Germany at 25: Pommes- Many ways to make something out of a potato


Tuesday night right after a seminar at the university: the students are exhausted after you (as the teacher) unload some knowledge onto them to digest and think about. This includes the homework for the next session. You have another seminar to teach from 6:00 to 8:00 in the evening, but are very hungry. Then you learned from a colleague from Halle (Westphalen), who is new to the university that there is a fast-food potato wedge food stop, located between the building where you taught and another building where you are supposed to have your class in a half hour. You decide to try it out, only to find that there is a big line in front of the food stop.

Now why would a crowd hound a food joint, despite having a sign in Old German resembling this:


Any ideas what that means, readers? 🙂

Anyway, you have a look at the menu only to find that the potato is the centerpiece and is very popular, especially if you either combine it with a curry wurst or put sauce on it, as seen in the menu below:


The potato wedge is not the key theme of this article in the series but is only part of an even bigger topic, the potato (a.k.a. in D: Kartoffel), and its many ways to consume them! 😀  Together with pork (and its forms of bratwurst, Kasseler, and schnitzel), the potato is the most popular food that is eaten in Germany.  Originating from Bolivia and Peru, the vegetable made its way to Europe beginning in the 16th century after the conquest of Hernando Cortes and Francisco Coronado, both of Spain, who brought the vegetable over for cultivation. The potato was responsible for the stability and growth of the population in Europe over the next three centuries. And with that, the cooks and chefs found many ways of creating a dish using this most important commodity- first in the castle, then later in the house or dugout. No matter how the spud (as Americans would nickname it) was cooked and made, one can never go wrong with the potato.

Germany has three different types of potatoes that exist in the supermarkets today, along with another relative of the family, the sweet potato (Süßkartoffel), which also originated from the Americas. Each of the types has its different uses. The Mehligkochend can be found in blue-labeled bags and has a high concentration of starch- good for French fries, potato wedges and mashed potatoes. The vorwiegend Festkochend feature potatoes with a medium amount of starch and can maintain its shape while cooking. Found in a red-tagged bag, they are excellent for baked potatoes but also for potato wedges. And lastly, the Festkochend, found in a green-tagged bag, has a low starch count, but the texture is firm enough to be used for a stew, salad, or even boiled potatoes (Pellkartoffeln). Although potatoes are grown in Germany, some are imported from other countries in Europe as well as Israel and therefore, are required to have labels on them, showing the type and the country of origin.

Apart from the potato wedges, one can create a variety of dishes with the potato, although the recipes vary from region to region and based on family tradition. This includes the potato salad, which goes excellent with every meat dish provided in Germany, period.  While I enjoy the family recipe handed down to me by my late grandmother, where we have potatoes with radishes, peppers, corn and mayonaise, many Germans prefer potato salad with a combination of pickles (gehrkins), red cabbage, bacon and onions. A little dash of vinegar (Essig) and you have a world champion side dish. Also common is the Kartoffelpuffer. It is the pancake version of the tater-tots, which can be served with sour creme and apple sauce. Like in the States, the mashed potatoes is a common side dish here in Germany, best served with onions and with a meat product, especially liver. And one can never go wrong with broiled (roasted) potatoes, especially if you live in Schleswig-Holstein, where roasted potatoes with bacon and onions go great with either Sauerfleisch or fish.  Boiled potatoes can replace the typical cold plate (with bread) and can be eaten with whatever fixing you like, except for fresh produce. 😉  Hotdish, green eggs and red spuds, beef stew with potties and what not, if you can think it, you can cook it.  If someone from Mecklenburg-Pommerania created and patented the McPom (Big Mac with Kartoffelpulver as the bun), it would not be surprising, except it’s doubtful McDonald’s would credit that person for the invention. There is always something behind that smile of Ronald McDonald that turns a person off….

Going back to the teacher example, the fried potato wedges with homemade remoulade and honey-lemon mayonaise is typical for the region of Thuringia, together with Kartoffelpuffer and the potato restaurants (think Kartoffelhaus in Jena). But the teacher didn’t care about it. He has tried it before and has been a regular customer of the fast food stop for over a couple years. The spuds are good and filling. And they are a perfect substitute to the typical Big Mac, fries and Coke, as they are typical for an American fast food restaurant. But in either case, the wedges are one of the typical potato entrées one can find in Germany. But unlike the family recipes at home, the different potato entrées vary by region in Germany, which means one should try a different local specialty when visiting the regions, whether they are in Schleswig-Holstein, Thuringia, Bavaria or even Baden Württemberg. Each one has its own specialty…..


…and in this case, together with a cup of coffee needed before the next class, a different taste! Mmmmmm……. lecker! 🙂

Check out the guide to various potato recipes by clicking here.

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4 thoughts on “Germany at 25: Pommes- Many ways to make something out of a potato

  1. “Fasse Dich kurz! Nimm Rücksicht auf Wartende!” That’s what the sign in “normal” letters says. It was displayed in telephon boots (Anybody remembers what that was?) and in English it means “Make it short! Consider those waiting!”


  2. “Be considerate of the ones waiting….keep it short.”!
    This was an enamel sign put on the first public telephone booths, because local calls were unlimited, and some people took advantage of it. Most of the signs were gone by the 70’s. Now it’s just nostalgia.
    By the way, potato pancakes are kartoffelPUFFER, not pulver. Pulver means powder.


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