“Let’s talk about food!”
How has eating culture in Germany changed? In this conversation grandfather and granddaughter explore what separates and what connects the generations.
The granddaughter, Lara (28), is the oldest of three siblings. A doctor, she comes from Germany but lives and works in Finland. She loves Asiatic cuisine and is a passionate traveller. A trip lasting several months took her through the CIS states, the USA and Asia. Her next destinations: China and Antarctica.
The grandfather, Günther (83), is the third youngest of ten siblings and has himself three children. Until his retirement, the master baker ran a bakery and pastry shop near Frankfurt. Even today he continues to bake cakes every Sunday and, at Christmas, up to 30 stollen for friends and family.
During a visit to Berlin they got to talking about food.Günther: Why do you always photograph your food?
Lara: We want to let others share in it, to show the great stuff we have there on the plate, what a nice restaurant we’re in, or even what my grandpa has again baked specially for us.
Günther: When a person travels as much as you do, maybe that’s worth doing. When I was young, photos of food would have been quite boring. I grew up on a farm. We ate mainly self-made or self-slaughtered food. Like everybody else.
Lara: But you didn’t have to think about the ingredients of your food. Many people in my generation want to go back exactly to that. To this transparency, when you know where the food comes from, what’s in it and that it’s produced sustainably.
“At home we always cleaned our plates.”Günther: It’s not my impression that everyone wants to eat the same things. There are so many different eating habits today. Sometimes I ask myself how you manage at all to get together for a meal as we used to do, when we ate what was put on the table.
Lara: Today it’s really hard to get everyone together for a meal. There are vegans, ecos, gourmets and many people who suffer from food intolerance or at least claim they do. But I’m not picky at all. At any rate I’ll try everything, no matter how exotic it is. And I always clean my plate. I think that’s only right when someone has taken the trouble to cook something.
Günther: I often see people heap their plates full of food and then just peck at it a bit and leave the rest. Never happened at home. We were ten children; we always cleaned our plates. Even food we didn’t like, such as potato soup. My mother used to make pancakes with it and you got the pancakes only when the soup bowl was empty.
Lara: I would have liked to start with the pancakes. Luckily, we didn’t have to eat what we didn’t like, and we also didn’t have fixed mealtimes any more. In the morning, for example, everyone could make his own breakfast when he woke up and make whatever he liked best. In the evening the family all came together for dinner.
“We were there for all three meals”Günther: In my childhood there were always three fixed meals at definite times of the day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and on Sunday also coffee and cake. We were all always there. In-between, there was nothing. There was simply nothing there that you could have eaten in-between and nowhere you could get a chocolate bar. It’s quite different with you young people. Sometimes when I’m shopping I see whole trolleys full of snacks which can’t be coordinated with a regular mealtime. It sometimes looks as if soon no one will cook any more.
Lara: We certainly eat more in-between meals than you do. If I want something, then there it is. Sometimes a chocolate bar, sometimes a snack. But I think that if you’re going to eat, you should also know how to cook. I cooked for my younger siblings and now cook for myself, and sometimes even bake my own bread. I learned a lot from my mother. But it’s already very different with my little sister. I think she can just about fry an egg.
Günther: Being able to cook is a real qualification of great value. My mother attended a cooking school for young farmers’ daughters for two years and learned a lot there. Since your grandmother has been dead, I’ve looked after myself quite well. But for me today utility is the focus. I wouldn’t want to stand forever in the kitchen when I’m cooking just for myself. But I watch out and make sure I eat enough vegetables.
“At most you put some salt on your food.”Lara: I also pay attention to healthy eating. I’m therefore interested in vegan food. And I like Asian cuisine very much. I like to try out new recipes, new ingredients, new spices. It’s different with you. At most you put some salt on your food. A Korean bibimbap would therefore not be something for you, right? That’s a bowl of rice, beef, cucumber, balloon flower roots, bean sprouts, spicy Gochujang paste and then an egg to top it off.
Günther: Never! I wouldn’t even try that. I’ve also never eaten a hamburger or a kebab. I’m no friend at all of exotic foods and spices. If I were to cook something for you, it would be minced meat dumplings, chips and scalloped cauliflower. And afterwards butter almond cake.
Lara: Sounds great! I’d like to cook some Scandinavian food for you with the aim of a cautious culinary exchange. It would be a salmon soup and, as dessert, a Swedish marzipan torte.
Günther: I’d eat that right away. I think that there we’re rather similar. We both like cake.
Lara: After all, I’m the granddaughter of a baker! But unfortunately I don’t have a single one of your recipes. That’s what I wish from you for my 30th birthday, that you write down the recipes for your tortes and cakes. And by the way, there’s another similarity between us: neither of us like raw onions.