food, history, Life in Berlin

Ich bin ein Berliner

Everybody laughs at JFK for calling himself a doughnut back in 1963. However, I’m sure that he did his research – he probably walked into a Berlin bakery and scanned the all the scrumptious delicacies in sight to make sure that his speech did not contain any faux pas. He would have spotted the Amerikaner straight away – a kind of flat doughnut with either chocolate or lemon icing – and scribbled out the words ‘ich bin ein Amerikaner’ replacing them with ‘ich bin ein Berliner’ instead.

What the poor fool was not to know though, was that in Berlin, Berliners are not called Berliners – they are called Krapfens. Berliners are only called Berliners in the south of Germany. Why? I have no idea. It’s as illogical as the fact that Weiner sausages (from ‘Wein’ or Vienna) are only called Weiner sausages in Germany; in Vienna they call them Frankfurters.

pfannkuchen / krapfen / berliner
To make things more complicated, for a few months of the year, the bakeries in Berlin decide to call Berliners Pfannkuchens. This coincides with the carnival period, and during this time Berliners, or Pfannkuchen, are available in lots of different varieties – filled with chocolate, liquor, custard etc instead of the usual jam filling.

What is shocking though, is the fact that the Germans officially start preparing for Carnival – by making pfannkuchen and so on – at 11 minutes past 11 o’clock on the 11th November. Yes – Remembrance Day. So while we in the UK and others are holding a minute’s silence to commemorate those who died during war – the Germans are frolicking around baking cakes and finding new ways to confuse us by changing the names of things in bakeries. Unbelievable.

2 thoughts on “Ich bin ein Berliner”

  1. Don’t wanna be a smart ass but they call it “Pfannkuchen” in Berlin, not Krapfen. “Krapfen” are not filled with jam like “Pfannkuchen” are. But sure, they are delicious. Same with “Schrippen” by the way. That’s a term for roles, which is only used in Berlin.

  2. Hullo English Man, When I was a child, our Dutch neighbours made an amazing breakfast dish called Apfelpfannkuchen – Pfannkuchen translates quite literally as pan cakes – which were pancakes cooked with buttery, caramelised apple slices (like an Apple version of an Upside-Down Cake: ) so I suppose the fact that the term is also used to refer to what we call doughnuts is not such a huge leap.
    Nor – to me at least – is it such a huge leap for any formerly war-torn nation to celebrate the end of such a horrendous time with lovely, rich foods…
    *I’ve often wondered how many wars would have been fought if it were the “Generals” who actually fought them…

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