Eating Well in Surprising Places

It fits rather neatly that as I return from my holiday to Southern Germany, fellow food history blogger Siglindesarts wrote a post about dumplings. These are a thoroughly interesting class of food, and they appear quite frequently in the German recipe corpus from the fifteenth century onwards. The most famous example known today, of course, is the Maultasche of Baden-Württemberg, a large meat dumpling usually served in broth. Its name appears to predate its introduction and originally may have meant a slap to the face, though how this relates to the food is hard to see. They are certainly delicious if you can get good ones, and that takes me to today’s blog post.

Maultaschen in Brühe – not instagram quality

Germany, especially the south, has a great depth of regional food tradition that would take years to fully explore, but it is rarely married to the same fierce loyalty and business acumen that you see in France or Italy. Often enough, finding such specialties can be difficult unless you are willing to brave the most touristified venues. However, you can very frequently get lucky in the most plebeian of places. We had such a stroke of luck at the tram museum in Stuttgart.

Vintage tram rides every Sunday

Stuttgart is interesting in all kinds of ways, and one notable aspect is the pride people take in their public transit. I already wrote of the funiculars that they maintain as part of the regular network. The tram museum is another such example. Funded in part by the transit provider and staffed by enthusiastic volunteers, it is a wonderful example of many such places throughout Germany, though on an unusually large scale. And, like many such places, it has an eating place – the Bistro Meterspur.

It is not the place you would immediately feel attracted to. The decor is institutionally spartan – I think it used to be the works canteen when the building was a tram depot – and the menu very limited. Since we had two young hoys with us and they were hungry, we decided it was our best option. Flammkuchen and Maultaschen were ordered and served quickly in the unfussy way of a place that still seems to remember feeding mechanics and drivers in its bricks and tabletops.

Sütterlin, a defunct style of cursive mastered by centenarians and history nerds

It was good. Really, really good. The Maultaschen were hot, well-seasoned and rich enough to stand on their own as they should. The Flammkuchen was thin and crisp, the bottom browned perfectly without burning, the top just about cooked. Since we had the abovementioned boys with us, there are no photographs of the food as it was served, but the visual presentation was not really the point. It was good eating. I am certain the sausages – the third option on the menu – would also have been excellent. Our meal was accompanied by locally made lemonades and finished with also locally produced ice cream. This, by the way, is a good guideline to follow. Any place that contracts with local, artisanal suppliers of beverages or ice cream cares about quality. Germany has hundreds such local firms, and they survive on the merits of their product.

The point I want to make here is that when you are travelling in Germany, you can usually find someplace that serves local specialties, looks like Walt Disney’s idea of a cuckoo clock, and charges you an arm and a leg. But if you keep your eyes open and trust your luck, you can also find the offbeat places where people with a passion for doing things right (how very German) produce excellent local food at affordable prices. The language barriers can be higher – even for German speakers, dialect is not immediately intelligible – but the rewards can be very much worth it.

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