Leipzig Blog 1: Cuisines at the Crossroads


Updated Thu, Jul 19, 2012 4:13 pm

Leipzig has long prided itself on its international flavor. Annual trade fairs, which continued even in the GDR era, have attracted visitors from around the world for decades, which means influences from other cultures are strongly felt here. Good German food—that from the region of Saxony and elsewhere in Germany—can certainly be savored, but Leipzig is a city where gourmands will have no trouble satisfying their palate with diverse cuisines, fresh-baked pastries, just-picked fruit, or even pizza.

For quick bites, visitors and residents gravitate towards inexpensive food prepared while they wait. Pizzas bubbling with cheese and other toppings are a favorite finger food for sharing among friends, their handy slices tastiest without forks and knives.  Sausage stands serve up traditional German fair complete with hearty side dishes that beat soggy salads or boring sandwiches brought from home. Impromptu picnics are possible with these grab-and-go food items and make great excuses for breaks in between sightseeing excursions.

 

One of the most popular takeaway foods is the döner kebab.  Döner kebab is of Turkish origin and literally means "turning roast". It was first created in the Turkish/Arabian area and was originally prepared for ease of transport and cured for long shelf life. The meat may consist of lamb, mutton, beef, or chicken and is cooked on a vertical spit and sliced off. Döner has become one of the world's most popular fast food dishes and the way it is served varies throughout Europe.

Like Americans, Germans eat a lot of pizza.  Many types and variations of pizza are found throughout the country, some of which are similar to American pizzas.  The basic qualities of the pizzas, such as the dough, sauce, and cheese, are often the same.  However certain toppings found in Germany would be hard to come by in the United States.  Some of the most popular toppings found on pizza menus include currywurst, salami, turkey, ham, fried egg, tuna, asparagus, ketchup, and salmon.

In the traditional German food culture, meals are viewed as social experience, rather than a burden.  At-home cooks can look to butcher counters for cuts of meat, a variety of wursts, and deli slices to fill hungry bellies for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.   Meats such as succulent sausages and tender wursts, are a pertinent part of German daily life.  Pork, beef and poultry are the main varieties of meat consumed. Duck, goose, rabbit and venison are commonly consumed as well. Homemade sausage-making is a long-held tradition practiced within the family. With over 1,500 different types of sausages, choosing the leanest and fullest flavored for a quick lunch or family supper is effortless. Butchers still sell a majority of sausages and other meaty delicacies, which attract both loyal and new customers off the streets so they too, can indulge.  Whether you like Sauerbratens, Pichelsteiner stew, or currywursts, serve them up with or dumplings or potatoes, and you have the perfect sit-down meal.

Acquiring fresh fruits and vegetables is relatively easy in Leipzig. A simple stroll down the street can easily lead you to a corner market where favorites such as apricots and strawberries can be bought for a quick snack or after-dinner indulgence. These small farmers market make for the perfect morning shopping with friends or little ones. Local farmers haul in their yield and sell at the markets. Often, locals tend to their community gardens, getting the chance to use their own green thumbs and fill their bellies with home grown nutrients.  Open-air fruit stands make it easy to pick up a carton of berries or a few ripe apples to act as a snack, dessert, or a refreshing treat on a hot summer day.

German cuisine boasts over 600 varieties of bread and over 1,200 varieties of rolls and mini-breads. In fact, Germany produces more varieties of bread than any other country. Typically bread is the basis of most German meals. A prime example is breakfast – rolls and mini-breads are topped with butter, hard- boiled eggs, wurst and cheese. For lunch, bread is most often eaten in the form of a sandwich and is paired with cold cuts and cheeses.  One of the most commonly found complaints among Germans residing in other parts of the world is that good bread is difficult to find. German native Christian Lischewski said bread is an important cultural aspect.

“I think bread is an important part of our meals because it cheap and you can put on it whatever you like.”

Torsten Schwenke agreed with Lischewski’s sentiment as to why bread is a German staple.

“I think we’ve eaten bread since the beginning of our culture. It is easy to make and you can get it everywhere. There is nothing better to put some butter, meat, cheese or vegetables on,” said Schewnke.

While there is nothing more important than a region’s traditions and customs, international flare offers tourists and locals alike a true taste of the culture at the crossroads.

by the Borderless Bobcats Food Group: Clare Wilson, Lindsey Brenkus, Megan Heilman, Kerry Kubulius

 

Slideshow: Leipzig Blog 1

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