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Berlin, currywurst and the significance of regional food

Anyone who knows me knows I am not an adventurous eater. Sure, I haven’t fallen victim to any vegan or clean-eating craze, but I also won’t be first in line to try the sushi burrito or kale chips or whatever the kids are into these days. Comfort food is the type of food that I like best — why branch out when you can have food you know you like? That being said, I am one to try to experience local culture, so upon arriving in Berlin for the semester, I knew there was one food I needed to try immediately: currywurst.

To those unfamiliar with this delicacy, let me explain the concept of currywurst. Invented in Berlin after World War II, currywurst consists of sausage with a heaping mound of ketchup and curry powder sprinkled on top. Currywurst cannot merely be classified as a German hot dog; the curry gives the dish a different flavor, and the sausage is often served cut up with a small currywurst fork, making the entire experience much classier. 

Berlin is home to some of the greatest museums in the world, whether your interests lie in history, art or a bit of both. Being somewhat of an arts and culture aficionado (a necessity to write for Recess, of course), I spent the summer dutifully researching all of the great museums found here. Upon arrival, my friend and I decided to go to a museum not quite known for its great works of art or comprehensive view of the 20th century. To start our Berlin adventure, we picked the Deutsches Currywurst Museum. 

The Deutsches Currywurst Museum, or German Currywurst Museum, is a museum chronicling the history and proper methods of preparing currywurst. The museum is a small, one-floor establishment, done up in yellow and red to emulate the colors of currywurst. Half of the floor space is taken up by an amusing gift shop and a working currywurst stand. A passerby may wonder why currywurst, such a basic food to many Berliners, needs its own museum.

But why shouldn’t food have its own museum to honor it, especially in the case of a staple to a major city? Visitors to the Deutsches Currywurst Museum leave the museum not only with a complementary serving of currywurst, but also with the sense of how currywurst connects to the history of Berlin and to the history of Germany. The creation of currywurst in intertwined with the end of World War II and the worst era of German history, where construction workers needed food that they could quickly eat while repairing the devastated city. The inventor of currywurst, Herta Heuwer, obtained some of the necessary ingredients from British soldiers stationed in the city. Now, currywurst stands can be found on practically every street corner in Berlin. 

Currywurst also makes Berlin stand out from the rest of Germany. Bratwurst is, of course, to be found everywhere in this country, but currywurst was created in Berlin, for Berliners. While it has since migrated out to the rest of the country, it still remains a symbol for the capital, as evidenced by the creation of a Currywurst Museum here. 

So what does currywurst have to do with America or Duke or writing a coherent editor’s note? Well, nothing, directly, but it has made me reevaluate the role of food in the culture of a city, or even of a college campus. Even though Duke’s food is highly rated, it has never wowed me. And yet, as I spend more and more time away from campus, I find myself craving the Ham Benedict from the Nasher or the tacos from the Law School Café. At times, I yearn for the ease of ordering pancakes at Pitchforks and eating them in my dorm room on Sunday mornings. 

Food typical of North Carolina is even easier to miss. Coming from the Northeast, where fast food was never a major staple in late night cuisine, it was easy to fall in love with the plethora of fast food options just minutes from campus: Krispy Kreme, Chick-fil-A and, of course, Cook Out. Attending the North Carolina State Fair freshman year introduced me to deep-fried Oreos and funnel cake, and my life has never been the same since. I soon learned that the comfort found in these foods was echoed in the comfort I found at Duke and in North Carolina as a whole. 

As my days abroad are quickly passing by, I know I only have a certain number of currywursts left to eat in Berlin. While I am trying to experience Berlin in more sophisticated ways than its fast food culture, I do know that currywurst will always be there at the end of a long day.  At the very least, currywurst is the perfect comfort food to eat while missing Duke, especially when bitter over missing a certain inauguration carnival and its deep fried delicacies. 

Christy Kuesel is a Trinity junior and Recess Culture Editor.


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