Veggie food: more German than a Wurst?

With World Vegetarian Day approaching on October 1st, The Local discovers Germany's hidden veggie history with chef and author Stevan Paul.

Veggie food: more German than a Wurst?
Stevan Paul discovered that Germany's love of meat-eating is comparatively recent when he delved into culinary history books. Photo: Stevan Malzkorn/Brandstätter Verlag.

When Stevan Paul was asked to write a book called Deutschland Vegetarisch (Vegetarian Germany) a few years ago, he was initially unsure that the project was possible.

“I didn't say yes immediately, because I thought 'that doesn't really exist',” he told The Local.

“But I quickly realized, based on research – I have a big library of cookbooks – that German cuisine in former times was largely one of poor people.

“The Sunday roast was the only meat, and the exception to the rule for those people. In Germany there's actually a big tradition of vegetarian cooking – most dishes didn't contain meat.”

Although many old recipes are completely vegetarian, a staple of many traditional German dishes is Speck (bacon).

“For the book I had to find ways to remove and replace it, that was very interesting,” Paul said.

Modern meat-eaters

Paul points out that it was only with the “Wirtschaftswunder” (economic miracle) of the 1950s and 1960s that Germans' “love of meat” really took hold.

Meat became more accessible as people became more financially secure and prices came down thanks to mass livestock farming.

“But before the Second World War, the emphasis was on vegetarian food,” Paul insists.

Berlin, capital of vegetarians

Germany's modern dalliance with vegetarianism has made ripples worldwide, with Berlin named the “New Vegetarian Capital of The World” this month by US-based Saveur magazine.

Paul says that while Berlin doesn't have a monopoly on vegetarian eateries, it still boasts the largest number of restaurants dedicated to veggies anywhere in Germany – in part thanks to its artsy population.

“Veganism and vegetarianism come from the hip, artistic scene in Berlin. Animal rights, moral considerations also play an extremely big role.

“Then there's this new idea of the body as an important central point in one's being, the need to be healthy – it's become a bit of a religion, especially in veganism or in the 'paleo' diet trend,” he pointed out.

“People are thinking a lot about their food – but I think maybe sometimes just listening to your stomach is better.”

Although the number of vegetarian restaurants on offer in other cities isn't as big, Paul cites a saying from the culinary scene in Hamburg to tempt visitors to the port city.

“We always say 'Berlin does it first, and then in Hamburg we do it right',” he said, laughing.

But one of Paul's favourite vegetarian meals can in fact be found at chef Andree Köthe's Essigbrätlein – far from Berlin in Bavaria's second city, Nuremberg.

Köthe and colleague Yves Ollech released a book called Gemüse2 (Vegetables squared) in June that will help budding cooks recreate what Paul calls “a fabulous offer for vegetarians” at home.

But in the meantime, why not take a look at a few of Paul's own recommendations for German veggie dishes that will have your mouth watering?

THE LOCAL LIST: Top 10 traditional German veggie dishes

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What you should know about Germany’s plans to roll out e-prescriptions

Germany is taking a big step towards a more digital-friendly health system, with plans to roll out e-prescriptions nationwide. Here's what you should know.

A person holds the e-Rezept app in a pharmacy in Oldenburg, Lower Saxony.
A person holds the e-Rezept app in a pharmacy in Oldenburg, Lower Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Mohssen Assanimoghaddam

What’s happening?

From January 1st 2022, people in Germany will receive their prescriptions digitally (known in Germany as an ‘e-Rezept’) from healthcare providers.

Patients should be able to get their prescription from their doctor via a QR code sent to an app, which can then be transmitted to a pharmacy. The pharmacy can then let the patient know whether their medicine is in stock (or if they want to order it), and when it is ready for collection. 

This model is to be mandatory for people with statutory health insurance from the start of 2022, replacing the good old paper prescription.

However, the QR code can also be given to the patient by the doctor on a piece of paper if a patient does not have access to or doesn’t want to use a smartphone. 

READ ALSO: The changes around doctors notes in Germany you should know 

How exactly will it work?

In theory this is the plan – you’ll visit the doctor or have a video consultation. After the examination, the doctor will issue you with an electronic prescription for the medication that has been prescribed to you. 

A prescription code is automatically created for each ‘e-Rezept’, which you will need so you can get the medicine at the pharmacy. As we mentioned above, patients in Germany can either open this QR code in the free e-prescription app developed by Gematik and the Health Ministry, or receive it as a printout from the doctor. 

Next, you can take the prescription QR code (either in the app or as a printout) to your pharmacy of choice to get the medication needed.

One of the major differences and timesavers under the new system is that you can also select the pharmacy you want to get the prescription from digitally, order the medication (if needed) and you’ll be alerted when the prescription is ready. You can also arrange to have it delivered if needed. 

A doctor’s signature is not required, as e-prescriptions are digitally signed. 

The aim is that it will save on paperwork, time at the medical office and trips to the pharmacy. 

Some patients have already been receiving digital prescriptions. The ‘e-Rezept’ was tested out successfully in selected practices and pharmacies with a focus on the Berlin-Brandenburg region of Germany. The test phase started on July 1st this year.

Pharmacies and doctors’ offices nationwide have also been given the opportunity to test the new system from the start of December. 

“This will enable practice providers and pharmacy management systems to better prepare for the mandatory launch on January 2022 1st,” said, the official health portal site for German pharmacies

The new e-prescription app.
The new e-prescription app. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Mohssen Assanimoghaddam

READ ALSO: 10 rules to know if you get sick in Germany

There is some leeway though – if there are technical difficulties, paper prescriptions can still be issued in individual cases until the end of June next year.

The National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians estimates that it could take until mid-2022 until all users are equipped with e-prescription applications nationwide.

The obligation does not apply to privately insured people from January next year. Private insurance companies can decide voluntarily to make the preparations for their customers to use the e-prescription.

What’s this about an app?

To be able to receive and redeem prescriptions electronically, people with statutory health insurance need the Gematik ‘das e-Rezept’ app. 

One issue is that the app appears to only be available at the moment in German app stores. We’ll try and find out if there are plans to change this and widen out the access, but it seems likely for that to happen. 

Germany’s Covid-Warn app, for example, was initially only open to German app stores but was gradually widened out to many others. 

As mentioned above though, those who don’t have access to an app will be able to use the paper with the code on it to access their prescriptions. 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

Has it all gone smoothly?

As you might expect, there have been a few hiccups. 

Originally, the introduction nationwide was planned for October but was postponed due to many providers not having all the tech requirements set up. 

Now though, more than 90 percent of the practice management systems have been certified by the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians – a prerequisite to issue the e-prescriptions.

The e-prescription is part of Germany’s far-reaching plans to digitise and streamline the health care system.

The head of Gematik GmbH, Markus Leyck Dieken, recently spoke of a “new era” that is “finally starting for doctors and patients” in Germany. 

Useful vocabulary:

Prescription – (das) Rezept

Doctor’s office/practice – (die) Arztpraxis

To order – bestellen 

Pharmacy – (die) Apotheke

Video consultation – (die) Videosprechstunde