Whenever my girlfriend came to visit me in Britain, I would scurry off to the nearest supermarket to buy all the things she liked. my shopping list would almost always contain the same things: fizzy water, jam, HobNobs and most importantly of all bread, lots and lots of bread. It seemed to me that no matter how much of the stuff I bought there would always be a daily trip to the shops to buy some more. Despite her slight frame she would consume bread at such a rate as to baffle greater minds than mine. And yet no matter which kind I bought or where I bought it I could always sense a slight air of disappointment about my selection. Now, I consider myself a fairly good boyfriend but after so much bread rejection I was beginning to think my situation was untenable, but having lived in Germany awhile I have come to understand her lack of enthusiasm for Britain’s selection of baked goods. It was not that she was hard to please it was simply that all other breads, at least in the mind of many Germans, fails to comply with the impossibly high standards of the average local Backerei.
Bread, like beer, is something Germans take a lot of care over and it has to be a certain way. To put it into perspective, it like the British and a cup of tea. One of the main complaints of Britons abroad is that no matter how fabulous the weather, how comfortable the hotel or how amazing the landscape, it’s hard to find a decent cup of tea. In Germany the bread is never as good as it is at home. Italian bread is good but the flour isn’t quite right, while French breads have their merits it is too brittle and British bread is similar to eating a brick. None of these options can compete with those on offer on home soil.
All this may seem a little perplexing and even a little condescending, but all it takes is a quick stop a any local Backerei. The first thing that hits you is the sheer amount of bread on offer: Bauern brot (farmers bread), Misch brot (mixed bread), Volkorn brot (full corn), Nasser laib (moist bread), Dinkel brot (old recipe), Stein Offen (Stone oven), Sonnen blumen (sunflower) or Korbis (pumpkin). Hell, that’s not even including bread rolls which are given different names depending where you are in Germany. Semmel, Brothchen, Weggle, Schreppa or Schmitta cover various regions of German, all of which come in various different sizes. Or Pretzels, I mean that’s a topic all of its own and all in all it’s enough to give a simple man like myself full sensory overload!
Whenever I’m teaching an English class on comparatives and superlatives I have the class tell why they think are the big differences between Germany and Britain. Without fail one person will always say with a confident tone “British don’t make the best bread”. Whether this is true or not I don’t really know, but I know Germany has a larger selection. This can be quite intimidating for me, especially as I’m not as confident with my German, but it’s a fun challenge to ask for the most difficult thread name to pronounce. Some people jump out of planes and others wrestle crocodiles, I stand patiently in line for bread not knowing what I’m going to order. That’s a real extreme sport.