It’s time to talk about getting back to basics. I feel like we try to overcomplicate things in our lives with the idea that more is always better. The more money we spend on something, the better it will be. When some people cook, they believe that the more complicated a dish is, the better it will be. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as a lot of amazing meals are quite minimal in their ingredients.
Proof of that simplicity lies in one of the most basic food items humans have been consuming for thousands of years: bread. The most basic of bread recipes is simply flour and water. Period. I challenge anyone to walk into a typical American grocery store and find anything remotely resembling this basic, trusted, age-old recipe. I guarantee you it is damn near impossible. The worst part about it? In the U.S. it seems almost all breads include the abomination of high fructose corn syrup. Sugar doesn’t even belong in bread to begin with, let alone this forsaken product made from corn.
Germans are absolutely obsessed with their bread. This is shown by the fact that they are the world’s largest bread consuming nation per capita, and they boast the greatest variety of breads (well over 300 different types) in the world. For those of us accustomed to the bread culture in the US (well, lack thereof really), one of the most noticeable features of Bonn is its sheer number of bakeries. Even on Sundays, when everything else is closed, bakeries are open in the morning, so Germans aren’t denied their most basic pleasure. I’ve met Germans who, when living abroad, have brought an entire suitcase of bread with them from a visit to the fatherland, simply because they knew they couldn’t get anything close to it outside of Germany.
Let’s talk varieties. The ever-so-fun-to-announce pumpernickel is native to Germany and is known for its robust consistency. A similar variety is dinkelbrot, also not for the faint of heart given its full body, made from spelt flour. Germany has plenty of breads similar to pumpernickel and dinkelbrot, able to induce fullness after just a slice or two. This is no flaw – in fact, most Germans I know complain that they can never get full on American bread, as it’s not hearty enough.
Another ubiquitous bread in Germany is known as brötchen, what we’d refer to as “rolls.” These are usually eaten at breakfast, accompanied by cold-cuts, jams, nutella, and other toppings. I have also seen these rolls used in small sandwiches. Though baguettes are a beloved variety of bread in France, it’s quite easy to find them here in Germany as well, to be enjoyed with dinner or with cheese. Yet another popular variety is that of the large, round loaf bread with either a dark, hearty interior or a soft, light interior. These loaves are normally consumed with dinner, and when purchased fresh at a bakery are easily pre-sliced for easy enjoyment.
At times I hear Germans complain that nowadays most bakeries sell pre-frozen brötchen and other non-fresh breads to their customers, but I’m sure there are still many bakeries in Bonn that supply naturally fresh-baked bread. The problem I have when entering bakeries is simply coming to terms with the amazing assortment available. Still, it’s best to not go too late to a German bakery for your daily serving, lest you be confronted by near-empty shelves.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the fanaticism of the bread culture in local Germany, as the stuff is so abundant and so delicious. While I’m not typically a big bread eater on my native soil, I can’t help but enjoy this basic foodstuff here in Bonn. Bakeries abound, always there to temp me into buying a loaf or a couple of brötchen. While we haven’t lost this tradition of eating fresh bread in the U.S., it’s just not as accessible as it is in Germany.
As a Bonn devotee, I know I’ve done my part by getting back to basics, and as long as I’m here, I will continue to enjoy this most fundamental of pleasures.