Ain't No Party Like a German Grillparty
There are many things that surprise people when they first arrive in Germany; eating cheese and onions for breakfast, putting cola in beer and the continued popularity of warbling songstress Helene Fischer. In addition to these curiosities, we can add the overwhelming popularity of barbecues. When people think of Germany, the last thing they may mention is that barbecues or more properly, the Grillparty is an integral part of German summer-time culture. In fact, such is the popularity of the barbecue, Germans will attempt to prolong the enjoyment of the great summer ritual well into winter, even going as far as to make Christmas dinner on one, despite the knee high snow drifts. That the Germans loving grilling slabs of meat should come as no real surprise, it is the finest form of cooking known to humanity after all. In addition, Germany is a country of meat lovers. Finding a reasonable vegetarian/vegan restaurant outside of Berlin is less likely than catching Elvis holding hands with Sasquatch.
Hairy mythical beast aside, the Germans, as could be expected, take grilling incredibly seriously. Type the term “Grillkurse” into Google and the results speak for themselves. Every form of grilling technique is available to learn, from the basics of cooking a wurst to the complexities of the Dutch Oven, the latter of which I had always assumed was a terrifying sexual act, but which I have just now learned is actually simply a type of cooking pot. Courses such as “Die Kunst des Holzkohlegrillens” (The art of charcoal grilling) and Kulinarische Weltreise (Culinary World Tour) are available to those who wish to go beyond the confines of basic grilling. Although the German grill has long been the preserve of men, there are even course designated as “Ladies Only”, which goes to show how truly progressive modern grilling has become in 2017. Woman might not be paid the same as their male counterparts, but damn it they can be patronised by a man with a large spatula and an in-depth knowledge of rotisserie chickens.
Once the dark arts of the grill have been mastered, Germans can go forth and cook all the beasts of the land and fish of the sea. What should be put on the barbecue is a source of much debate, one in which I, as a child of 1980s Britain, am ill equipped to take part in. My experiences of British barbecues has left me with little useful knowledge, except that I know that chicken legs will most definitely kill you unless the inside is twice as hot as the surface of the sun and that Birdseye frozen beefburgers will naturally shrivel to the size of a 2p piece, which denotes that they are ready to eat. Although British barbecuing has taken many leaps and bounds in the intervening years, Germans have been quietly doing their own thing when it comes to selecting what is best for a barbecue.
Wurst is the obvious king of the German Grillparty, with every region having their own particular variant. Bratwurst is a popular option, but in all honesty any wurst cooked on a grill will be welcomed. My personal favourite is the Käsewurst, which may well originate from the Austrian Käsekrainer. Essentially it is like a premium hot-dog, with cheese packed into the middle and although that might sound like an unholy abomination, it is actually very tasty, albeit when eaten in moderation.
Along with the Wurst can be found the Grillfackeln, a stick with bacon wrapped around it. I have a difficult relationship with these, ever since my first barbecue in Germany. Back in 2008, I was invited to meet my then girlfriends parents and to celebrate the occasion they hosted a Grillparty for all the family. Terrified of making a fool of myself and worried that I might seem impolite, I continued to accept the various foods that were offered to me by the family, well past the point of my stomachs ability to digest the cornucopia of meat that was being passed through it. Among the number of delicious things on offer were the Grillfackeln. I cannot remember exactly how many I ate, but to this day every time I see one at a barbecue I have involuntary meat sweats.
Steaks are the final piece of the Grillparty puzzle, but they are not the only factor that will be presented by German hosts. Any visitor should expect to come across a Nudelsalat of some description. The German love of Nudeln or pasta is worthy of its own blog, but suffice to say that Germany loves them. Each family has their own way of doing things, but all will contain the secret ingredient of Miracel Whip. For the uninitiated, this is an alternative to mayonnaise, originally an American condiment it has become an important part of the German diet since the 1970s. Of course, this being Germany, Nudelsalat also contains meat (I was not joking about the German love of meat!), usually ham or chopped Wurst. It might sound a little strange, but I have grown to love Nudelsalat with a burning intensity that I usually reserve for football and Star Wars movies.
Grillpartys are the highlight of a German summer and although they may not have the credibility of Texas BBQ, they are one of the greatest aspects of living in here. I will miss the food poisoning Russian roulette of the British barbecue, but if I ever get whimsical I could just eat a Mettigel.