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CULTURE

The seven best and seven ‘wurst’ German dishes

We take a look at Germany's seven worst and best seven dishes, starting with 'the wurst' and ending on a high.

The seven best and seven 'wurst' German dishes
'Spargel' being served in a Munich restaurant. Photo: DPA

The seven 'wurst' dishes

1. Schlachtplatte

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

As the name suggests the Schlachtplatte (slaughter dish) is a hearty plate full of freshly slaughtered meat. Traditionally the dish was only eaten on the day of the killing before fridges where invented, and it uses nearly every part of the pig. Consisting of blood sausage, liver sausage, and boiled pork belly and innards, the dish is for committed meat eaters only.

For a shot of vitamin C and a dose of fibre, the dish is served with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes

2. Mettwurst

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Germans really do love their pork. Not a nation to let anything go to waste, Germans will eat every part of the pig except the squeal. Dished up in many imaginative ways, they also like to eat it raw.

Mettwurst is raw minced pork that has been cured and usually eaten spread on toast or bread rolls, frequently sold at bakeries. For special occasions the Mettwurst is turned into a Hackepeter – a large hedgehog made out of minced pork with raw onion for its spines.

3. Schweinskopfsülze

Photo: Shutterstock

And it doesn't stop there. Next up is the Schweinskopfsülze, a gelatinous dish served cold. Encased in a savoury jelly (aspic), it's the pig's head and trotters that go into making this delicacy. Enhanced with gherkins, onions and additional spices, the Sülze is sliced and served with Bratkartoffeln (fried potatoes).

4. Tote Oma

Photo: Youtube/screenshot

Nope, it has nothing to do with eating dead grandmas. Tote Oma (dead grandma) is essentially minced up blood sausage fried with onions and bacon.

A customary dish in the former GDR, Tote Oma originally hails from the state of Thuringia, but it is less popular nowadays. Tote Oma is also known as “Verkehrsunfall” (traffic accident).

5. Harzer Käse

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

We take a break from the meat, and bring you Harzer Käse, the cheese that could knock out a small army with its smell. Originating from the Harz mountain region in central Germany, the low fat cheese is made of sour milk and comes in small rounds or as a roll. Great for dieters, bad for your social life.

This little cheese will stink out your fridge even if it is wrapped up. Eat it in a public place and people will move away from you – immediately. You have been warned.

6. Currywurst

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A controversial entry perhaps but why take a decent sausage, pour ketchup over it and then sprinkle it with tasteless curry powder.

7. Leberkäse
 
 
Photo: Shutterstock
 
Bavarian Leberkäse (literally meaning liver cheese) tops off our worst German food. The pink spongy rectangular meat actually has nothing dairy about it. A mix of corned beef, pork, bacon and onions ground together and then baked as a loaf, it is served hot and usually on a Semmel (bread roll).
 
 
The Seven Best Dishes
 
1. Apfelstrudel 
 
 
Photo: Shutterstock
 
This is undoubtedly the king of German desserts, even though it originates from Vienna. When it is cold and snowing outside, there is nothing better to take away the chill than a freshly baked piece of hot apple strudel served with hot vanilla sauce. Nothing tops it.
 
2. Spargel (Asparagus)
 
 
Photo: Shutterstock
 
Spargel with hollandaise sauce: Germans are passionate about their white Spargel (asparagus), and we think it tastes pretty good too. Cooked in a manner of delectable ways, the traditional way to eat it is lightly boiled and topped with a warm hollandaise sauce and eaten with boiled new potatoes. But you need to be quick, Spargel season ends on June 24th.
 
3. Brezel (Pretzel)
 
Photo: Shutterstock
 
 
There is no better accompaniment to a German beer than a freshly baked Brezel. Delicious on their own or with butter or cream cheese, the Bavarian soft baked bread seasoned with sea salt is a German favourite.
 
