August 2004


Döner: German Food

I came to Germany with the distinct impression that German food consisted only of heavy items: Bratwurst, Sauerkraut, and Beer.

I have news for you–the new face of German food is far different.

The new traditional foods of Germany consist of Döner and ice cream.

(Please note, as I started writing this entry, I had not done any research, so the links I found are a result of needing references for my impressions.)

I can state this with authority. As I walk from the main train station to my residence, I pass a lot of döner stands- I meant to count them officially last night, but I forgot-but as I make the mental trip I see at least three stands. If you actually go into the middle of Weimar there are probably 4 or 5 stands, and in downtown Jena, you cannot turn around without spotting at least two döner stands.

The familiar sign for the döner is a vertical spit with a column of meat hanging off of it. The sign hangs above random doorway much like pub signs hang above random doorways in Britain and Starbuck’s signs protrude above random doorways in America.

The so-called traditional roots of Döner lie in Turkish and Greek cuisine. It’s clearly an offshoot of the traditional Greek gyro, but I am not really clear how it is different, except that it is Turkish. It is, as described here, “a pocket of Turkish bread filled with spicy grilled meat, salad and a yogurt sauce.”

I just found the Doener365 website, which near as I can tell, is a listing of all known döner shops in Germany. In the listing Weimar has 5 shops (obviously a miscount), and Jena has 10 (another miscount), including the ever popular McDöner.

The other traditional German food is ice cream. In the core of Weimar I need not walk more than a few meters to find an “eis” shop – and the ice cream is, generally, delicious and inexpensive. This is not the traditional hard or soft American ice cream, rather it is the Italian Gelato and it comes in at least 20 flavors at any given shop. If you pay €0.70 for a scoop, you’re probably paying too much. (In Bloomington, think of Neanie’s Café in the 400 block of West 6th Street.)

In what is turning out to be a very hot August, it is easy to spot lots of people enjoying an ice cream during the lunch hour or evening. It has probably become my greatest weakness, and one that I need to stop.

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