In the autumn of 1971 I found myself, on my yearning to travel (Wanderlust), in Munchen, Bavaria, Germany. I was nearly broke and in need of a job. I was lucky enough that this was the year before the Olympics, which was to take place in this city, so they were crying for arbeiters (workers).
So, I climbed onto the gastarbeiter (guest worker) bus and soon found work with an older German fellow by the name of Lars. Once he signed the paper work that he was in need of a helper, the process for a work visa went through with no hitches. So began my path as a brick/stone mason’s helper.
And what a path this was. The life and learning experience taught by this wise, hard-working Meister Crafter (master crafter) left me with a lasting impression of Deutschland. Their food and beverages were two of these timely stamps that will forever be imprinted in my mind.
I could give you the traditional yummy German dishes of sauerkraut on sausages served with schupfnudeln (potato noodles) or Bavarian potato dumplings; or jaguar schnitzel (tenderized pork steaks with spices and bread crumb coating) complemented with potatoes and gravy; or a brisket meat slow-cooked in sauerkraut and tomatoes with blaukrot (blue cabbage) or spatzle (pasta noodles). This would be served with a nice bottle of one of the many varieties of Rhineland wine.
Instead, I will give you my favourite simple recipe which I gladly ate every day and loved because it was always different.
You see, every day my mentor, Lars, would buy a 24-pack of beer for himself and a 12-pack for me (later a 24, when he hired two other gents: an Italian mason and a Yugoslav grunt, like me. Ha!) Along with the bier beverages, he purchased daily from different shops along the way to work various types of bread, sausages and cheeses for the upcoming 12-hour shift. Every once in a while he would throw in a head of lettuce or a jar of sauerkraut and some fresh fruit.
Oh, by the way Lars who was definitely in his 70s could out drink me by far and out work me too. Although, this then 22-year-old did all the heavy lifting, packing and cement mixing for this elderly craftsman.
So here is my Food to Fly For, back to memory lane:
Brot (bread), or
Bavarian pumpernickel, which is a rich dark and heavy rye brot and by the way, pumper means flatulance or gas. Ha!
Michbrot or Graubrot (various rye brots from dark to light);
Volkornbrot (a fantastic mixture of rye and other grains);
Bauernbrot (bauer means farmer, an authentic German sourdough bread);
Gouda (strong, something like old cheddar);
Limberger/Backsteiner (yellow, strong and spicy flavour);
Alp Kase (cheese for the mountain person);
BierKase/Wiesslacker Bavarian (bold and tangy and white in colour, thus weiss);
HandKees (mildly spicey with strong aroma);
Steinbushcher (mild and tangy, sounds like a beer…Ha!);
Tilister (or what we call Havarti).
These are just a few of my favourites of the more than 400 different varieties of cheeses produced in the Bavarian and Alpine region of Germany. Germany is the largest cheese producing country in Europe (followed closely by France, Italy and the Netherlands).
Wurst (sausage, cold cuts)
Bratwurst (a dark, spicy mixed blood and meat sausage);
Thuringer (a spicy version of pork and beef);
Bierwurst (as the name suggests, beer sausage);
Gelbwurst (pork and veal mixed sausage);
Jadgwurst (hunters or Bavarian bologna);
Alpinewurst (mountain cuts to go with Alp kase);
Bierschinken (bierwurst with ham morsels tucked within);
Salami (various kinds);
Thueringer/Mettwurst (a summer type sausage);
Presskopf (head cheese); and
Aufschnitt (a mixed lunch meat).
Pilsner (my favourite; bold with hop flavour);
Boch (a bit malty/darker); and
Weiss (mixed beers with a bit of a sweeter taste).
I would love to go back to Munchen and reminisce with these bon appetites and thoughts of my old friend, Lars, who is now long gone, back to the Bavarian forest and lakes from whence he came.
As Beethoven so aptly said: “Mass en sein? Es mus sein!” (Must it be? It must be!)and the Beatles later sang in Frankfurt: Let it be.
Danke schoen and prost to you mein freund!