Since it is that time of the year again, I thought it was a good moment to finally write another issue of my Germany blog series. This time it will be about the Germans favorite past time during the summer: Barbecue. And just like everything German, their version of barbecuing ("Grillen") has a few, well, particularities.
First of all, Grillen is ubiquitous in Germany. From as early as March, it is almost impossible to escape. Supermarkets will stack up the front rows of every section with piles of coal, various grill sets, and barbecue sauces. During the summer you won't be able to walk a park, river bank, or residential area without noticing the biting smell of burning coal from as early as 10am well until the wee hours of the night.
Grillen is universally loved by all age groups too. Teenagers will combine blackening cheap sausages with their usual open air beer binges. Here cost is the number one priority, and luckily for everyone short on a budget, you can buy the complete beginner's Grillen set virtually everywhere: The 1 Euro single use grill with starter and coal included, the 1 Euro family pack of meat or sausages of dubious origin, and the 5 Euro case of local discount beer. Even gas stations will stack up on those Grillen essentials, as they are the only store still open during the night in most places.
Square spots of burned grass everywhere show how popular these things are.
In more mature circles, Grillen has long become a huge dick measuring contest. Here it is all about presenting the latest model of the best kettle grill, which the home owner will proudly present to the invited party for the season opening Grillen. Those Grillen connoisseurs will only accept grilling on beech coal, and everyone will have their more or less secret methods and techniques to create the perfect amount of heat. Winning your neighborhoods Grillen season this way can easily set you back 2k Euro, but apparently for enough people that is worth it, since every Spring home depot stores all over the country present an impressive range of expensive German engineered barbecue sets.
Own one of these babies and you have made it.
What is remarkable about Grillen season is that just to enjoy some fire roasted piece of meat, Germans throw many of their usual habits out of a window - something that really does not happen very often. Consider the food itself for example. For all their love for alcohol and hearty meals, Germans are incredible conscious to eat healthily overall (Germans are obsessed with health generally - a topic that deserves its own blog I believe). These days no store could survive without offering a vast range of "Bio" lines, a green label that is seemingly arbitrarily printed on food products of virtually every kind.
Yet come Grillen season, the same green Germans will happily buy cart loads of the cheapest and most disgusting pre-marinated meat (aptly called "Gammelfleisch") and devour heaps of the same with very un-Bio potato salad and white bread.
Or take their unquestionable love for good beer. Well I suppose they still do love beer, but since Germans hate cooling, they'll have their otherwise good beer summerly warm during their open air Grillen sessions. Actually, bringing a cool box will quickly get you labeled as "Americanized" among the more radical Grillen circles.
Another instance is the famous German love for rules and regulations. Open fire is in fact verboten anywhere but in clearly marked and confined areas - which are rare enough in your typical university city. That doesn't seem to faze the hoards of German Grillen fanatics though, who will carry bags of coal and fire starter to the local park, ignoring the possibility of fines which can be several hundred Euros. The officials, most likely among the arsonists themselves on their free time, have long turned a blind eye. Only recently have I heard of large scale summer night police raids to clear public parks and preserve some unscorched specks of grass.
Still these instances are the exception, and this year will surely be yet another season of industrial scale coal burning all across the country. And as someone who actually likes good food it will be another year of escaping the immense peer pressure to go Grillen every weekend.
Random bits of knowledge about Germany
Ep6: Gun ownership
Ep4: Bild and Fear
Ep1: Small Talk