It is more than twenty years ago that 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.
The Western sides three sectors, British, French and US, to a certain extent were influenced by the food from those countries, either incorporated into their normal dishes or allowing it to take over, 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, with just certain influences creeping in from over their Eastern borders.
Anything exotic was "hard to find". Bananas would come under that heading and, despite pikante being a favorite description for a meal, so would spices, in addition there were periodical shortages, 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 somewhat unreliable so, although there was nearly always red cabbage and apple to be found 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 shoen aber brauchbar, "not beautiful but useable", was a description used for a great many of the ingredients which went to make up meals, nevertheless these were often delicious.
Many recipes have been adapted in the past years, using ingredients that were 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 now emerging in Germany.
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, in small florets, or whole placed cooked in centre 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 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.
HIMMEL UND ERDE (Heaven "apple" and 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, however if using the onions, keep apple and potato mixture warm in oven, fry onion slices in butter until crisp and golden brown.
Garnish prepared dish with seasoned onions, often served together with sausages or meats of all types. And it has even been seen accompanying fish.
THUERINGER ZIGEUNERSALAT (Thueringian Gipsy Salad)
A recipe from Freistaat Thueringen
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.
For topics in the news And you can follow German Culture on Facebook