No one denies that sauerkraut is a characteristically German affair. This has various reasons. For starters, the contemporary version of sauerkraut is, in fact, from Germany (although the fermentation of cabbage can be traced back to ancient China and Korea). Second, sauerkraut is such an unattractive product that anybody who isn’t German wouldn’t have the slightest interest in claiming sauerkraut his own.
Sauerkraut is extremely healthy. But historically speaking, it’s also highly complex. The famous side dish is deeply entangled in our German self-image. So we have to ask ourselves if its conflicting image abroad comes from cabbage itself or from our Germanness.
The last 100 years are very much a part of said Germanness, including sauerkraut. With its exceptionally high vitamin C content and easy digestibility, cabbage also gets you through the winter – in times of crisis, wartime and the post-war period. German soldiers devoured tons of it while assaulting their neighbors. The English and Americans quickly nicknamed them “krauts.”
Bracketing the massacres of the past century, sauerkraut still doesn’t really evoke an image you could call sexy: potatoes, slippers, punctuality, sausage.
It is astonishing that another historical period is completely dismissed when it comes to understanding German culture and sauerkraut. We’re talking about Can, Tangerine Dream, Amon Düül and Kraftwerk. We’re talking about Krautrock. Let’s look back at the post-war period. The unpopular Germans were disparagingly called krauts at the time. But in 1986 Amon Düül turned the tables, giving Germans and their sauerkraut a new face with the song, “Mama Düül und ihre Sauerkrautband spielt auf.”
From that moment on all progressive rock music in Germany fell under the umbrella term, Krautrock. What these very different German bands had in common: they crossed all the lines. They dismantled commonplace song structures. Electronic sounds from free jazz and Stockhausen and his contemporaries’ atonal music influenced their songs. Rock became increasingly psychedelic, and concerts turned into ecstatic gatherings. No holds barred. Finally.
These different bands became trend-setting beacons of various genres. Kraftwerk showed us the wonders of mixing glimmering ecstasy with German ingenuity. And without Tangerine Dream today’s electro scene would sound very different. No sauerkraut, no Krautrock.
People tend to disregard this side of German culture. But people also don’t know that sauerkraut contains a high quantity of the neurotransmitter, tyramine, making it a powerful aphrodisiac.
SAUERKRAUT (a recipe from chefkoch.de)
Time: approx. 2 hrs. 30 min. Cooking level: easy. Calories per portion: not specified.
Thinly shred white cabbage, mix with salt, squeezing with your hands until liquid comes out. Clean the jars and lids, rinse them quickly with hot water. Pack the jars tightly with the thoroughly squeezed sauerkraut, cover with plastic wrap and seal tightly with the lids. Put the jars in a plastic dish. Leave the jars in the kitchen, ideally at 18° C for three to six days. Following this move them to the basement for storage (up to a year). After 14 to 21 days the sauerkraut is ready for tasting. Mmmm... delicious!
Don’t lose vitamin C – eat your sauerkraut!
This article was originally published at Food Assembly.