This is a continuation of my Celebration of Food this week. Again, I ask my readers to please think about those who currently find it hard to afford even the most basic food and please consider giving a donation to your favorite hunger-related charity.
I love bread. I also love drinking water, as opposed to soft drinks or other beverages, so some of my favorite meals in life have consisted, honestly, of bread and water. Bread takes many, many different forms across the globe, and I have been lucky to try a number of them on my travels.
One of the best places for variety of healthy bread is Germany. Germans love their Vollkorn or whole grain bread. It takes a while for us Americans to get used to. The inside of a good loaf of German bread usually ranges in color from gray to black. White bread rolls do exist (and are delicious), but they are often referred to as Sunday rolls - a special treat.
Sunday breakfast in and of itself is a special tradition in Germany with certain specific conventions. Here's what I have learned: First you go to the neighborhood bakery to buy fresh rolls. Now, mind you, for a long time, Germany had strict store opening hours; however, bakeries could be open for a few hours on Sunday morning. Any self-respecting establishment will have at least 10 different varieties of rolls: whole grain, more grain, wheat, sunflower seeded, poppy seeded, etc. You make your selection and bring your rolls home to put in a basket on the table. Then you set the table with plates of butter, sliced meats and cheeses, tomatoes and cucumbers, jars of preserves and Nutella, and individual egg cups to be filled with the ubiquitous hard- or soft-boiled egg. You and your friends or family sit around the table, take rolls, one by one, slice them open, and select items from the spread to place on top. Oftentimes, a white roll with butter was so satisfying for me, I could barely bring myself to try other variations.
If you live in a place like Berlin, the third largest Turkish city in the world, perhaps you will add pieces of Fladenbrot, an unbelievably delicious Turkish bread with a thick and almost spongy feel, to your feast. Yogurt is a favorite accompaniment, both from a large glass jar or small plastic cups. And Muesli or corn flakes is also a possibility - as a cereal-raised American, I enjoyed that probably more than most Germans. Of course, you need your coffee, tea or hot chocolate to sip. And perhaps you will have a glass of O-Saft, orange juice, or Mehrfruchtsaft, a multi-fruit juice. The sheer number of plates and vessels on the breakfast table lend an air of everyday decadence and richness to the gathering, whether it is for two people or ten. We would sometimes place tea lights on the table, and we would often have music playing in the background.
Breakfast could last for hours. And in a place like my dorm in Berlin, it could keep going and going, as different neighbors woke up or came home, and the party expanded.
There are a number of other places in the world where I've had delicious bread - artisanal baguettes in Paris come to mind, as do thick slices of homemade oatmeal bread in a tiny diner in Maine - but the ritual of bread as featured in the German breakfast is something I miss more than anything.