A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
So since I was writing about food, I thought I’d share a street food story about literally the wurst thing that could happen to curry. I was in Berlin just last month, which is indeed not a good time to be a tourist in that usually flirty city. But I had just stepped out of a museum, and was looking for a quick bite before I could step into the next. And I chanced upon one of the great icons of German popular culture: currywurst.
The currywurst is basically steamed and fried pork sausage that is sliced and ‘seasoned’ with ketchup, curry powder and paprika, and is served with french fries or bread rolls. While it appears on restaurant menus, the most authentic experience is to be found one of the several street stalls in the city (I had mine at the Konnopke´s Imbiß in Schönhauser Allee). Almost all Berliners have their favourites and often get defensive when challenged by pretenders from other neighbourhoods.
The trademark fast food snack has indeed risen to cultic status, inspiring a song by Herbert Groenemeyer in 1985: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnZT0cXNRJQ, numerous TV series, a short documentary called “Best of the Wurst” (2004) http://www.spike.com/video-clips/vrz6rz/best-of-the-wurst, and even a full-length film called “Die Entdeckung der Currywurst” (or ‘The Invention of the Curried Sausage’) based on a novel by Uwe Timm: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jb8ejGCAAY8
This is not all however, when one says that the currywurst is an icon of German popular culture. In 2009, the 60th birthday of the dish was celebrated with the opening of the Deutsches Currywurst Museum. Located near Checkpoint Charlie, this privately financed institution tells the enticing history of the currywurst. It was apparently invented in 1949 by a German lady named Herta Heuwer who obtained ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and curry powder from British soldiers stationed in Germany and poured it over hot pork sausage, selling it to construction workers rebuilding the post-war city. At the museum, visitors can relive this history by stepping into a currywurst van to drench their sausages in ketchup and curry powder, relaxing on a ‘sauce sofa’, and immersing themselves in a ‘spice chamber’. Cultural translation does work in mysterious ways.