Yesterday I read an article posted on Facebook by a friend in Colorado who has begun the LCHF (low carbohydrate healthy fat) or "keto" diet/lifestyle/way of eating. She said she'd lost 9 pounds and her digestive issues had all but evaporated. Great news! The article she posted, written by a family doctor, implies that the LCHF diet is what doctors eat around the world. It states that "humans have only been eating an abnormally high quantity of carbohydrates (bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, fruits and sweets) for about four decades."*
I'm pretty sure the Germans would beg to differ. Bread and potatoes, fruits and sweets have been consumed here for hundreds of years. Outside of lean or war years, they have been eaten in what are "abnormally high" amounts. These foods -- breads, potatoes and fruits -- make up a large portion of not only what goes on the dinner table, but into a schnapps or wine bottle and onto bakery shelves. They adorn German grocery store aisles: the bread, produce and sweets sections of a supermarket are usually the longest and most varied. And who doesn't associate the stereotypical German meal with potatoes? Unfassbar.
Strawberries and potatoes: German staples for centuries, and available at most farmers markets. (photo by KS)
Perhaps lesser known to the outside world is that bread has been around these parts for a long, long time. It is an integral part of the culture. In fact, Germany produces more varieties of bread than any other country. According to germanfoodguide.com, over 300 different kinds of loaves and 1,200 different roll varieties are created here. Taking into consideration regional specialties, bakeries' own creations and homemade fare, I would guess that those numbers are conservative.
Though history tells us that cultivation of grains and origins of bread appeared between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago, one will discover that bakeries have been in Germany since at least the Middle Ages and probably date back to the Roman Empire. Baking history comes alive at the Kriminalmuseum in Rothenburg an der Tauber -- an odd place to learn about bread history. In medieval times, the punishment for a loaf or roll not weighing the stated or required amount could be an afternoon spent in an iron basket, floating above the town's main water supply. The baker in breach was dunked until he was out of breath, a punishment nicknamed "Baker's Baptism." There was no standard amount of time under water or number of dunks; that was left up to whoever was in charge. (Knowing this punishment existed way back then, I have faith that consumer protection laws instituted such a long time ago ensure my rolls are a good value for the money I spend today.)
One doesn't have to go online or go to a museum to gain knowledge about Germany's bread culture. During my very first days here, I was introduced to the German bakery as the established place to go when hungry and a key part of neighborhood. Most grocery stores have one or more sources of fresh breads, some with recognized bakeries right inside the store. Bäckereien dot street corners and main thoroughfares. Heck, any clever resident knows where the closest (or best) bakery is located.
Breakfast in Germany -- the most important meal of the day -- consists primarily of bread or rolls, and butter. Then you may have fruit, Marmelade or honey. Meats and cheeses are served as well, and lastly, a soft-boiled egg served in an egg cup with a small spoon may complement the meal. Fried eggs and strips of bacon, pancakes and waffles or biscuits and gravy are normally not on the menu. Steak and eggs? Nein. More and more, restaurants and bakeries serving breakfast will sell you scrambled eggs with Schnittlauch, Tomaten or bits of Speck or Schinken mixed in, or a fine boiled egg, but first -- always -- you get your Brötchen und Butter.
Snack and lunch times for most Germans include quick jaunts to get a portable, inexpensive, tasty bite in a bag. Why not? It's convenient and manageable for every budget. Brötchen and Brezeln are usually served from 6:00 a.m. until late in the afternoon at most bakeries. Train stations and gas stations make different forms of fresh-baked goods available 24 hours a day. For less than a euro or two, you can enjoy a fresh warm pretzel or a small sandwich on a roll. Cake slices, pastries, chocolate or nougat croissants and other goodies are also staring at you as you enter any bakery, and your salivating mouth and taste buds fight against logic to see who wins. With bread and pastries so much a part of life here, so easily attainable and so cheap, it doesn't make sense not to take several items with you to nosh on later as an afternoon snack or to share with a friend or loved one over coffee or tea. As with many other gastronomic pleasures Germany offers, it's quite easy to treat yourself.
Ah, the seemingly infinite varieties of German rolls (photo by KS)
Germans may also eat slices of bread as part of the main course at supper time. Crazy, right? Nothing sounds more unappetizing than a dry sandwich for dinner. Personally I prefer hot meals that have some oomph to them, or a delicious and nutritious salad with lots of ingredients. Bread seems impractical in the evening, unless you're sopping up soup or sauce, but it is very sensible for many Germans. Abendbrot, the German name for a friendly dinnertime meal (literally "evening bread"), was named for the practice of bread consumption.
As much a tradition as German beer, das Brot in Deutschland is part of German heritage, and breadmakers want their product to be recognized by UNESCO as unique to this country. Though vitally integral to German culture, strangely I've discovered that bread or rolls don't always count as a real meal. (It's no wonder Germans wrinkle their foreheads when you discuss counting carbs.) A German might say, "Ich habe so einen Hunger! Heute habe ich nichts gegessen." Wait... you haven't had anything to eat, and you're hungry? Starving? The Frikadelle Brötchen you consumed at 9:30 a.m. didn't do anything to satisfy the ache in your stomach? The Zimtschnecke you enjoyed with your coffee made no difference in the calories consumed today?
"Das war nur ein kleines Brot," is usually the reply, meaning that bread -- even when combined with a slab of Schwein -- is just a thing to nibble on and contributes nothing to the day's food supply. How can a German tally carbohydrates if the bread and rolls they ate didn't happen?
Germany is famous for beer and potatoes. Where's the bread? (photo by KS)
The doctor's article says the LCHF diet is one recommended by doctors around the world to combat diabetes, obesity and heart disease. I wonder, do German doctors agree? Other questions to consider are how eating a diet heavy in animal fats impacts our planet. Nuts and seeds are earth-friendlier, but you can also find those landscaping delicious German rolls! Oh the choices we must make.
No matter what, if you come here, you have to enjoy bread like a German. Sure, rolls and breads are harder, crustier and different from what we're used to, and you can't get a decent sandwich anywhere. But a simple roll and butter with a bit of Landeshonig or fresh strawberry jam is all a person may need in life. Never mind the Kohlenhydrate or calories, because supposedly, German bread doesn't have either of those wicked things.
A Kürbiskernbrötchen, the author's personal favorite (photo by KS)
Wörterbuch / Dictionary
die Bäckerei, die Bäckereien - bakery, bakeries
die Brezel, die Brezeln - pretzel, pretzels
das Brötchen, die Brötchen - rolls
die Butter - butter
der Frikadelle - patty made from ground meat, spiced like meatloaf and good hot or cold
Ich habe so einen Hunger! Heute habe ich nichts gegessen - I'm so hungry! I haven't eaten anything today.
das Kohlenhydrat, die Kohlenhydrate - carbohydrate(s)
das Kürbiskernbrötchen - pumpkin seed roll
der Honig - honey
die Marmelade - marmalade, jam
der Schnittlauch - chives
der Schinken - ham
das Schwein - pork, pig
der Speck - bacon
die Tomaten - tomatoes
unfassbar - incomprehensible
die Zimtschnecke - literally "cinnamon snail"; like a cinnamon roll, only drier
*Link to article: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/evelyne-bourdua-roy/low-carb-high-fat-is-what-we-physicians-eat-you-should-too_a_23232610/?ncid=fcbklnkcahpmg00000001