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Berlin 24-7

Berlin 24/7: What's the currywurst cult all about?

Warning! This is not a tribute to currywurst. Even though Germany celebrates the Day of the Currywurst on September 4, DW's columnist Gero Schliess thinks it's wildly overrated.

Poor currywurst. So small and wrinkled. And everyone's making such a big fuss about you. We couldn't imagine Berlin's cityscape without its many currywurst joints - there's practically one at every corner.

You even have your own day: September 4 is the Day of the Currywurst, marking the anniversary of when you are believed to have been created in 1949 by Berlin street food stall owner Herta Heuwer.

Currywurst (Getty Images/J.Eisele)

Berlin claims the currywurst was invented there

She came up with a special curry sauce and got a trademark registered for her recipe, called "Chillup."

But other people also claim to be the inventors of the currywurst, for example in Hamburg. OK, we could start a second Day of the Currywurst, one for Berlin and one for Hamburg. It would definitely be good for business - but what the heck? 

I think you're alright, as a snack. But you're not Berlin's contribution to haute cuisine.

You've always felt superior. You're not just a simple bratwurst, which is already considered a "superior grade" sausage, firm to the bite. What makes you stand out is the curry sauce. And that's where opinions diverge.

Read more: 10 ways to eat a German sausage

Gero Schliess

DW's Gero Schliess finds the currywurst overrated

A hot dog drowned in ketchup?

I might be treating you unfairly. That's why I asked a friend of mine, an American, from the country of the burger: Does he like you - uhm, the currywurst - too?

The answer will shock you. You're actually nothing more than a hot dog drowned in ketchup, he said. And he added: "It's a bit hard to love something like that."

Admittedly, he's never had the chance to taste Herta Heuwer's trademarked sauce - the one that, as we know, is to cover a sausage cut into pieces, to be eaten with a little plastic fork. And he'll never get to do that, unfortunately: Herta Heuwer never revealed her secret recipe before she died.

Not all Berlin currywursts are equal. Maybe he always got the wrong sausage every time he tried it.

Konnopke Imbiss in Berlin (Getty Images/J.MacDougall)

One of the most famous currywurst joints in Berlin: Konnopke's Imbiss

A legendary currywurst stall: Konnopke's Imbiss

My friend wouldn't accept any attenuating factors. He tried one at Curry 207 right by Checkpoint Charlie. He also tried one at Konnopke's Imbiss, a legendary food stall established in 1930 on Schönhauser Allee in Prenzlauer Berg boasting to be the first to have started serving currywurst in East Berlin in 1960.

Konnopke has a secret recipe for its sauce and even a website. It tells the story of Max Konnopke, who came to Berlin from Cottbus at the age of 29 to become the "Wurstmaxe."

That didn't change anything about my American friend's harsh verdict: He prefers tacos and crepes. In comparison, the currywurst is simply a "vehicle for ketchup."

Read more: What Germans eat in the summer

Herta Heuwer would be outraged. She has always used select ingredients and spices, as she let it be known to posterity. It had absolutely nothing to do with ketchup.

Currywurst at Konnopke's in Berlin (Getty Images/A.Berry)

Not the best snack if you're not into ketchup

Beyond the ketchup and the curry sauce, you've also become literature. Novelist Uwe Timm wrote a book about you, "The Invention of the Curried Sausage." There's even a Currywurst Museum in Berlin, completely dedicated to you.

But you're definitely not just a museum piece, as you've always managed to adapt to the times. You're no longer only made with pork. You sometimes come as a chicken sausage. The people who've made a business out of you keep adding different styles. There's the vegan currywurst, the halal currywurst for Muslims and now the kosher currywurst, too.

On Berlin's chic Ku'damm shopping boulevard, you're even served with champagne.

You should market yourself as a lifestyle product and make a lot of money. Oh wait, you already do that, too: 800 million currywursts are sold in Germany every year.

The politically correct sausage

Berlin has invented so many things that have changed the world more than a sausage: the computer, the Little Sandman, the condom and wax earplugs.

Still, Berlin is particularly proud of you. That's why there's a Day of the Currywurst and no Day of the Wax Earplugs.

Why is that the case? Well, you fit so well with its "poor, but sexy" image. And you're hot, too. It's the food of predilection in a capital of hedonists.

Your main advantage: You're politically correct. Berlin is still a divided city. But it doesn't matter if someone's from the east or the west, a hipster or a factory worker, a newcomer or an old Berliner, one thing unites them all: They eat currywurst.

Wait, what's happening? Writing this has made me hungry. I'll stop here and go get a currywurst.

Watch video 04:03

The cult of the currywurst


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