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GERMANY, AUSTRIA, SWITZERLAND

Meat, fish, and butter, as well as eggs, were reserved for special occasions. In general, it was much more com- mon for peasants to sell these food products at market than to eat them themselves. As a result, urban dwellers consumed much more meat, fish, butter, and eggs than their rural cousins. Meat was held in such high esteem that it was viewed as a prerogative of only the well-off and persons of high social rank. It was also abundant only for short periods of time (such as in the fall) and remained expensive well into the nineteenth century. The high sta- tus of meat consumption became so ingrained in Ger- man culture that today, now that Germans have a high standard of living, meat in some form is usually consumed with every meal. This is nowhere more evident than in the flesh-rich pages of the late Hannelore Kohl’s Culi- nary Voyage through Germany (1997), which is a fair rep- resentation of what middle-class Germans like to eat.

Most German historians today agree that, by 1800, many of the rural poor and a large portion of the urban working class expended 70 to 80 percent of their income on food, normally in the form of barter. This imbalance was exacerbated by the low consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables until the 1860s. The full value of these foods was not recognized by popular cookbook writers until the 1920s, when there was a large surge of interest in raw foods, fruitarian diets, vegetarianism, and spa cui- sine. The German cinema shifted concepts of physical beauty by featuring women who were obviously thin, whereas in the past, a Rubenesque figure had been con- sidered the desired norm. Many books like Sophie Sukup’s 1927 Iss Dich Schlank! (Eat yourself thin!) pro- claimed a new dietary regime based on raw and garden- fresh foods.

Until that time, most fruits and vegetables had been consumed in preserved form, which lowered the vitamin content. Cane sugar was well known to confectioners, and the rich used it in ample quantities, but it never played a role in the German working-class diet. Sugar did not en- ter that diet in a large way until the introduction of beet sugar. Most German sugar-based products today employ beet rather than cane sugar. Gram for gram, beet sugar is now so much cheaper than meat that it has replaced meat in the form of junk and snack foods.

Until the end of the nineteenth century, a large ma- jority of the rural population in German-speaking Eu- rope was self-sufficient in terms of supplying daily food needs. Most households oriented their menus accord- ing to what could be obtained in the nearest market, and these menus did not vary greatly through the course of the year. Regional customs and the season deter- mined the rhythm of consumption, but by today’s stan- dards, this cooking would be considered monotonous, nutrient-deficient, hard to digest, even at times dis- gusting because of the heavy-handed use of lard and other animal fats. It is ironic that with the prosperity which Germany has enjoyed since World War II, culi- nary writers have painted a picture of the past that is

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FOOD AND CULTURE

much rosier than what actually occurred—a truism for most European peasant cookeries. Rich dishes that were only eaten on rare occasions are now treated like daily fare, and restaurants specializing in traditional cookery, especially establishments catering to tourists, provide menus that resemble old-time wedding banquets rather than typical meals. This is not to say that German Eu- rope has not created a cuisine with many noteworthy dishes, yet it is true that these dishes have lost much of their original cultural context.

Germany’s food revolution. German Europe’s gradual transition to a modern diet began in piecemeal fashion. In parts of Prussia, in some of the more enlightened duke- doms and principalities, cottage and small-scale indus- tries were encouraged during the late 1700s. This created a cash economy that allowed the workers more freedom to purchase luxury items like tea, coffee, and chocolate. Northern Germany’s dynastic ties to the British crown opened northern ports to English colonial goods. It is not surprising then that port cities like Hamburg and Lübeck now fall within the German “tea belt,” while southern cities like Munich are solidly within the con- fines of the Kaffeeklatch.

Tea drinking in the north also brought with it a new preference for white bread and butter as a side dish, and this culinary troika soon displaced the traditional gruels served at breakfast and during main meals. In the south, coffee drinking moved northward out of Austria, accom- panied by a preference for sweet pastries eaten with the coffee. This trend also pushed aside traditional gruels, substituting in their stead such innovations as coffee soup (Kaffeesuppe), where bits of bread or cake were crumbled into the coffee so that it could be eaten with a dainty spoon.

The rise in white-bread consumption tied to coffee and tea revolutionized German milling practices and changed German agriculture. The growing bread de- mand caused a shift away from traditional grains like millet, buckwheat, barley, and oats in favor of rye and wheat. Oats underwent the largest decline in consump- tion even though they were often the grain of choice in many German-speaking regions for hundreds of years. They have continued as a crop largely for cattle fodder, although they are beginning to return as a health food. In spite of the large shift to bread, there were pockets in rural areas where the older gruel-based eating patterns persisted into the early twentieth century.

The second factor in the German food revolution was the coming of the potato. Potatoes had been known in Germany since the 1500s and were grown as curiosities in many botanical collections. Some of the earliest European depictions of the potato appeared in German herbals, yet the plant was largely despised even as cattle feed. Only after the devastating famines of 1770–1771 and 1816–1817 did the potato achieve widespread acceptance. This occurred in concert with efforts by several German

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