher) incredibly lean. I have all these US cookbooks that say things like "drain off the excess fat..." and there never is any! Especially the lamb. I use "gemischt" fleisch - ground beef and ground pork together - for most things that call for ground beef.

But I agree on the cooking oil, butter and lard issue. Can you say heavy, fat laden meals?

Global Librarian said...

So what y'all are saying is that not only do I have to go to the regular grocery store, but I am also supposed to go to various specialty stores?

Did you miss the blog post about how much I hate grocery shopping and cooking?

I think it would be easier to just become a vegetarian now!

Anonymous said...

Good lord, LARD?! I'm with you on that one!

CanadianSwiss said...

I think you have answered your own question in your reply to TBF. I've never had much of a problem with the food anywhere EXCEPT sushi... Can you believe it? If I eat too much of the stuff (which I love, by the way), my bowels will tell me otherwise. Wierd, huh?

Kirk said...

For what it's worth, we've found we much prefer a Johnsonville brat here to the Kalbsbratwurst we got in Switzerland. But we really miss things like spatzle, schnitzel, etc., probably because they use that good heavy butter there (I also don't generally like fatty foods, but that butter--mmmmmmmm...)

Greg said...

I asked a neighbor about the butcher shops in town and found out that there's one in a red building near the Post Office. The neighbor mentioned that it was a decent Metzgerei. I'll go check it out in the next few days. There is also a bakery in the same area, which is open on Sunday mornings.

I also found this link:
Which says that these guys, Metzgerei Kraus, have a butcher shop on Gotthardstrasse 32 in the 'Ladenlokal' which I think translates to: 'Red building near the Post Office". Oh, and remember, you generally can get the meat cutter at the Metzgerei (or even COOP or Migros) to trim the fat from the meat, or cut out the bones for no extra charge. Of course, you pay for the weight before the trimming is done, but it's a useful thing to know.

The Johnsonville brats tend to be really fatty (but tasty), and they have an equivalent here in CH, which are the Schweinsbratwurst, or pork brats.

And yes, one of my favorite things to do in a foreign country is to check out what the grocery stores are like. ;-)

Expat Traveler said...

I don't have an answer but I truly had a laugh at the comments!

Jul said...

Yep, can't say I've ever had a problem with Swiss meat. I leave it alone, it leaves me alone, and we're all happy.