Enter Germany’s Christmas Markets.
The. Germans. Love. These. Markets. They really, really love them. Raining? Doesn’t matter. Feeling a little sick? Stop being a pansy. Anarchical government takeover? We can deal with that tomorrow. In fact, I’ve actually had to push myself to create a few scenarios where a German would knowingly skip out on a Christmas market session:
- The German National Team soccer match is only being televised indoors. They would only go to bars near the Christmas market though.
- The Market is out of all of the following items: beer, Glühwein, cheese, sausages, soaps, owls (don’t ask), cookies, candied nuts and oxygen. In summary, it isn’t likely.
- Someone stole their car, popped their bike tires and hijacked all the Deutsche Bahn trains. Come to think of it, there would probably need to be some amputation involved to keep them from walking there.
- There is a new law (or any other sort of rule) stating they can’t go. They would, however, immediately try to change this dubious piece of legislation.
What? I’ll answer that question with another question: what do you get when you mix the slow warmth of hot chocolate and subtle bite of brandy with the spices of an apple pie and the feeling of six friends giving you consecutive high fives? Glühwein. That’s what. By warming a standard red wine with star anise, sliced oranges, cinnamon and cloves, the Germans have figured out a way to morph even the most
When? Not as much as the damn Germans. I know that sounds like a pretty crappy explanation for when you should drink this stuff. There is simply no other way to tell you. It isn’t that they drink it at any inappropriate time, as there is NO inappropriate time to drink it, but you just can’t time your drinking with that of any other German. Seriously, don’t listen to the peer pressure, don’t think you’re being a punk and don’t, whatever you do, get the bright idea that you’ll somehow outsmart the Germans at their own game of spiced liquid consumption. You will be the one that dances through the market aisles in a reindeer costume…not them. That’s not cool.
Where? There is only requirement for a regular moment to turn into a Glühwein drinking moment: a friend must be standing by your side prepared for the obligatory cheers, or “Prost” as the Germans call it.
Warning: When you cheers, which you will do joyfully and often, please, for the love of all things holy, look the other cup clanking party directly in the eyes at the moment of contact. This sounds like a pretty minute detail, and I guess it is by many measures, but all of the aforementioned embarrassment that comes along with drinking too much Glühwein will be exasperated when you’re forced to reconcile the ‘insincere cheer’ by purchasing another cup in order to get it right.
What? Think of this as the wicked love child produced from a hot, steamy night between the respective hash brown version from Waffle House and McDonald’s. The potato is first soft boiled, drained of moisture, lightly spiced and then fried on an oil lathered flattop. It is not drained of the moisture, i.e., grease, after that step. Welcome to awesome, people. Served with a dipping
When? There are two distinct strategies here, both of which are viable depending on your intentions for the evening. Option 1: Eat upon arrival. If you plan to drink a lot of Glühwein and/or spiced beer during the evening’s market gathering, then I highly suggest laying the so-called base layer to prepare for the deluge. Option 2: Eat before exit. If you are going to take tonight’s visit to the market easy, keeping in mind that the German version of ‘easy’ is 3 to 5 drinks, don’t eat this until you’re ready for sleepy time.
Warning Option 1: If you don’t plan to drink, don’t do this. I mean it. You might think that you can do it, and the warm wafts of fatty goodness will be tempting, but you will PTFO mid-market stroll, leaving the rest of your company to fight the fight without you. Not cool in the German’s book or anyone else’s book for that matter.
Warning Option 2: Look at yourself in the mirror and be honest about your intentions before going out and choosing this option. Do not think for one second that forgoing the obligatory pre-Glühwein food will be rectified by late night consumption. The wine will kill you. The potatoes will no longer be able to help. If you know that you won’t be able to stay away from the wine, just go with option 1 and stop kidding yourself.
Where? Find a corner where the judgment for plunging your greasy paws into your mouth is kept to a bare minimum. The counter attendant will legitimately throw you a death glare if you ask for a fork.
Wurst and Kӓse
What? Germany is the uncontested sausage capital of the world. There cheese is pretty incredible, too. Whether your palette’s preference for spicy, salty or sweet guides your purchases, or your sausage selections are more often guided by the length, width or wrinkled nature of the link, the on-site butchers have a combination that will most assuredly suit your fancy. The cheese assortment tends to vary more
Warning: German cheese is alive. Check this out if you’d like to learn more about how this is a good thing…and why Americans are pretty damn silly for pasteurizing everything under the sun.
When? I tended to observe the crowd for instruction on when to partake in these particular indulgences. That left me scratching my head to piece together a pattern more often than not. After approximately ten trips to Christmas markets during the month of December, ranging from Köln and Essen to Recklinghausen and even Hamburg, I was completely at a loss for any sort of cohesive explanation for the best timing to eat this. Then, conveniently enough after an Option 1 Reibekuchen sort of night, it dawned on me: THIS IS THE FOOD VERSION OF GLÜHWEIN! It would seem that just as with Glühwein, there really is no bad time to grab a handful of savory sausages nuggets and cheese slices. Sometimes we humans can make even the most obvious truths way overcomplicated.
Where? It is highly acceptable to stroll and chomp with these two items, making Wurst and Käse the most mobile of the Christmas market indulgences.