Wall Street Journal

Alles übers Deutsche Currywurst Museum

Das muss ein Imbiss-Produkt zuerst einmal hinkriegen, mit einem großen Beitrag in dieser New Yorker Zeitung präsent zu sein. Kaum hatte das Deutsche Currywurst Museum in Berlin Mitte eröffnet, stand über diese kulinarische Erfindung vor 60 Jahren Folgendes im Wall Street Journal:
Germany's favorite fast food has a cult-like following - and its own museum. Now the popular proletarian dish is popping up on menus across the world.
Many dishes claim to be part of a people's heritage - but few have their own museum.
In Germany, currywurst, the traditional proletarian snack of sliced pork sausage swimming in a curry-tomato sauce, merits a memorial.
Currywurst is as German as pizza is Italian, hot dogs are American, and fish and chips British. This month, the dish was immortalized in the new Deutsches Currywurst Museum in Berlin, a sausage shrine dedicated to all things currywurst, including sausage sofas, a curry "spice chamber" and a movie montague of all-time currywurst cameos. The museum opened commemorating the dish's 60th birthday.

What's all the craze over a seemingly simple concoction?
Many claim to have invented currywurst, but the Deutsches Currywurst Museum traces it back to post-war Berlin in 1949, when the city still lay in shambles. At the time the dish was known as "poor man's steak" because most Germans couldn't afford a proper chunk of meat, says Birgit Breloh, who heads the museum. "The unusual flavor was a welcome change of what limited diet options there were," she says.
Fancy spices such as curry were in extremely short supply in Berlin. Although the Soviet Union had abandoned its blockade to the city that year, supplies and ingredients were still hard to come by. (1949 was also the year Germany enacted the constitution, the Grundgesetz, which laid the democratic groundwork for partnership with Western allies.)
But, according to currywurst legend, a witty German housewife named Herta Heuwer got her hands on some English curry by trading it against spirits with parched British soldiers. "Heuwer was one of the typical rubble women," Ms. Breloh says, speaking of women who cleared the debris of Germany's war-torn cities.
Experimenting with the spice in her kitchen, Ms. Heuwer soon concocted the cheap yet filling dish now known as currywurst: grilled sausage, sliced, with a gravy-like sauce containing English Curry and stewed tomatoes. At a time when Germany was a changing nation, this meal was fitting - comfort topped with a hint of exoticism.
Ms. Heuwer started selling her dish from a street stand on the fringes of what was to become Berlin's red-light district. Construction workers and laborers were quick to warm up to it: Currywurst was different, yet still strangely familiar, and above all affordable -- Ms. Heuwer sold it for 60 pfennig a portion, about $0.50 today.
Her quick success allowed her to give up the street stand and move into a small restaurant in the red-light district. For years, it had a reputation for serving celebrities such as Harald Juhnke, Germany's answer to Frank Sinatra, until it closed in 1974.
Currywurst took off beyond Mr. Heuwer's kitchen, too. Knock-off stands and restaurants mushroomed across Berlin and into other cities. But they were all guesses at the original recipe -- Ms. Heuwer never revealed the secret to her addictive sauce. "She took it with her to her grave when she died in 1999," Mr. Breloh says of the recipe. "She didn't even tell it to her husband."

She also resisted the generous bids of the mass-production food companies. In fact, no company has been able to industrialize currywurst. German engineers were quick to develop sausage slicing machines, but there is no McCurrywurst, nor a Currywurst King chain. One explanation: Currywurst is as much about your most trusted street vendor, his signature sauce and the people you meet there, as it is about the food itself.
"Currywurst has huge social implications," says Ms. Breloh, a trained sociologist. "In the end, there is no such thing as the currywurst -- every one likes the dish differently." Indeed, walk into any German pub and it's sure to be a conversation starter, if not a hotly contested topic of debate.

On a cultural level, the dish came to represent the everyday German. Currywurst became the de facto refreshment of countless inspectors in German thrillers. Herbert Grönemeyer, the actor best known for his role as Lieutenant Werner in "The Boat," dedicated a popular song, aptly named "Currywurst," to the snack. Politicians looking for a bit of street cred started posing in pictures with the dish -- a sign that they were one with the proletariat. When the federal government moved from Bonn to Berlin in 1999, Germany's then-chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, the first to govern out of Berlin, loved to picture himself as a currywurst aficionado.

Today, about 800 million currywurst dishes are sold in Germany each year, the Currywurst Museum says, at street stands and high-end restaurants alike. Currywurst vendors vie to stand out and create a following. At the upscale Bier's Kudamm 195, a celebrity-favorite hangout, the dish is served on chinaware and with a glass of champagne on request. Witty's at Wittenbergplatz only uses organic ingredients. At Curry 36 in Berlin's bohemian Kreuzberg district, customers queue day and night for a version deemed particularly aromatic and tangy.

In East Berlin - yes, currywurst even survived the divide of the country after the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 -- the most famous vendor is Konnopke's. It is located on a congested crossroad, under a metro-rail bridge. But you'll find that the dish is slightly different in the East: The sausage is often softer because it lacks casing. "That's simply because [sausage casing] wasn't available under socialism," Ms. Breloh explains.
Now, star chefs such as Daniel Boulud are even putting currywurst on their menus. At Mr. Boulud's new French-American brasserie in downtown Manhattan, DBGB Kitchen, he serves the dish with a turnip confit for $12.
Beitrag von Roman Kessler