Right, it seems I have made it to 10 entries without being booted off this blog. It could be that Nic is such a kind soul that he is in fact inundated with vicious hate mail for me but is acting as an animosity filter, allowing me to walk the streets filled with buoyant optimism. If this is the case, cheers Nic. Looking back on what I’ve done for the blog so far, I have, by and large, been pretty optimistic about life here in Germany. As this is number 10, I’m celebrating by letting loose and finally slamming something that I find to be a repugnant black mark on this fine nation’s scorecard. Aesthetic, as opposed to functional, sandwiches.
Being British, I am used to a certain level of variety and presentation when it comes to a store-bought sarnie. It seems that wherever you are in the UK, you are never far from an illustrious selection of sandwiches of approaching infinite variety. Sure, there are the staples, ham and cheese, prawn mayo, egg and cress, BLT, and then there are the more intriguing gastro style sangers such as chicken, basil pesto and pine nuts or brie and grape. I am not all that into these gastro style sandwiches, but I embrace their existence as a sign of how important the sandwich is to British culture. There is not another nationality in the world that is as connected to bread and filling as we are, and I ruddy love it.
This is my first beef with Germany and sandwiches, variety. When you go into one of the many, and I mean many, local bakeries that inundate Germany, there is a good chance that the sandwiches on offer will all look quite different from one another, but don’t let their appearance deceive you, far too often the only difference is the bread itself. Once you bite in, the depression hits, once again you have a mouthful of cheese, salami, a slice of cucumber and a leaf of lettuce. Damn it.
There are of course some other offerings out there, schnitzel, egg, pickled fish, sausage (naturally) and some others. However, the idea of walking in to a bakery and finding a Thai citrus chicken wrap or some such thing is only ever going to remain a pipe dream. The fact is, bread is more important to Germans than what is stuck in it. The vast majority of the British are more than happy to rely on sliced bread which would be deemed offensive by most Germans (they call it American sliced here, a caveat I think). For us back home, it’s what you put in between the slices that matters, not the quality of the vessel. I know, I know, the bread here is amazing, but god I would trade it all for some fillings that actually titillate.
Having dealt with what’s inside and outside, let’s move on to what’s inside-ish. Presentation is key in many parts of life, of this there is no doubt, but in a store-bought sandwich in a box, it is of the smallest significance. As long as there is an accurate description which sounds delectable, and the best before date is a couple of days off, we in the UK are in. Germany is not of this opinion, and this is how they trick you.
All the sandwiches on offer here look amazing, really. Each one looks wonderfully fresh and the ingredients poke out in an effort to tantalise and reel you in. You are there at the counter filled with optimism that the sandwich is so plump with filling that it is literally bursting at the seams. Don’t fall for it. If you do fall for it, you’ll walk away with a sandwich that is about to reveal its lie to you. If you open it up to sneak a peek, you will notice at once that at least 90% of what is inside the bloody thing was on show, the rest of the bread a hollow void. It is bleak indeed. The only solution is to take a seat and disassemble the creation and set about making it all over again, this time allowing the hopeful possibility that each bite might, just might, allow some filling to be savoured. This is the downfall, sandwiches are all about taste and convenience, having to sit down and remake the thing goes against this in a way that truly offends me and my English sensibilities.
There are so many things that I love about living here in Germany, but I would trade off at least a couple of these things to have a revolution in all things sandwich related. In Britain we eat over 11.5 billion, yes, billion sandwiches a year, buying over 3 billion of them at a cost of £6,000,0000. It shows how significant the sandwich is in our culinary culture and how focused we are on speed and convenience. There is a true art to sandwich making and I hope that one day Germany will come to embrace it and add what is a wonderful thing to their daily routine and banish to the depths their terrible aesthetically focused bastardisation.
- Bacon, Brie and Cranberry
- Avocado BLT with Chipotle Mayo
- Roast Beef, Caramelized Onions, Wholegrain Mustard and Horseradish Mayo
- Sweet Chilli Chicken
- Pulled Pork
- Hoi Sin Duck
To be honest, even a solid Prawn Mayo would suffice.