The bells are ringing which signal is almost noon on Sunday. Every half hour and hour the bells of the Dom (or Cathedral) ring. As I get ready for another day of exploring in Mainz Germany, I reflect on my personal food experience and how culture may be translated through food. There are certain things you can immediately learn about their culture (at least from this part of Germany), while others cross over from the influences of the surrounding countries or even the United States.
Today I wanted to share with you the 8 things I’ve learned about the Mainz German Culture in the few days I have been here:
- Mainz and its surroundings are really well known for their wine: last Friday I had the chance to travel to a client’s site about 75 Km (46 miles) away from my hotel. The road was clear and the scenery was absolutely beautiful. Besides the windmill farms on the small hills, you can see miles and miles of wine vines, where the spring hasn’t started yet, but the sun is shining on this beautiful trees, ready to produce the grapes for their well know Riesling wine.
- Tea is very common: Every day this week I have been drinking at least two or three cups of tea. I seldom drink one in the US when I am at work. Here, if you don’t drink coffee, then tea is your default drink of choice (at least during work hours). Their tea selection is extensive, at breakfast I have at least 8 tea options at the hotel, and at the office, I have another 6-8 tea options. Herbal teas are popular in the area.
- Meat is still at staple: Most places do offer a few vegetarian options, but animal protein such as pork, chicken, fish or beef are still the main staple in a German dish. I had the opportunity of attending a retirement party at the company I am visiting, and the food they served for all their guest was known as traditional German food – different types of wurst (or sausages made of different animal meats). The accompanying dishes were potato salad, pickles, bread and mustard, which is not very different from how German cuisine is depicted in the US. One thing I noticed that is certainly different to what I have seen in the US is that people tend to peel the sausage, independently of the meat it was made from. I wonder why they do this, unfortunately, I did not ask when I was there.
- Vegan is accepted and a more known concept: from Frankfurt airport to more “tourist” oriented restaurants, the concept of vegan eating seems to be well known and accepted. These places offer at least a few options for those opting for vegan eating. I was encouraged to see that this concept has crossed all kinds of barriers, and for those who are truly strict vegans, they can find plenty of options here.
- Bread, oh my goodness! their “Brot”: This is one of my favorite things about this area of Germany, their bread is amazing! I can’t be more excited about it. Yes, mass production has impacted a bit of their quality, but overall you can find amazing whole grain, multi-grain, seed based, whole wheat bread everywhere. I think bread is even more common here than in Northern Italy, which is the only other European country I have visited.
- The western culture has not infiltrated much of the German culture: I have only seen one McDonalds and one Pizza Hut in the entire city center of Mainz. This brings me a lot of relief. I am happy to see that the “German fast food” still remains to be very traditional – wurst on bread with mustard and fries. These restaurants tend to be more on the empty side, with just a few travelers or locals stepping foot inside. Most people prefer the local spots over the American fast food restaurants.
- Potatoes everywhere: I almost feel like I am in Ireland when it comes to potatoes. They are served with pretty much any meal you ask for. Potatoes are very common. The equivalent of rice for the Latin American culture. There are many ways the German prepare potatoes, on salad, grilled, fried, you name it. Potatoes seem to be as much of a staple here as wursts are. I am lucky I love potatoes, so bring them on!
- Sparkling water: I may say with my limited knowledge of the European culture, this must be the most common trend. Everywhere there is sparkling water available. I think back on the US experience and usually, seltzer water or sparkling water is not the common thing to drink. Here, on the other hand, it is very common, if not the norm, to drink sparkling water. I have seriously never had so much sparkling water in my life. I do love it! it is a nice treat when you are traveling overseas.
Overall my experience has been extremely positive. Their white wine is delicious, their staple pils or weiss beer are incredible, and people are extremely friendly and accommodating. I am not sure if it is the wonderful (and apparently warmer than usual) weather, but everyone is enjoying the sunny days outside, drinking coffee, enjoying beer and having a good conversation at the many outdoor seating restaurants in the city center. They are certainly enjoying the ice cream or gelato (apparently part of the Italian influence) during the beautiful sunny days.
I am extremely thankful for this opportunity, to travel is a dream come true, and I have been certainly surprised, I had never in my life imagined Germany (especially Mainz) would be one of my favorite places in the world. Travel more, explore more – Thank you for reading!