4) Schnitzel
 
 
Photo: Shutterstock
 
Schnitzel with warm potato salad: The first thing my friend from NY wanted to eat when he came to Germany for the first time, was Schnitzel. A big Wiener Schnitzel. The biggest one we could find. Schnitzel with warm potato salad or Pommes (chips) is probably one of the best-loved German dishes around the world. Just seeing my friend's happy contented face as he polished off the last crumb said it all.
 
5) Kalte Hund
 
 Photo: Wikimedia Commons
 
When my German ex-boyfriend's mother gave me some homemade Kalte Hund, I thought I had died and gone to cake heaven. I was hooked after just one slice. Kalte Hund (cold dog) is a delicious chocolate cake made with alternating layers of fudgey chocolate and crushed biscuit, covered in a cocoa-rich chocolatey sauce. And the genius thing about this cake is it doesn't even need to be baked.
 
6) Knödel
 
Photo: Shutterstock
 
Germany's winters are harsh, which explains why their traditional dishes are hearty affairs, very meat-based and heavy on the carbs. Knödel (dumplings) are a staple in German winter fare, and can be made from flour, potatoes, old bread or semolina.
 
Shaped like balls, the Kartoffelknödel are particularly tasty and are usually eaten with pork or beef and gravy. And for vegetarians, there is the delicious spinach and parmesan cheese variety served with melted butter.
 
7) Käsespätzle
 
 
Photo: Shutterstock
 
The pièce de résistance in German cuisine has to be Käsespätzle. Freshly made egg noodles (originally from Baden-Württemberg) mixed with grated cheese and topped with fried onion. They are so good (just not for the waistline) you could eat them every day.
 

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OPINION & ANALYISIS

What’s behind Germany’s obsession with roundtable politics talk shows?

Forget the Bundestag. If you want to understand German politics - and see how lively it can really be - turn on your (almost nightly) talk show.

What's behind Germany's obsession with roundtable politics talk shows?

It may well be one of the most German things imaginable – a roundtable discussion designed to give a fair amount of time to a wide range of viewpoints before (maybe) achieving some sort of consensus.

Failing that, viewers – theoretically anyway – walk away better informed and open to changing some of their opinions after a, again theoretically, respectful discussion.

Welcome to the German political talk show circuit – a collection of moderated roundtable discussions.

Whether its Anne Will on Sunday nights, “Hart aber fair” or “tough but fair” on Mondays, or Maybrit Illner on Thursdays and Markus Lanz on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays – you can tune into several political panels a week if you fancy.

If you have politically-minded German friends or co-workers, you might ask: “Did you watch Lanz last night?” Anecdotally, at least as many people who watch will have strong opinions about why they don’t.

Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk makes a video appearance (left video) on the Markus Lanz show on 10 March 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/ZDF | Cornelia Lehmann

“Lanz is a disgrace!” and “I don’t watch Anne Will out of principle!” are both phrases I’ve heard myself more than a few times over the years.

But if you are a fan and you miss an episode, don’t worry – many news outlets will run summaries of what happened during said roundtable the next morning.

“Newspapers regularly publish these recaps almost as if they were relevant parliamentary meetings,” says Peter Littger, a columnist on language and culture in Germany. “It’s super relevant politically. It can increase your voting base and certainly your book sales if you appear there.”

READ ALSO: Tatort to Temptation Island: What do Germans like to watch on TV?

‘Consensus-oriented political culture’

If the nationally-focused ones aren’t enough for you, there’s a good chance you can find a show on a regional broadcaster focusing on issues in your federal state, again in – you guessed it – roundtable format.

As you might have gathered, the show’s name is often the same as its host, who functions first and foremost as a moderator there to facilitate and mediate a discussion between guests who are chosen specifically to balance a panel.

For a discussion on Ukraine, for example, you’ll regularly have people from every political party, from ministers and high-ranking parliamentarians who chair important Bundestag committees to pro-Russian voices from the German Left Party and far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

And no one is too high-ranking not to make at least the occasional appearance. Chancellor Olaf Scholz himself joined a Maybrit Illner roundtable on July 7th this year.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz appears on the Maybrit Illner show on 7 July 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/ZDF | Svea Pietschmann

Both European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba have also made appearances on Anne Will this year.

