As the world’s financial markets teeter on the brink of collapse, and the European Central Bank prepares for another bout of evasive action, what better moment to consider again Germany’s love of Kaffee und Kuchen? After all, come next Sunday afternoon, national economies may have collapsed, perhaps even governments fallen, but few Germans will have missed their weekly sugar fix.
In response to my last blog on this country’s passion for mountainous cakes topped with Matterhorns of whipped cream, one sweet-toothed Münchener wrote to tell me of his love of the dichotomic German diet.
‘When I lived in Ireland for more than a year in the 1980s, I badly missed my healthy Schwarzbrot,’ Horst told me. ‘How could I cycle through the fresh air of the Dublin mountains, steal my muscles and live healthily on the squashy something which the Irish had nicknamed “bread”?’
Equally bewildering for Horst was the lack of Kuchen in the Celtic diet. ‘Kein Kuchen, kein Sonntag. How could a nation well used to the odd rebellion sit quietly in front of Kylemore buns, “Danish” pastries or machine-fabricated so-called Black-Forest-Gateaux? How could one go for a Sunday drive without Vorfreude auf Kaffee und Kuchen?’
Obviously Ireland – for better or worse – was managing to survive without German cakes, but Horst had to struggle to adapt himself to the culinary deprivation.
‘Until, one day a hint from heaven arrived; the address of an Austrian bakery in a back lane not far from work,’ he confessed to me. ‘Henceforth, every odd day, my colleagues and I crawled like ants to the honey-pot, faces smiling from ear to ear. We escaped from the boring mix of dough and sugar sold under the label of cake.’
Traditional German cakes restored peace -- and Gemütlichkeit – to Horst’s life, but at no point did he worry about their less-then-healthy effect on his blood sugar level.
‘Never once did I spot the weird logic between longings for gesundes Schwarzbrot while missing a talented Konditor Kylemore and others were just a Bäcker, surely never able to rise to a true Konditor.’
Only later did he ask himself, ‘Had my tastes developed as the result of child-conditioning during those Sunday afternoons with Tante Frieda? The Sundays of the all-cousin-competition when we gulped down as many pieces of cake as possible while wafts of coffee, cocoa, cream and Frankfurter Kranz mingled and sailed through the room? While adults only mildly attempted to caution us, only to rescue some pieces for themselves?’
This is a question that Horst will attempt to answer this Sunday, at a gemütliche Münchner Konditorei.
At this time of economic anxiety, I hope the world’s bankers, Europe’s finance ministers and – above all – Washington’s partisan politicians (who are putting party politics ahead of global financial stability) will consider joining Horst, and so bring some sweet peace -- and Gemütlichkeit – to all our lives.
Donnerstag, 11. August 2011
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