German Food or Food in Germany
Culinary nationalism and what counts as German food anyway?
This is my favourite German food. It typically involves couscous or sometimes bulgar and can contain a number of other add ins like green onions, raisins (no), and tomato. But what it always includes is ras el-hanout spice mix, which is North African in origin, translates as “head of the shop,” and is made up of the best spices that shop has to offer. Unsurprisingly the dish originates from North Africa and represents Germany’s North African diaspora.
So why am I telling you this?
Well, recently I received an email from an organization that represents former holders of grants like the German Academic Exchange Service, which I’m currently receiving. The email asked recipients to send them a picture and description of their favorite European food for their Europe Day campaign (#EatingEurope) and a chance to win a related cookbook. I don’t normally respond to these things but I really like this salad!
So I told them about it and made sure to mention that it originates in Germany’s North African diaspora. At first I received an email telling me that they would publish it for Europe Day with their other entries.
But then something very European happened.
I received a follow up telling me that the previous email was in error and in fact, since my dish was from North Africa, it can’t be included as it “is unfortunately not a part of Europe [whereas the]… campaign was all about European food.”
Of course this food is as European as any other, since it is made in Europe and by European citizens who have made Germany their home. The Berlin doner is similarly German, and would not exist without the Turkish immigrants who invented it. Heck, the most beloved of all German ingredients, the humble potato, is a new world crop that is only available here due to global culinary exchange (and colonialism).
It strikes me as particularly on the nose for an organization to openly state that they will only celebrate European foods that originate in Europe, whatever that could possibly mean or be defined as. Sadly it’s also not particularly surprising.