8 foods whose names Germans can't agree on

8 foods whose names Germans can't agree on


"Brötchen" ("Brot" is German for bread, the -"chen" is a diminutive suffix) are a staple all over the German-speaking world, but the word used to order the crusty rolls at the bakery counter vary greatly. You'll find "Schrippe" in Berlin, "Wecken" in Swabia, "Rundstück" in the North and "Semmel" in southern Germany. Austrians call the little breads "Laibchen" and in Switzerland they're "Weggen."

8 foods whose names Germans can't agree on


What looks like a donut without a hole and is deep-fried sweet yeast dough is a "Berliner" in northern and western Germany and Switzerland. But beware: Don't ask for a Berliner in Berlin! In eastern Germany, the pastry is called "Pfannkuchen" (pancake). In southern Germany and Austria, it's a "Krapfen." No matter the name, it is often filled with jam and covered with icing or powdered sugar.

8 foods whose names Germans can't agree on


Food trucks in cities and towns across the country sell roast chicken on the spit: "Brathähnchen." In Bavaria and Austria, the roasted chickens are called "Hendl" or "Grillhendl." In eastern Germany, they are "Broiler" to this very day, decades after communist East Germany ceased to exist, where a roast chicken was a "Goldbroiler" — or, more flippantly, "Gummiadler" (rubber eagle).

8 foods whose names Germans can't agree on


In southern Germany and Austria a carrot (from the Latin carota) is simply "Karotte." In northern Germany, the orange veggie is called "Wurzel" (root) or "Möhre," and "Mohrrübe" in eastern Germany. In the German-speaking part of Switzerland, a carrot is a "Rübli" — which makes carrot cake "Rüblikuchen."

8 foods whose names Germans can't agree on


"Kartoffel" is the most common term for potatoes, but in some areas the German staple is likened to fruit: "Erdäpfel" (apples of the earth) in southern Germany and Austria, "Grundbirnen" (pears of the ground) in southwestern Germany. If you see "Kartoffelbrei," "Kartoffelpüree" or "Kartoffelmus" on the menu - expect mashed potatoes.

8 foods whose names Germans can't agree on


Eaten hot or cold and dipped in mustard, a "Frikadelle" is a fried hamburger made of ground beef or pork mixed with bread, onions, egg and seasonings. A bar snack or part of a hot lunch, it's a "Bulette" in northeastern Germany, "Fleischpflanzerl" (meat plant) in Bavaria and "Fleischküchle" (little meat cake) in southwestern Germany.

8 foods whose names Germans can't agree on


Lamb's lettuce in English, this hardy winter green is widely known as field lettuce throughout most of Germany: "Feldsalat." The tiny green leaves are called "Rapunzel" in eastern and northern Germany, "Nüsslisalat" (nut lettuce) in Switzerland and "Vogerlsalat" (bird lettuce) in Austria. A close look at the tiny leaves shows why some people also know it as "Mausohrsalat" (mouse ear lettuce).

8 foods whose names Germans can't agree on


Pflaumenkuchen is a classic German cake - traditionally a sheet cake - made with yeast dough and plums. In southern Germany the tangy treat is "Zwetschgenkuchen" or "Zwetschgen-Datschi." The term "Datschi" is said to refer to the act of pressing the halved fruit into the dough. Topped with whipped cream? That's "Sahne" or "Rahm" in most of Germany and Switzerland, but "Obers" in Austria.

A bread roll is not a bread roll everywhere in the German-speaking world. From Bavaria to Berlin, the German word you use for these foods will reveal where you come from.

Even if dialects and accents don't betray them, there are telltale words that give away whether a German-speaker comes from Germany, Austria or Switzerland — and even roughly which part of Germany.

Words for toys, food and everyday items can differ depending on regions. They are nevertheless regarded as standard German and not regional dialect, as Ulrich Ammon, professor emeritus of linguistics and a specialist in Sociolinguistics at the University of Duisburg-Essen, told DW in an interview: "Standard language can be used in the public realm without objection."

In a nutshell: There's more than one way to say "Brötchen" (bread rolls). The question is, will the clerk at the bakery understand you?

