Mixed Atrocities

German Caviar

You can still buy it today, but especially in the 1960s and 1970s cheap lumpfish caviar was very popular in Germany as a substitute for the hideously expensive sturgeon caviar. For that touch of mock luxury in your home.

I got hold of a 1970 recipe brochure issued by Christensen, a major producer of German caviar featuring some astonishing combinations.

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‘Hamburg Welcome’ – Slices of liverwurst topped with caviar and served on Korn (grain spirit) shot glasses.

'Caviar bread how the Danish like it' - With a raw egg yolk placed inside of a tomato ring

‘Caviar bread how the Danish like it’ – With an egg yolk placed inside of a tomato ring

'Astronaut food (after landing)' - With minced pork, probably for Danish astronauts.

‘Astronaut food (after landing)’ – With minced pork, probably for Danish astronauts.

 

'Party platter Piroska' - Vegetable salad wigh eggs, splattered with a load of caviar mayonnaise

‘Party platter Piroska’ – Vegetable salad with eggs, splattered with a load of caviar mayonnaise

'Festive Caviar Bomb' - Mixed with butter and horseradish, cooled in a mold

‘Festive Caviar Bomb’ – Mixed with butter and horseradish, cooled in a mold

 

'Caviar Collier Necklace for the Fist Lady' - With chopped eggs, the anavoidabple pimento-stuffed olives and tomatoes

‘Caviar Collier Necklace for the Fist Lady’ – With chopped eggs, the unavaoidable pimento-stuffed olives and tomatoes

'Beef tenderloin Peter the Great' - A rather wicked interpetation of Surf and Turf

‘Beef tenderloin Peter the Great’ – A rather wicked interpetation of Surf and Turf

Glamorous Barf’n'Worms

Why is it that so much of the 1950s/1960s food looks like vomit? I And what are those curly things at the left? They look alive. Regardless of what the caption says: Don’t try to do this at home!

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Please allow me to interrupt the flow of jello salads and other monstrosities to reflect on some more serious aspects of the concept of culinary atrocities and food taboos.

In “Wir kochen gut”, an East German cookbook from the early 1960s I found a section devoted to whale meat:

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This does look rather weird in a German cookbook. Our country is not particularly well known for its love to whale meat. But probably East Germany had a contingent of Soviet whale meat in the final days of global whale hunting.

On a related note Canadian whisky blogger Graham McKenney sent me a picture of a recipe for “Flipper Pie” made from seal meat.

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Of course this immediately makes us think of the shocking pictures of blood-covered bodies from the annual seal hunting season in Northeast Canada.

The two are a bit different, though. Whales had been hunted until they were nearly extinct. The near global ban on whale meat (hello Japan…) was lile pulling the emergency break on a train. This has led to whale meat becoming a taboo in most countries, and even if populations would become large enough for sustainable hunting again, it is highly doubtful if whale meat would ever be a popular staple other than in tradtional whale hunting countries.

When herring populations go down, temporary fishing bans are in place. Then the killing continues. Nobody will offer “herring watching” tours for diving tourists like it is done for whales or dolphins. A herring is just a small fish after all. But is it less worthy than a whale?

While some seal species have shared the fate of whales, the harp seals hunted in Canada are not endangered. It’s the bloody business of their killing that has made seal meat just as much a taboo.

Seals are slaughtered on open ice, the pictures went around the world and turned many stomachs. Slaughtering of cows and pigs happens behind the wall of abbatoirs, so we cannot see it, but it is slaughtering nontheless, and it is industrialized. And many consumers who cry out because of the cruelty of foie gras production don’t give a damn if the chickens and turkeys they eat have spent their short lives in concentration camps.

Here we encounter the widespread doublethink in food, meat in particular. Currently the horsemeat scandal is rocking Europe. Apart from the fact that there is a lot of criminal energy involved in sneaking undeclared meat into the ridiculously twisted industrial food chain, it also highlights the status of horsemeat as a taboo food in many countries, especially in anglo-saxon ones. But is a cow less worthy than a horse?

In many non-western regions of the world, people happily eat maggots, crickets, cockroaches and other “disgusting” animals. We eat shrimps, lobsters and oysters that look pretty yucky to the uninitiated too.

The concept of a culinary atrocity is as flexible as a slice of processd cheese and as wobbly as a blob of jello; a mix of personal taste, cultural background and true grue.

What to make of all this… Turn vegan? Then we’d have to get rid of woollen jumpers, leather shoes, natural hair brushes and other animal products as well beacuse they all are based on the exploitation of animals. Which leads us to the question if an apple is less worthy than a chicken? Humans seem to be struggling with the fact that they are a part of nature and not outside of it. But we are the one species capable of respect for all of nature because otherwise our dominance could eventually endanger ourselves.

German Cold Cuts

Yesterday Steve Ury from the L.A. based food and whisky blog Sku’s Recent Eats asked why this site focuses so much on American culinary atrocities. Fair enough, after all I am German and – what’s even better (or is it worse?) – I was born into the end of the Dark Ages of German food. So I can confirm that Europe in general and Germany in particluar do indeed have ther fair share of gastronomic failures. And I will try to maintain a transatlantic perspective.

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I found a small German recipe book called “Kalte Platten – Kalte B├╝ffets” (Cold Cuts – Cold Buffets) from 1975. Not all in it is truly disgusting, but as you can tell from the pimento-stuffed olives on top of the stuffed tomatoes on the cover this book holds a few ‘pleasant’ surprises.

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We’ll kick off with a cold fruit soup (Kaltschale), something that actually is rather popular in summer. This raspberry soup might in fact taste quite good, after all it is based on white wine, and the rasbperries are macerated in eau de vie. But the addition of cornstarch in order to give the liquid a soup-like texture turns it into a gooey visual nightmare.

A few pages later I could hardly believe my eyes. Could this really be true? This looks creepily familiar:

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What might look like a harmless fruity dessert kind of congealed cream is in fact – almost a jello salad! Apart from milk, cream and canned peaches this aspic features chopped walnuts, ‘liquid onion’ seasoning (hugely popular at that time) and diced cheese. A true American-style jello salad must have some vegetables in it, but this is far more than I had expected.

The next picture shows something universally regarded as THE typical German food: sauerkraut. It is so German that there isn’t even an English word for it. Sauerkraut and hot or cold meat is indeed popular in Germany (and in neighbouring Alsace where it is called by the French word ‘choucroute’). But here it is served with a devious twist:

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A nasty pineapple bursting with fruit-enhanced cold sauerkraut sits in the middle of all those delicious cured and smoked meats that Germany is so rightly proud of, thus ruining it all. The recipe even suggests adding grapes to that mixture. The white goo (sour cream? mayonnaise) at the right is not mentioned. I suspect it belongs to a different dish since this picture is obviously clipped from a full-blown buffet, but it could as well be meant to go with the meat. And how can you serve cured pork chops without mustard?

To finish off, here is a special treat thay you may have not seen before:

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Stuffed white radish! Butter, condensed milk, cheese, ham, gherkins, pimento and chives work their magic here. Guten Appetit!

Stouffer’s Stuffings

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Yes. Words fail.

Mayonnaise Bouquet Salads

Don’t they just look lovely?

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Only on closer look the artrocity becomes obvious here. Mayonnaise on a fruit salad sure adds another dimension. Does anyone actually eat that?