If there’s one word that defines German food, it’s “sausages”. That is, it’s “sausages” to us North Americans, but to the Germans it’s “wurst”. And just saying “wurst” is like saying “meat” to the rest of the world: it’s a magic word that holds a hundred different meanings.
In Germany, just about every different region has its own style of wurst – in fact, some cities have a distinctive one, like the little mini rostbratwursts in Nuremburg, the Würzburger bratwurst, or currywurst, the quintessential snack of Berlin – it seems the influx of foreigners has had an effect even on the cornerstone of German cuisine.
Of course, there are some constants in the world of wursts. The basic version is the bratwurst, a mild sausage made from veal or pork. Then there are common variations, like knackwurst (similar to hot dogs), weisswurst (which, as its name suggest, is white), blutwurst (blood sausage), and spreadable leberwurst, or liver sausage.
But no matter what kind they’re selling, the Germans line up to eat them. They stand at street counters, downing their sausages with a little senf, or mustard, and often without a bun: only Americans need to put their Wiener sausage (read, hot dog) on a roll.
In Köln, Germany (known to the rest of us as Cologne), I came across this poster outside a restaurant, showing a little bit of the wide spectrum of German sausages. As you can see, there are several different types on offer, from regular bratwurst to rindsbratwurst, a tasty beef version, krakauer (Polish sausage) and spiessbraten, a kind of rolled pork roast. There’s also a lot of choice in the way they’re served: grilled, barbecued, cooked in a coil … And of course, since meat and potatoes go together just as well in Germany as everywhere else, they’re usually served with potato salad or French fries, which the Germans call “pommes”.
I’ve eaten quite a few varieties of German sausage, most of which were surprisingly mild. But there were some that packed a little kick, and others with intriguing flavours from herbs and veggies like parsley, cardamom and onion. Any way they cook them, however, I find that eating German sausages will fill you up in a hurry. And while it may not be the best thing for your health, in Germany, it’s always the wurst.