A Taste of History: Teacher Resource II

A Taste of History: Teacher Resource II
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Kaffee- und Teegesellschaften (Coffee and Tea Parties)

Walking around a German town, one cannot help but notice a bakery, café or Konditorei around virtually every corner. In the bakeries one finds dozens of different types of freshly baked breads and rolls, while the Konditoreien offer a marvelous selection of cakes, tortes and chocolates. Often there is a café attached to the Konditorei and the perplexed American tourist notices that the menu is limited to cakes and drinks and maybe the occasional belegtes Brötchen (open faced bread roll). After a while, it becomes clear that baked goods and especially cakes occupy a significant place in German culinary tradition.

While cake in America is mostly served as dessert, in Germany it is the basis of a special meal that serves a distinct function in social interactions. Traditional German mealtimes are the morning Frühstück, when people usually eat light breads or rolls with butter and jam; the midday Mittagessen, when a big, warm meal is served; and the later Abendessen, when people eat a light meal of bread with cheese and cold cuts.

Add to that Kaffeetrinken. In the mid-afternoon, many Germans will have a cup of coffee or tea with a piece of cake. This is often the preferred time for socializing. Even a casual visitor will be offered some cake and coffee. On Sunday afternoons, extended families gather and friends are often invited for a more formal Sonntagskaffee. For this, the table is nicely set and a variety of cakes and cream-tortes are served with coffee or tea. If guests are invited to stay into the evening, a light supper (bread rolls with cold cuts, a soup or salad) might be served, but usually not a major warm meal.

On other occasions, people will meet for Kaffee in a café. Cafés range from a little corner café to very elegant ones. In fact, famous cafés are landmarks in many major cities in the German-speaking countries, for example: Café Kranzler in Berlin and Café Sacher in Vienna. Here you can find groups of well-dressed people in the mid-afternoon, sitting over a cup of coffee and a piece of Apfelstrudel with whipped cream.

If cake is served only at coffee-time, what do Germans eat for dessert? Desserts are frequently served after the warm meal, Mittagessen. They include puddings and mousses, ice cream and fresh and cooked fruit.

Germans who immigrated to the United States brought their coffee-and-cake tradition with them. The importance of it is reflected in the German-American cookbooks. Not only do the cookbooks include an abundance of recipes for cakes, cookies, tortes and homemade chocolates, but also special chapters on “Kaffee- und Theegesellschaften.” In these chapters the German-immigrant Hausfrau is advised on how to properly entertain at a coffee or tea party, how to set the table, what cakes to serve on what occasion, how to decorate the room, etc.

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