Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024
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It occurred to me yesterday, while I was putting together a groaning board for our Sunday breakfast with our friends and their two boys, that you might like to see what a real German breakfast is like. After all, German breakfasts are the stuff of legend, at least based on my anecdotal reading of all the times people have mentioned to me their wonder upon experiencing their first German breakfast, whether as exchange students in college or as business travellers or tourists as adults.

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The French and Italians are dainty eaters at breakfast. A cornetto dipped in coffee or a split piece of baguette with a café crème are about the norm. After all, the most important meals in those countries are at lunchtime and dinner. But the Germans like to pull out the stops at breakfast (especially weekend breakfasts). Lots of different cheeses, meats, multiple jams and honey, boiled eggs, fruit and vegetables, smoked fish and of course, every kind of roll or hearty, seeded bread your heart could desire.

German breakfast cheeses

In preparation for our Sunday breakfast, we went to the market on Saturday afternoon (this one, for a change) and made the rounds of the different stands. We bought a thick block of English cheddar and a piece of ash-covered French goat cheese from the cheesemonger. (On Sunday morning, I added a piece of Comté, a small round of Camembert, and some herbed fresh cheese to the table. The key to a good German breakfast is a feeling of surplus and bounty!)

German breakfast meats

Then we bought a piece of liverwurst (a must for any breakfast with German children and a special treat for those of us who were once German children (or, you know, Italian-American children growing up in Germany)) and Schlackwurst, a kind of German salami.

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German breakfast jams

For the sweeter-toothed among us, there should be at least a couple of jams on a German breakfast table. (Homemade, of course!) I put out raspberry-mint, quince jelly, and strawberry-rhubarb, with spoons for each jam. That way, people could serve themselves jam with the dedicated spoon and skip putting their dirty knives into the jam jars.

German breakfast rolls

On Sunday morning Max and Hugo went out to fetch fresh rolls and bread. The rolls were still warm when they got home! Max also picked up two Laugenstangen, which are soft pretzel rolls, my favorite multi-seed Vollkornbrot, poppyseed-spangled Hörnchen, and some sweet rolls.

Then, while Max kept the baby occupied, it was time to set the table. I love this part of having people over – choosing the right tablecloth, folding the napkins just so, then arranging the food so the spread is well-balanced and bountiful. I picked a striped, colorful tablecloth that I bought years ago at a Bellora sample sale in New York and laid my mismatched French plates that I bought one by one when I lived in Paris and spent weekends trawling the flea markets. To fill in the holes on the table, I put out a jar of yellow honey, a dish of soft, sweet butter, bright stems of candy-like tomatoes, a bowl of cut-up melon, egg cups, some Greek olives, mugs for tea and a pitcher of cold water. A little vase of muscari made everything look more spring-like. All that was left, then, was to put the eggs on to boil and to make tea.

German breakfast table

And that’s really the most wonderful thing about German breakfasts. There’s hardly anything to actually cook. I don’t usually think of that as a plus, but on Sundays, when I want to maximize every minute I have with my family, it’s actually pretty key.

What do you think, would you ever serve a real German breakfast to your friends?

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By Snowy