Thursday, 30 December 2010

Food porn: the Munich issue


Back in June, wilting under the scorching summer sun, I fantasised about being in snow, somewhere bitingly cold. A few weeks ago, I got my wish, with a short holiday to Munich and Budapest. The main objective was to visit the Christmas markets: I've never had a very Christmassy Christmas and just wanted to know what it would be like to actually, properly celebrate it. Growing up, my family never really celebrated Christmas, just a seafood lunch at home or at a friend's, and as soon as I started working I usually volunteered to work it for the penalties.


Our arrival in Munich was perfectly timed: day one of the city's famous sprawling Christmas markets. Despite an overnight flight we dumped our bags at the hotel (Eurostars), closest train station Hackerbrücke) and went straight into town, where we stopped at the very first wurst stand we saw for two weisswurst in a bun, with a squirt of sweet mustard. That, after the horror congealed mess served up by Emirates, was the gastronomic highlight of the trip. It was chased by the first of what were to be many, many, mugs of steaming glühwein, redolent with cloves and cinnamon.


It didn't take long until we discovered the city food market, Viktualienmarkt, not far from the central Marienplatz area, with its cosy, snow-coated stalls selling fresh meats, vegetables, plants, wines, cheeses, deli items and more, near a cobblestone laneway lined with cute quaint beer halls.


It was here we planted ourselves for roughly the next day and a half, eating roast pork in buns with a dab of sweet mustard, weisswurst in buns with a dab of sweet mustard, gingerbread and more glühwein than you can imagine. In fact, for our last night in Munich we moved to Hotel am Markt, a simple three-star with views out over the snowy market. We'd discovered it on the first night after searching the streets for Bratwurstherzl, which turned out to be opposite.



What a contrast Munich was to Delhi, with its dire infrastructure problems, its questionable cold storage making certain foods no-go zones and lack of pedestrian planning. Munich, possibly the best-planned city I've ever been to, was just such a relief, even in sub-zero snowy temperatures. And the food: it was a smorgasbord of all the things we can't access, or have limited access to, in Delhi (or are priced out of reasonable range, or need good refrigeration). Amazing chocolate, buttery custard-filled pastries, ham, sausage, beef, duck, an array of cheeses, nuts. Crusty bread, cheap and good wine, an array of local beers (without the glycerin additive). Flavoured yoghurt, berries, clementines. One night we went to a beer hall in Haidhausen and there I couldn't choose between the pork knuckle, the roast pork and the roast duck. Luckily, one option was a mixed grill with all three on one plate.


That was the night I got the meat sweats.



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