Speaking of bread — which Germany is famous for around the world — there are not only different words for rolls and loaves, but many names for the part of a loaf that some unthinkingly throw away, and others covet: the heel.

In northern and western Germany, that would be "Kanten," or "Knust," to name just the most common terms. Bavarians and Austrians might call the crusty dry end of a loaf of bread "Scherzl"; elsewhere in southern Germany it's a "Rand." Jokingly, the heel is also known as "Hintern" (behind).

For German foods with a variety of names, click through the gallery above. One of them is the potato, which is a staple all over the country. For more on Germans' obsession with spuds, click through the gallery below. 

You'll find more about German culture, language and lifestyle at dw.com/meetthegermans

Germans' insatiable love affair with potatoes

Potatoes are a German staple

No matter how you slice it, potatoes make up a large part of the average German diet. Whether in soups, mashed, fried, or served as French fries or chips, an average of roughly 60-65 kilograms of potatoes are eaten per person per year in Germany.

Germans' insatiable love affair with potatoes

Potatoes were once guarded by soldiers

Native to the Bolivian and Peruvian Andes, the potato first arrived in Germany in 1630. According to legend, King Frederick II of Prussia believed in the economic and nutritious value of potatoes. He tricked local farmers into planting more of the so-called apple of the earth by posting soldiers around the potato fields to protect them. It worked - highly valued goods taste even better.

Germans' insatiable love affair with potatoes

Texture is key

With over 5,000 varieties of potatoes now grown today, it's important to select the right fruit for your dish. Potatoes are sorted not by color, but by how they cook up. The firm and dense types are best for frying or making potato salad, while the fluffy, floury sorts are ideal for mashing and baking.

Germans' insatiable love affair with potatoes

There are sundry potato salad recipes

Pot lucks can prove problematic in Germany, since potato salad is a popular dish to bring. However, everyone's version is different. Some smother the sliced potatoes in hot oil and bacon; others prefer theirs chilled and coated in mayonnaise and accompanied by pickles. Either way, German potato salad is a must at any grill party.

Germans' insatiable love affair with potatoes

Potatoes are made round again

Hearty German fare often includes potato dumplings, which come in different varieties. Some are made with cooked potatoes, while others mixed with flour for a starker consistency. Known as either Klösse or Knödel, the potato dumpling is a favorite side with pork roast.

Germans' insatiable love affair with potatoes

Chips go German-style

Much of those 60-odd kilograms eaten by the average German each year must come from potato chips, considering it takes 10,000 kilograms of potatoes to make 2,500 kilograms of chips. Although chips are not native to Germany, some of the flavor choices are. Originally limited to only paprika or salt, flavors now include currywurst, ketchup and mayonnaise - and even the African sauce chakalaka.

Germans' insatiable love affair with potatoes

French fries can be a meal

Known as "Pommes" in Germany, French fries are often served with currywurst (pictured) or as a side dish with any other hearty meal. But street vendors also sell them all by themselves, often in paper cones and with a wooden fork - a trend in neighboring Holland and Belgium, too. They are offered with a wide variety of sauces, included standard ketchup, curry-flavored ketchup and mayonnaise.

Germans' insatiable love affair with potatoes

Baked potatoes are a vegetarian favorite

A delicious, utterly basic dish that gets a lot of play in the German kitchen, the baked potato is cooked in its skin and often comes wrapped in aluminum foil. Served with a hefty helping of a herbed "Quark" (like yogurt) and a side salad, the "Pellkartoffel" will fill you up - even without a portion of meat.

Germans' insatiable love affair with potatoes

Common at the Christmas market

"Reibekuchen" are shredded potatoes mixed with onions, deep fried and topped with applesauce, molasses or smoked salmon and yogurt sauce. They are a delicacy found at many Christmas markets in Germany. Popular with kids, the potato pancake can be quite filling despite its simplicity - but they're greasy, so grab a napkin when you buy them to-go.

Germans' insatiable love affair with potatoes

Potatoes in the German language

Potatoes play a central role in German idioms, too. While the "dumbest farmer harvests the fattest potatoes" is a lament in German, it's similar to the English "fortune favors fools." And being dropped like a hot potato can happen no matter your native tongue. It seems Germans don't just like to eat potatoes - they also like to talk about them.

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