On an idyllic summer evening, satisfying hunger pangs while strolling down a city street, at a snow covered Weihnachtsmarkt, during any month and on any occasion, Currywurst has enjoyed cult status as a German fast food snack for 65 years. Over 800,000,000 are eaten every year and an estimated 70,000,000 are consumed in what, according to a sometimes disputed Currywurst legend, is its birthplace, Germany's capital Berlin.
Herta Heuwer, a shop assistant at the 'KaDeWe' Berlin's biggest store, was one of the many Truemmerfrauen, 'rubble' women, who throughout Germany used little more than basic tools and their hands to clear away wreckage left behind by war.
In her Charlottenburg kitchen Herta experimented with typical British cookery ingredients from the armed services NAAFI, (Navy, Army and Air Force Institute and Britain's equivalent of the PX, BX and NEX), including popular spices from India, which had been a part of the Empire, and Worcestershire Sauce. Using these she created a recipe for the first Currywurst.
Charlottenburg was a part of Berlin's post war British military sector in 1949.
She mixed Worcestershire sauce, spices and ketchup, blended them with cooked tomatoes and onions and made a warm spicy sauce to cover deep fried sliced Knackwurst (Knockwurst).
A touch of the colorful and exotic combined with the familiar that brightened up a life where all meals were influenced by postwar rationing.
Herta then bought a stall on the corner of Charlottenburg's Kant and Kaiser-Friedrich-Strasse, a commemorative plaque now marks the spot, and from September 4, 1949 offered a Currywurst for 60 pfennig, at the time about 50 US cents and 6 UK pennies, to everyone from construction workers rebuilding the devastated city to passersby.
Currywurst became so popular soon she was serving 10,000 a week so had to employ staff, and before long this new snack food began to attract "celebrities" of one type or another.
Herta had patented her recipe under the name "Chillup" at the Patentamt, because chili and ketchup were the main ingredients, but kept the twelve spices and other ingredients a secret that she took with her when she died in 1999. Although thousands of copy cat Currywurst providers appeared throughout Germany.
A German snack food had become part of its culture.
The iconic currywurst appears and is used as a prop in TV programs, Herbert Groenemeyer a popular German actor and singer had a huge 'Top Ten' hit singing in praise of a currywurst, while many books and films, covering an entire range from cold war spy stories to present day romances, somehow manage to include one, or more, in the proceedings.
A photograph holding or eating a currywurst is one Berlin souvenir almost everyone from tourists and film stars to US Presidents and German chancellors seem to share in common.
There is even a Disneyesque Currywurst Museum near where Checkpoint Charlie used to be.
Now a tacky tourist trap Checkpoint Charlie was a legendary Cold War site. In the days of divided Germany it was a Berlin Wall border crossing for non-German nationals, and diplomats, to enter East Berlin..........where 'currywurst' were also enjoyed.
Although unlike in the West the sausage had no casing in the East, so it was a Currywurst ohne Darm as for whatever reason at the time it seems there were none available on that side of the wall. And this remains the most popular way of serving them there.
Now Currywurst are found throughout Germany, and many taste much better than those in present day Berlin. They can be take out food served on Currywurstschale, traditional recyclable paper or pottery dishes from 'Currywurstbude', (currywurst stands), or 'Schnellimbisse', (fast food stands), in restaurants using vegetarian sausages or a standard featured on children's menus, and they cost about Euro 3.50.
Five star hotels with views of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate and up market bars offer them priced at around Euro 25 each, or served together with a glass of champagne for Euro 45.
It is unlikely that any two Germans will agree as to what is a perfect 'Currywurst', and different regions also have their own idea of how it is served, although not many would think of "Currywurst und Schampus" as an ideal combination.
Nevertheless fries or bread, mustard, onions, very spicy, not so spicy, Bratwurst, a mixture of pork and beef, Knackwurst, similar to a short fat frankfurter, even vegetarian, are just a few of the alternatives, and for many Germans a world without Currywurst is unthinkable whichever way it is served.
There is one thing most agree upon, although champagne is really not a necessary accompaniment and the recipe can have ketchup as a base there should be so many other ingredients that it is unrecognizable.
For fans of authentic currywurst, a sausage covered with a squeeze of tomato ketchup and a sprinkling of curry powder, or tomato ketchup mixed with curry powder and perhaps an additional pinch of cayenne pepper, might be a sauce covered sausage but any resemblance to the authentic, and delicious, Currywurst Herta Heuwer developed in 1949 ends there.
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Illustrations: Plakette Herta Heuwer, on the corner of Kant and Kaiser Friedrich Strass in Berlin Charlottenurg, where Herta Heuwer is said to have invented the Currywurst, photographer Malud, enhanced by Rainer Zenz - via de.Wikipedia, Currywurst Berlin style on paper plate and with plastic fork, via Erasmus Blog - Curry sauce with curry powder courtesy Mettsalat.de
Of course if you would like to have your own Currywurstschale they are easily available from Amazon.de who send to the USA and many other countries.
Here are German Style Nurnberger Original Bratwurst or Curry Bratwurst from Wisconsin, and friends who have tried them said it was like being back home.