Ethnic Foods

Was Ist Das Currywurst? Und Wo?

A variant from the Christkindlmarkt.
A variant from the Christkindlmarkt. Photo: Sky Full of Bacon

Have you ever had currywurst? You can find it at the Christkindlmarkt in Daley Plaza around the holidays; we’ve also seen it in at least one Polish restaurant on the northwest side, and you can buy curry-flavored brats at Paulina Meat Market. But it’s certainly rare in these parts compared to Europe. Why is that? Food Detective David Hammond explores this question fresh from a currywurst-filled trip to Berlin and finds a fascinating story. We would have guessed that it came with immigration from spicier places, the way doner kebab came with Turkish guest workers (or chicken tikka came with Pakistanis to England), but in fact the answer is right out of a Fassbinder film from the 1980s. In the rubble of WWII, a woman named Herta Heuwer (played, in our imaginary movie, by Hanna Schygulla) trades booze to Allied soldiers for curry powder, and starts serving curry-sausages to the local red-light-district denizens (Barbara Sukowa, Ivan Desny).

From there it becomes a national treasure, with this fascinating detail:

Sausage casings were in short supply in the Soviet-controlled side of the city, and [Currywurst Museum director Brigid] Breloh explains that “If you grew up in East Berlin, you like sausage without skin; if you grew up in West Berlin, you want sausage with skin. In the reunited Berlin, you have the choice.”

Remember that the next time you go to a place that sells skinless hot dogs. A sausage without skin is Communist; a sausage with skin represents freedom. [Sun-Times]

Was Ist Das Currywurst? Und Wo?