This week’s recipe of Berlin Currywurst is, for me, a lovely example of delicious historical irony.
Let me explain. As some readers already know, I’m a teacher. History teacher to be precise, who happens to teach a lot of German history. Germany is a great country, and one which I really love to visit. I also love German (and Austrian) food, with its slow braising, sausages and brilliant baking. It is the first place I tried currywurst, from a market stall in Wittenbergplatz. Sure my communication with the stall owner was greatly inhibited by my weak knowledge of the German language, but it was delicious. As, it must be said, are the soft pretzels.
Anyway, most recently I took a bunch of students to Berlin. I’ve always been somewhat jealous of the opportunities students in Europe have for travelling, and Berlin is a perfect example. If you have never visited, do so now. It is a great city, and frankly quite cheap as far as capital cities go. It is loaded with history, much of the last century quite violent. It is a story of continual boom and bust.
An overnight trip with students is always stressful, but my students (and my staff members) were brilliant. The trip itself was very emotional, and sparked a debate within my students. One student in particular queried their puzzlement at the 1930s. ‘Couldn’t people see what they were getting by supporting the Nazis?’
As a teacher, you love this, because it means students are questioning and thinking for themselves. The question itself was a fair question, that historians continue to debate. You can understand the student’s thought process, as Hitler espoused radical views about minorities, rival politicians and the changes taking place in society. The channelling of the hate to target groups of people, based on people’s belief that they were somehow cheated and disadvantaged. The anger of social change they didn’t like. The anger at politicians, who they blamed for their ills. Hitler came to power by latching on to this discontentment, and presenting himself as a ‘superman’ type of figure who alone could solve these ‘problems’ and return Germany to glory. As my students debated; it was scary that such hate attracted such support. You can read more about the history of the time here.
So then, why do I consider Berlin Currywurst an excellent symbol of historical irony? Because it is the antithesis of 1930’s Germany, and illustrates everything positive since 1989, served on a plate. You have a traditional grilled German bratwurst(always delicious) and a great ketchup based sauce (hello American Heinz!). Yet, it’s given a curry twist with some curry powder on top. The mixing of old traditions with the new has created a dish that is, when homemade or bought in a market, delicious. Together they are delicious food, and also something that would never have been tolerated in the 1930s.
Right, History lesson over. In all seriousness, Berlin currywurst is really good. However, should you go to Germany and decide to try it, I must implore you to only buy it from markets. Do not buy from the chain shops selling it, it just isn’t as good!
A great German Pilsner is called for, obviously.
Umm, oompah music? Well, maybe not. Instead, how about 99 Luftballons!!