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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Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens ‘among new infections’

Two teenage boys between the ages of 15-17 have reportedly been infected by monkeypox, as the number of cases in Germany continues to grow.

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens 'among new infections'

German news site Spiegel Online first reported the new cases – which are an anomaly for a virus as it has mostly affected gay men – following an inquiry to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). 

They are among a total of 2,677 people who are confirmed to have contracted the virus in Germany to date. There have not been any fatalities.

Out of these, only five cases were women, according to the RKI. The public health institute said that it does not release information on individual cases.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany wants to contain the monkeypox

The disease – which is not usually fatal – often manifests itself through fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

The virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions and droplets of a contaminated person, as well as through shared items such as bedding and towels.

Many of the cases known so far concern homosexual and bisexual men. However, affected people and experts have repeatedly warned against stigmatising gay communities.

How fatal is the disease?

The first monkeypox cases were reported in Germany on May 20th, as the disease continued to spread in West Europe.

At the weekend, the first two deaths outside of West Africa were reported in Spain.

READ ALSO: WHO warns ‘high’ risk of monkeypox in Europe as it declares health emergency

The RKI has urged people returning from West Africa and in particular gay men, to see their doctors quickly if they notice any chances on their skin.

According to the latest estimates, there are 23,000 monkeypox cases worldwide, and Europe is particularly affected with 14,000 cases.

There have been 2,677 monkeypox cases in Germany as of August 2, 2022. Photo: CDC handout

About eight percent of patients in Europe have been hospitalised so far, reported the World Health Association on Monday, mostly due to severe pain or additional infections.

In general, the mortality of the variant currently circulating in Europe is estimated to be low.

READ ALSO: More cases of monkeypox ‘expected’ in Germany

Will a vaccine make a difference?

Since July, a vaccine has been authorised in 27 EU member states and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends vaccination against monkeypox in Germany for certain risk groups and people who have had close contact with infected people.

So far, the German government has ordered 240,000 vaccine doses, of which 40,000 had been delivered by Friday. 

Around 200,000 doses are set to follow by the end of September. 

The German Aids Federation (DAH) on Friday called for one million vaccine doses, stressing that the current supplies will fall short of meeting need.

“The goal must be to reduce the number of infections as quickly as possible and to get the epidemic permanently under control,” explained Ulf Kristal of the DAH board in Berlin on Friday.

But this is only possible, he said, if as many people at risk of infection as possible are vaccinated.

“We don’t assume the epidemic will be over when the doses available so far have been vaccinated,” Axel Jeremias Schmidt, Epidemiologist and DAH Consultant for Medicine and Health Policy, wrote in a press release.

As long as there are monkeypox infections, he said, people who are at risk must be offered vaccination.