Before you think romance or anything along the lines of melodramatic telenovelas or Jane Austen – well, it is dramatic, but not what you think – let me first give you the back story to this torrid affair that lasted 50+ years:
Consider the following countries: Philippines, Kenya, Mexico, United States, and Germany. These are five out of the seven countries I have lived in throughout my life and the national dishes all involve pork, beef, mutton, and turkey. Typically, the rest of the cuisine in these countries all involve meat of sorts, so it is deeply ingrained in me that there was always a meat dish on the table. It wasn’t until I lived in India and Thailand that I got acquainted with delicious, elegant and royal vegetarian cuisine that had my head and palate spinning. I fell head over heels in love with South Indian vegetarian dishes in particular and will walk a mile for a good masala dosa or a well balanced thali.
So where do I land to rebuild my life? In the city that has stolen most of its dishes from other states of Germany or incorporated many of the migrant cooking into the cultural profile of Berlin.
Enter stage right,
Dim the harsh lights,
The currywurst is THE signature fast-food of Berlin, and true Berliners will fight you over where to get the best or the most authentic currywust in town.
I pause to inhale some fortitude.
Much as I am now an officially adopted Berliner, I have to openly admit that I consider the currywurst an abomination to the philosophy and concept of an authentic German sausage. Basically, you take a decent bratwurst, slice it up, drown it in ketchup and sprinkle curry powder over it, serve with a bread roll or greasy fries. It is a gross violation of the humble strength of a bratwurst, and the amount of ketchup that is poured over it is the final insult to hapless injury.
I eat currywust only once a year, and that only under duress. However, today I found myself strolling around the weekly market with my daughter in search of a savoury snack. I was craving a cheese pretzel but we didn’t find any, and somehow we ended up in front of a little cart that sold the classic Berliner snacks – Frikadellen (a meat patty), currywurst, the regular Thüringer Bratwurst, and some other slabs of meat. Much to the surprise of my daughter, I ordered a currywurst, and I assured her it was because I almost felt obliged to eat one now that I am officially German. There is a saying in German, Kleine Sünden straft der lieber Gott sofort (God punishes the little sins immediately). True to form, my silver grey overcoat got stained with the blasted ketchup. Grrrrrr. Another reason to stay away from the damn stuff.
Ironically, it was precisely on this day that I found myself back in the orthopaedic clinic for my follow-up visit for my ailing knee. Long story short, the swelling has gone down thanks to generous flirtations with pain relief gel, more walking and abstinence from red meat (until today). The doctor was happy with the progress, advised me to continue the weight-loss programme and encouraged me to switched to a vegan diet. The look of horror on my face (in spite of the mask) must have been such that he quickly amended his sentence to “vegetarian”. Basically I am to add fresh turmeric to my diet, consider alternating kinesio tape with the gel, and so on. My brain understood and all my receptors absorbed the information but what got stuck like a pig in the mud at the front of my brain was going vegetarian. I was OK the past months with being flexitarian, but being to go full-on vegetarian will take some time to sink in.
But, considering my age, things are not going to get any better for the knee and at some point, if I am not careful, I will be facing ligament replacement. So, to prolong that agony, I suppose the break-up with my favourite meat buddies will have to happen. Please pass the cold cuts!