Potato dumplings, a very Franconian love affair
Travel guide publisher Michael Müller explains why Franconians love potato dumplings but don’t want to be called Bavarian
While on my flight back to Europe from Borneo/Malaysia this September, I was rummaging round the in-flight entertainment system and came across a mini travel guide for Germany, edited by Rough Guides. The German locations that the authors recommended as insider tips particularly worth visiting were Bamberg and Würzburg, two towns in the Bavarian region of Franconia which is my Heimat and where I come from.
I was born in Ebermannstadt which is located in the triangle formed by the towns of Nuremberg, Bamberg and Bayreuth, the so-called Fränkische Schweiz (Franconian Switzerland). This is where I grew up, in a playful, romantic landscape, characterised by valleys deeply carved into the Jurassic rock, and scarce plateaus 500 metres above sea level.
People associate Bavaria with the Oktoberfest, white sausages and politicians who think of themselves as being the best, and for whom it’s not unusual to be labelled as Großkopferte (big headed ones). Even if Franconia is indeed located in Bavaria, Franconians are actually not too happy about this association. They’d like to be independent, and at least emotionally and mentally they are. People are very much down-to-earth here, understatement is a character trait, and whoever lumps Franconia together with the entire federal state of Bavaria is likely to get a gruff remark in return. If you want to insult a Franconian, simply call him Bavarian. Admittedly, there’s a bit of a minority complex at play.
Although there’s hardly a region in Germany with more castles and ruins on such a small surface. Potato fields, grain fields, and forests dominate the landscape. It is not only my home but also that of potato dumplings that are even being fed to toddlers, therefore starting a life-long love affair with this specific dish. During my prolonged stays in various corners of this world as a travel writer and publisher of travel guides I have occasionally been overcome by a culinary ‘missionary spirit’, grabbing a grater and potato tubers in order to dish up some proper potato dumplings to my local friends.
Unfortunately, each time my enthusiasm has been disappointed: they don’t seem to like Kartoffelklöße, the Franconian’s beloved potato dumpling, in other parts of the world. With one exception; Maria, the Spanish wife of a good friend of mine, who has taken to them. But she’s also come to terms with other German customs and now lives in Düsseldorf!
If you want to give the Kartoffelklöße a try (and have someone to help you with German recipes), Michael Müller’s ‘Gscheitgut’ is a new Franconian cooking book and cultural guide. His ‘Fränkische Schweiz’ (Franconian Switzerland, also German only) was – when published more than 25 years ago – one of the first German travel guides dedicated to an individual German region.
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