German day cares under police protection after plans to stop serving pork
Two Leipzig day care centers have reversed moves to remove pork from the menu after the plans sparked a nationwide debate. The response prompted police to patrol outside the centers to protect against "possible dangers."
Plans to no longer serve children pork or gelatin-containing products like gummy bears at two day care centers in the eastern German city of Leipzig prompted a wave of criticism online and made headlines across the country on Tuesday.
The mass-circulation Bild newspaper first reported about the day care centers' proposal, saying the decision to make the changes came from consideration for two Muslim children.
"Out of respect for a changing world, only pork-free meals and snacks will be ordered and served starting from July 15," read a letter sent to parents, according to Bild.
Responses to the plans grew so heated that Leipzig police decided to park patrol cars outside both of the day care centers to protect against "possible dangers," a spokesman told news agency dpa.
By the evening, the director of the two centers said they were putting the plans on hold for now following the outrage.
"We're overwhelmed by the whole thing," day care center director Wolfgang Schäfer told dpa.
Read more: Germany: Muslim kindergarten loses appeal against closure
'Pork' trending on Twitter
The Bild report spread like wildfire on social media, with #Schweinefleisch (pork) taking the number one trending spot on Twitter for most of the day.
The Saxony branch of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats described the plans as a "ban on pork" and said it was unacceptable.
Beatrix von Storch, a parliamentarian with the far-right Alternative for Germany, described it as "cultural subjugation," honing in on reports that the day cares made the decision out of respect for Muslim children.
"Imagine if German children in Riyadh fought for their right to currywurst and forced the majority of society to change their diet," she said, referring to a popular variation of German sausage.
Sawsan Chebli, a German politician in Berlin for the center-left Social Democrats who is of Palestinian descent, said the measure may have been well-intentioned, but did little to include Muslims.
"If day cares, schools and other such institutions would rather serve vegetarian food instead of meat — fine with me. I am only against it whenever they say: it's out of respect to Muslims," she wrote on Twitter.
Parents say debate is 'absurd'
From schnitzel to sausages to gelatin-containing gummy bears, many classic German dishes contain parts taken from pigs.
In many day cares and schools, children who do not eat certain meats due to religious reasons, allergies or other dietary restrictions are often offered an alternative.
As for the parents of the children at the day care, several said they agreed with the day care's decision to forego pork.
One mother told dpa that the debate was "absurd" and that her 4-year-old daughter doesn't notice anyway if what she's eating has pork in it or not.
We've all been warned by our parents not to eat raw meat, but the Germans have been doing it forever all the same. Even the EU warns against "Mett," or "Hackepeter" as it is called in some regions, a preparation of minced raw pork. Often sold on bread rolls, big plates of this are also a classic at buffets. A popular way to present the raw meat at receptions in the 1970s was shaped as a hedgehog.
Another snack considered typical of West Germany in the 1950s is Toast Hawaii, a grilled open sandwich which combines toast, ham and pineapple, topped with processed cheese and a maraschino cherry. It was popularized by German TV cook Clemens Wilmenrod. In the 1960s, a Greek-Canadian restaurant owner pushed the concept to create the Hawaiian pizza, which divides public opinion to this day.
Admittedly, Germany is not the only country to make blood sausages. But a peculiarity of the German Blutwurst is that it's used in dishes with colorful names, such as "Himmel und Erde" (Heaven and Earth), which combines it with apple sauce and mashed potatoes. Or even better is "Tote Oma" (Dead Grandma), where hot Blutwurst is smashed to bloody pieces and mixed with liverwurst and potatoes.
The name means "sow's stomach": The stomach of a pig is used as a casing for a stuffing of potatoes, carrots, pork and spices. It's a traditional dish from the Rhineland-Palatinate, the region that Helmut Kohl, German chancellor from 1982 to 1998, called home. He loved Saumagen, and it was served to many state guests, including Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.
It's known as brawn in the UK and head cheese in North America, but it has nothing to do with dairy products. It's rather a terrine that's made from the meat of a pig's or calf's head, and sometimes their tongue, feet or heart — set in aspic.
It's a culinary specialty from the region of Hesse with an intriguing name: "Hand cheese with music." The cheese is small, translucent and has a pungent aroma that's perhaps not to everyone's taste. Yet the raw onions and vinegar that make up the "musical" notes of the dish make it simply addictive for those who are a bit more adventurous.
This culinary specialty from the north of Germany used to be a poor person's food: leftovers — corned beef, beets, onions, boiled potatoes — are mashed together. The resulting puree is not very appetizing-looking, but at least it's partly hidden under a fried egg, served with herring and pickles. As unusual as it sounds, the dish is having a revival — Labskaus is now served in fancy restaurants.
Between looking like a snake and having blood that is poisonous to humans before it's cooked, eel is not a fish that sounds appetizing to everyone. It's nevertheless found its way as a food into different cultures — and smoked eel is one of northern Germany's specialties.
Pickled herring fillets, rolled onto a pickle: For people who hate fish, Rollmops are obviously a no-go, and not all Germans are passionate about them. However, the ready-to-eat vinegary bite remains a popular part of hangover breakfasts.
Germany perhaps doesn't beat Asia in terms of culinary experimentation, but this one is bound to irk a few people: Milbenkäse means "mite cheese." Produced exclusively in the village of Würchwitz, the cheese is left in a wooden box with cheese mites for three months. The bugs eat the rind; the digestive liquid they ooze ferments the cheese. And then the cheese is eaten — with the living mites.
Finally, a little treat to wash down the mites. These donuts are known as "Pfannkuchen" (pancakes) in Germany. Although they are generally filled with jam, you might get one filled with mustard on special occasions, such as during Carnival or New Year's Eve — it's a traditional joke.
rs/se (dpa, epd)
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