Teewurst Claims Another Victim, or the Blandness of German Sausage


Every Thursday, I go to my local farmers' market (g) and buy cheese, meat and eggs. The market is held at the Lessingplatz, which has a broken-obelisk fountain presumably in memory of one of the leading figures of the German Enlightenment. It's now the main gathering place for the leading figures in Duesseldorf's outdoor alcoholic scene (g). But those folks fade into the background when the market comes.

This farmer's market is not one of those fancy-pants ones where hipsters in porkpie hats sell arugula while guerilla knitting. No, this farmer's market features actual farmers, with dirt-stained hands, fun regional accents, friendly manners, and solid, unspectacular, delicious traditional (not heirloom) potatoes, which are helpfully marked with their texture (creamy, mealy, firm).

Meat I buy form the Vennbachhof (g) stand. Not just because it's good, but because the saleswoman vaguely resembles a more earthy and organic Heidi Klum. If your lifelong fetish dream was to see Heidi Klum sling giant chunks of raw meat (you know who you are), and she still hasn't responded to your messages, then you need to come to the Rheinland.

The only problem is that, as a little dankeschoen, meat-Heidi always gives me a chunk of Teewurst (tea sausage).Why is this a problem? Because then I have to eat it. Now, as Teewurst goes, the Teewurst from the Vennbachhof is probably excellent. But I can't stand Teewurst. The problem with it, as with most German sausages, is that it's hopelessly under-spiced. This means you can actually taste what the sausage was made from. I usually discreetly put the Teewurst out on my balcony, where the creatures of the night feast upon it.

If I wanted to taste organ meat — and I don't — I'd just buy a jar of pate. The entire reason sausage exists, if you ask me, is to take the parts of a mammal that nobody in their right mind wants to think about, grind them up, and load them with delicious spices that start a party in your mouth. The best sausages — which are almost all Polish and Hungarian — thrust the question of what parts of the animal they're made from far into the background, where it belongs.

I have a Theory about this. Back when European mankind first had the glorious idea to make sausages, powerful Germany could afford the best organ meat, and therefore had little to cover up with spices. Those countries on the 13th-century version of the Eurozone periphery were left to make what they could from the leavin's — eyes, anii, ears, hoof gristle, what-have-you. To distract themselves from the content of their casings, they turned to huge amounts of garlic, dill, onions, and other dangerously intense 'ethnic' flavors that are much too stimulating for the German palate.

That's my Theory and I'm sticking to it. Fortunately, last night, a friend came by, and I was able to force the Teewurst onto him. Although he doesn't like Teewurst either, he had little choice but to be a nice guest and eat it. I ate a quarter of it out of solidarity. Gad, that hideous brain-like texture…

1884: A Chilling Vision of Surveillance

In Frankfurt yesterday I dropped by the Schirn Kunsthalle to see the exhibition on Gustave Caillebotte, perhaps the most interesting of the impressionists (if you ask me). The exhibit's called Gustave Caillebotte, Impressionist and Photography, and shows the give-and-take relationship between Caillebotte's work and the emerging art form of photography. The traditional notion is that artists in the 19th century realized that photography had rendered the pursuit of realistic painted reproduction superfluous, freeing artists to concentrate on a sort of refracted and distilled 'painterly' technique that focused on the act of seeing itself. Caillebotte had a different reaction: he used the emerging technology of photography to enrich his technique. The revolutionary motion studies of Muybridge, for instance, or the odd perspectives and hallucinatory detail of 'stereographic' 3-D panoramas of Parisian streets, or the ability to capture snapshots of laundry billowing in wind.

The actual documentation of the link between photography and Caillebotte's technique was thin, so the exchibit was just pioneering French photography side-by-side with a decent cross-section of Caillebottes (including the famous Floor-Scrapers, which sounds much better in French: Raboteurs de Parquet). But that's something else! Only one of his mesmerizing studies of white laundry, though. The Schirn Kunsthalle is, as always, a weird and uninviting space, and the structure of the exhibition is hard to follow. Plus, they're charging 10 Euros for just one exhibit, which is just too damn high.

