Eating in the DDR/ Behind the Berlin Wall


This December, I took a much needed vacation in Germany. At the recommendation of a friend, I visited Berlin's Interactive DDR Museum. The DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic 1949-1990)) Museum focuses on all aspects of daily life behind the Berlin Wall, the workings of the state, and the Stasi (The Ministry for State Security or State Security Service). I loved how interactive the exhibits were. Visitors are encouraged to touch, listen, see, and interact with a large variety of objects, films, and more!

 In the exhibit focused on domestic economy, the museum included old food containers and appliances. The curators helped visitors understand how inhabitants behind the Berlin Wall sourced food, negotiated for rare items, and were restricted to cooking with locally produced appliances.


My favorite part of the museum was the model home's kitchen. When opening cabinets, visitors learned about how while the DDR ideologically promoted equal work between men and women as due to labour shortages in 1989, 91.2% of women worked outside of the home, women continued to do an unequal amount of housework. The kitchen display also included a screen with recipes from DDR cookbooks. Visitors can click on recipes and a printer will make them a copy in their selected language. The clear recipes also include information about the recipes' origins. I spent way too much time in this part of the museum and even brought home a few recipes to cook (more details below!).



In addition to the museum's interactive exhibits, the DDR Museum website hosts a series of videos in which historian and the academic director of the museum, Dr. Wolle, speaks about various topics. In the video, "Too Much, Too Fatty," Dr. Wolle spoke about how the DDR did not necessarily have its own specific cuizine, but rather that the economy of scarcity influenced the traditional regional cuisine. There were not enough fresh fruits and vegetables, and other products were unavailable or available in smaller quantities. As a result, starches and fats dominated the average diet in the DDR. Pork and beef were rare, so the government promoted fish and chicken.




I selected two recipes, the onion tart (from Rezepte für zwei, erschienen 1980 im Verlag für die Frau)  and apple strudel (from Budapester Spiesse und Wiener Backhendl, erschienen im Verlag für die Frau), to cook for this post.




The onion tart was so spectacular that I will be cooking it again for an upcoming dinner party. As you can see in the recipe above, it is quite a simple dish that takes less than 15 minutes to cook. Cover a pan in puff pastry, fill with fried onions; eggs with nutmeg salt and pepper; and cover with shredded cheese before baking it for 9-10 minutes.



Both of these recipes confirm Dr. Wolle's statements in the above video about the fattiness of the food. I was less impressed by the recipe for strudel, as I have had better strudels in the past, yet it was still fun to work with the museum's recipe.



The puff pastry onion tart, however, is not to be missed.

While the DDR Museum is already a good model for making history accessible to a wide range of audiences, their attention to domestic life and particularly food history made the museum really stand out.


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