About the food of Germany

The Saar River in Germany

I first went to Germany for a basketball tournament. I’d just made Captain of the J.V. team, thanks in great part to the small size of our school rather than any particular skill. That weekend we played with “heart” as our coach liked to say, losing by a mere 12 points – a definite improvement since the beginning of the season when we had lost several games by well over 30 points.

That kind of loss is a creaming and, unfortunately, not the kind that ends up in cake.

Düsseldorf, Germany

After Friday’s game my host family took me on a walking tour of downtown Düsseldorf. The air was crisp and dark – twinkling with the occasional string of lights. Our feet echoed along the cobblestones. Just when my eyes began to droop, the street opened up into a big plaza with a lively outdoor holiday market. A chorus huddled together in a gazebo, their songs crystallizing on the frosty air as they overlooked dozens of booths filled with food, beer [Recipe], wine, and handmade crafts.

This was a dangerous combination for a hungry teenager.

Although the festivities perked me up a bit, the smell of warm, mulled wine [Recipe] and grilled meats made me downright hungry.

So this was Germany.

Düsseldorf Christmas Market

Schnitzels were everywhere – which, by the way, we cooked when we made Austria [Recipe]. We paired the schnitzel with another dish adored in Germany, Spaetzle [Recipe]. Also available? Any sort of sausage or rouladen (rolled up beef with gravy) [Recipe]. From what I could tell, you had a choice of two sides: sauerkraut or red cabbage [Recipe]. That was it. Both were vinegary, but the red cabbage had a hint of sweetness to it.

After gorging on dinner, we were tempted with sweets – mostly gingerbread cookies [Recipe] and cakes. I looked long and hard, but didn’t spot my favorite – the German Tree Cake (baumtorte) [Recipe]. I have fond memories of making this cake with my mother when I was little, who at this point in my life I hadn’t lived with for the better part of a decade. Made of 20-30 layers of marizpan cake, the baumtorte kept us busy the better part of two afternoons. Which is certainly why I didn’t see it at the outdoor market.

When I finally tucked into bed it was 9:30 pm, but it might as well have been midnight. My muscles ached from the day’s game and my belly was full from the outdoor market.

Photos: Wolfgang Staud, Rainer Driesen, CIA World Factbook, Sasha Martin


  1. Rike says

    Oh my, what a surprise: your first picture of Germany is where I grew up!
    I will try not to get homesick during your German presentation.

    • Sasha Martin says

      That first picture makes ME homesick for Germany, and I have never even lived there!! Simply gorgeous…

  2. Simone says

    I can’t believe you’re “in” Germany already… when you started this journey I tried to figure out how long it would take you to get there, wow… 🙂

    I definitely am homesick now!! I haven’t been to my towns Christkindlmarkt in over 8 years 🙁

    But thinking of Rouladen makes me hungry; my grandma used to make the yummiest ones for Christmas… oh, the memories…

    • Sasha Martin says

      I know, part of me thinks the whole process is so slow but, other times, I feel amazed with how far we’ve come. We’re actually 1/3 of the way through the countries now. That feels so good!

      The rouladen were fun to make and totally comfort food. What did she put in hers?

      • Simone says

        hmmm… good question… definitely “Speck” (bacon) and pickles.. I think caramelized onions and bayleaves… but I’m not 100% on those. I miss her. Might have to make rouladen this weekend 🙂

  3. Cake are just the best thing in Germany, together with bread. Did you ever have an opportunity to try the dark breads with sunflower seeds? They are totally different from French bread but just as good. I never saw the cake you mention even in patisseries, so I’m looking forward to your recipe! On the other hand I see quite often mushrooms and bradkartoffeln served as sides: markets must have evolved!

  4. elisa waller says

    I like your comment about how “This was a dangerous combination for a hungry teenager”
    food, beer, wine, and handmade crafts…dnagerously cultural and fun thats for sure!!!
    I like germany and it’s way to food and celebrations!….YUM!

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