One part of the exhibit struck my eye: this ad for the 'Photographic Secret Camera' made by the Stirn Company from Bremen, billed as the 'newest and most amazing invention in the area of photography for professional and amateur photographers.'


The camera is a metal disc about 14 cm across with an lens emerging near the top. The ad targets four groups. The last two are photographers and tourists,
but the first two are more interesting. The first group is 'Officers of
the Army and Marines' to take 'snapshots of positions and terrain of
military importance'. The second group is 'Secret Police Officials', who
can use the camera to copy (copieren) 'suspicious persons, street
gatherings, etc.'

I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise, but it's pretty sobering to know that there were so many 'secret police officials' skulking around Europe in the late 19th century that they constituted a major target group for camera marketers. It conjures up a Conradian world of malodorous anarchists gathering in seedy underground taverns while desperate informants secretly photograph their gaunt, feverish faces.

Hitler’s Moustache: Made in America

This I didn't know:

The [toothbrush moustache] was introduced in Germany in the late 19th century by visiting Americans.[1] Prior to the toothbrush, the most popular style was called the Kaiser moustache, perfumed and turned up at the ends, as worn by the royalty in the German Empire and the German part of Austria.[1][4] By 1907 enough Germans were wearing the new trimmed down and simple toothbrush moustache to elicit notice by The New York Times under the headline "'TOOTHBRUSH' MUSTACHE; German Women Resent Its Usurpation of the 'Kaiserbart'".

Memorial to Dutch War Dead

The weather on Sunday was so obscenely pleasant that the local park was crowded. So I veered off into the adjoining Stoffels cemetery (g) a large cemetery created in 1876 in the south of Duesseldorf. It's a minor masterpiece of cemetery design, with rolling hills and dales that create many small enclaves, and a huge variety of trees that keep it in autumn glory for months.

In addition to conventional graves, there's a field for urn burials and for ash-scattering. There's also a large memorial for 1,230 Dutch people who were killed in concentration and forced-labor camps during World War II, one of many such cemeteries in western Germany. The graves are located in a semi-circle around a central sandstone pillar listing the names of concentration camp in which many of the victims died.

A few photos:

Friedhof Stoffels Dutch War Dead Memorial General View

Friedhof Stoffels Dutch War Dead Memorial 1
Friedhof Stoffels Dutch War Dead Memorial 4

An Inspired Beethoven Biography

I'm about halfway through the Dutch conductor and musicologist Jan Caeyers' new Beethoven biography (g) (reviewed positively by the FAZ here (g)) and am enthralled. Even though this is a German translation from the Dutch, Caeyers' elegant prose still makes this the most readable of Beethoven biographies. Plus, Caeyers avoids all hagiographical and most sensationalistic impulses, carefully weighing the evidence for who the 'immortal beloved' might have been and sifting through the vagaries of the Eroica dedication with calm, judicious mastery. Caeyers does a wonderful job of illuminating the bizarre and fascinating characters who accompanied Beethoven's rise, including the hedonistic Prince Lobkowitz and the polymath entertainer Schikaneder. Although there are some musical excerpts, you don't need to be able to read music to enjoy the text: Caeyers eloquently and incisively explains Beethoven's technique and innovations with a minimum of complex musical jargon.

It's pretty massive (832 pages), but the print is large and there are many illustrations. Plus, because it's so lively and well-written, you don't want it to end. I'll have more to say when I finish the book, but what I've seen so far earns a strong recommendation for anyone in the market for a great biography of Ludwig van. To the publisher I say: This book urgently deserves an English translation, and my rates are reasonable…

The Charlemagne Division

The last troops to fight for Germany during World War II weren't German:

The 33. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS Charlemagne (französische Nr. 1) and Charlemagne Regiment are collective names used for units of French volunteers in the Wehrmacht and later Waffen-SS during World War II. From 7,340 at its peak in 1944, the strength of the division fell to just sixty men in May 1945.

They were arguably the last German unit to see action in a pitched
battle during World War II, where they held central Berlin and the Führerbunker against the onslaught of Soviet infantry.