In characteristically German fashion, state broadcasters have extensive written regulations to ensure a panel also has a balance of people from relevant expert disciplines. For instance, a coronavirus panel may well feature a notable doctor alongside a civil liberties lawyer.

“Germany has a more consensus-oriented political culture than you might see in a country like the UK, for example, which is more confrontational and even adversarial,” says Sebastian Ludwicki-Ziegler a PhD researcher at the University of Stirling’s Department of Communications, Media, and Culture.

“You’ll still get some invited guests who are very contrarian and even aggressive – like Thilo Sarrazin (a former politician who wrote a controversial book in 2010 about Muslim immigration to Germany) for example. But even then, the moderator often tries to maintain a softer, more civil tone.”

Ludwicki-Ziegler says that while the roundtable format reflects German political culture, it also reflects its institutional setup. A show producer can simply get more obvious ranges of political opinion in a country with Germany’s proportional representation, which has seven parties in parliament.

Historic roundtables

Unlike the often subdued German Bundestag though, German talk shows can certainly get lively, or even historic.

Perhaps the most notable TV roundtable happened right after the 2005 federal election. With then incumbent Social Democrat Gerhard Schröder having finished only one percent behind Christian Democrat Angela Merkel when all the votes were counted, party leaders gathered in the traditional “Elefantenrunde,” or yes, the “Elephant’s round,” to discuss the results.

READ ALSO: Talking elephants and grumpy politicians: Four things that will happen after the German elections

With the final election result having been so close, observers still discuss whether Schröder lost his chancellorship at the ballot box or during the 2005 Elefantenrunde. In contrast to a calm Merkel, Schröder insisted he would stay on as Chancellor.

Brash and arrogant, some observers have asked whether he was drunk at the time. German media outlets ran anniversary pieces looking back at his disastrous roundtable performance 5, 10, and 15 years later. One such anniversary piece from 2020 called the roundtable “Schröder’s embarrassing end.”

The 2005 post-election roundtable, or “Elefantenrunde,” is considered by many German political observers to be the disastrous end to former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder;s political career. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | ZDF/Jürgen_Detmers

Mastering the roundtable appearance is a big plus for a German politician, or anyone else looking to move the needle of German public opinion.

Satisfying a particularly German impulse, you can certainly also walk away feeling like you’ve considered all sides. But are there drawbacks?

On 8 May 2022’s edition of Anne Will, social psychologist Harald Welzer appeared to lecture Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk that 45 percent of Germans were against delivering heavy weapons to Ukraine because of German war history. Many observers criticised Welzer for patronising the Ambassador of a country at war about the need to have weapons for its own self-defense.

The exchange, and a fair few others, lead some experts to wonder whether the roundtable format so many German political talk shows seem to love gives too big a platform to pro-Russian voices or to controversial writers like the aforementioned Thilo Sarrazin.

“If we take Germany and Ukraine as one example, you can get some great guests who come on and really set things straight with facts, data, and plain talk,” says Benjamin Tallis, a Fellow in German Security Policy at the German Council on Foreign Relations.

“But you can get false balance. You’ll get people on with rather fringe opinions given a platform against people who have a lot more experience and evidence. That’s true in a lot of places now, sure, but this talk show format really lends itself to that because of the amount of guests you need on a nightly basis,” says Tallis.

“Unfortunately in Germany, many guests are invited on based on their opinions about an issue rather than the level of their expertise, in order to try and achieve balance,” says Minna Alander, a specialist in German foreign policy who recently joined the Finnish Institute of International Affairs after more than a decade working in Berlin.

“When you start equating opinion with knowledge, it makes it way more difficult to have a fact-based debate. On matters of life and death, like in Ukraine, that can have a polarising effect.”

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