It is more than twenty five years since the two Germanys, East and West, were unified, and as their circumstances had been very different during the period between 1949 and 1988, they had developed separately in many ways.
One of those being their cuisine.
To a certain extent Western side's three sectors, British, French and USA, were influenced by the food from those countries; either incorporated into their traditional dishes or introducing it. Fast food for example.
Meanwhile the East, the DDR, under the control of the Russians kept much closer to the original style of German cuisine; just a few influences crept in from over their Eastern borders.
Anything "exotic" was hard to find. Bananas would come under that heading and, despite "pikant" being a favorite description for a meal the spices necessary were rarely around.
In addition there were periodical shortages, when everything from butter and sugar to sausage would disappear for a while.
And no one knew to where.
The transport system for perishables was also unreliable so, although there was nearly always red cabbage and apple available in an edible condition, the choice as to what was to appear on the table was often decided by what could be grown either locally, in gardens, or supplied from Soviet states with a more efficient food supply system.
The phrase "nicht schoen aber brauchbar", not beautiful but useable, was a description used for many ingredients that went to make up meals, which were often delicious nevertheless.
Recipes have been adapted in the past years, using ingredients not even available in those days, but there is an increasing nostalgia for the former Ost/East, and here are some of the original favorite recipes, which are appearing on the menu's of the "Ostalgie", a semi-kitschy nostalgia for the old East, theme restaurants emerging in Germany.
HIMMEL UND ERDE (From "Himmel/Heaven" comes apple and "Erde/Earth" potato)
A recipe from Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
800 gr Floury Potatoes
800 gr Sour Cooking apples (with lemons hard to find, sour apples were used, and often Pears were substituted just for a "change" to the diet).
200 gr chopped streaky bacon
2 Tablespoon Sugar
1 onion, sliced finely, optional
Quantities for 4
Cook peeled potatoes in boiling salted water, drain and mash. Cook apples slowly with sugar until soft, stir through and add to potato.
Fry bacon, add to mixture and season with sugar and salt to taste.
The dish can be served just like this, but if using the onions keep the apple and potato mixture warm in oven, then fry onion slices in butter until crisp and golden brown.
Garnish prepared dish with seasoned onions. It is often served together with sausages or meats of all types. And it has even been seen accompanying fish.
LEIPZIGER ALLERLEI (Literally "Leipzig all sorts of things"as it was made with whatever was available, such as fresh asparagus and peas in season, or for a special occasion mixed vegetables with the addition of crayfish).
There is a legend that the dish originated as a successful way of evading taxes. A vegetable platter with no meat was placed on the table and, as the meal looked rather meager, the tax inspector would keep the family's taxes to a minimum.
An "everyday" recipe from Mecklenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
250 gr Carrots, sliced
250 gr Cauliflower or Broccoli in small florets, or whole placed cooked in center of dish
250 gr Asparagus (canned), cut into pieces
3 Tablespoons butter
250 gr Mushrooms, halved if large (Morels, Wild Mushrooms or dried mushrooms can be used but need initial cleaning and preparation)
2 Tablespoon flour
Salt and Pepper
Parsley, finely chopped for garnish
Quantities for 4
Simmer carrot slices, cauliflower/broccoli florets, and asparagus pieces in salted water to just cover, with tablespoon butter and a pinch of sugar until vegetables are cooked through and softened. Drain and save vegetable water.
Clean mushrooms and fry gently in 1 tablespoon of butter until beginning to turn golden, about five minutes, remove.
Melt a little more butter in pan and add flour stirring to make a light roux. Cook through for two minutes stirring continually, continue stirring and slowly add vegetable water until a sauce is formed, season. Add vegetables to sauce, mix together and heat through. Place in warmed dish.
Garnished with chopped parsley and the mushrooms it is used as an accompaniment, for example to schnitzel and salted boiled potatoes or fish, but can also be a main meal.
ZIGEUNERSALAT AUS THÜRINGEN (Thuringia Gipsy Salad)
A recipe from the Free State of Thuringia
200 gr White cabbage
75 gr Red Bell Pepper (Paprika)
50 gr Carrot
25 gr Onion
50 gr Pickled Gherkin
Mixed seasonal herbs
1 Tsp Soured Cream
1 Tsp Salad cream or mayonnaise
1 Tsp White Vinegar
1 Tsp Lemon Juice
1 Tsp Sugar
1 Tablespoon Sunflower, Corn or Vegetable Oil
Quantities for 4
Cut the cabbage into fine thin strips, put into bowl, add salt and mix with the hand until it becomes a little softer.
To the cabbage add Bell Pepper sliced into small strips, thickly grated carrot, finely chopped onion, and gherkins cut into thin strips and halved. Add finely chopped herbs, then mix together.
Blend marinade ingredients seasoning to taste, combine with salad mixture.
Guten Appetit!, and enjoy your flash into the past.