Saturday, June 17, 2017

LIVE TO EAT: Helmut Kohl, Saumagen and "the art of stuffing yourself while chancellor."

Saumagen for the soul.

There'll be thousands of words written about the late Helmut Kohl, who died yesterday at 87. Most of them will include a pun on the order of "Kohl, a German political heavyweight."

True that, and in more than one way. I'm here today neither to condemn Kohl, nor to praise him. Rather, it's to recognize that few world leaders of our generation merit designation as a card-carrying trencherman.

Not a gourmand. A trencherman.

Following are two examples. The first links Kohl with the "rustic peasant dish" called Saumagen, and includes a recipe.

Appetite (and iron-clad stomach) for success
, by Irina Dumitrescu (Politico EU)

The art of stuffing yourself while chancellor.

BONN, Germany — Helmut Kohl’s surname means “cabbage” in German. The satirical magazine Titanic nicknamed him “Birne” in the 1980s due to the pear-like shape of his head, and the moniker stuck. So it isn’t surprising that the bon vivant was associated in the popular imagination with food, and especially with blithely excessive culinary indulgence. Eating was not only a delight for Kohl, however. It was also a way of establishing his regional identity and conducting politics.

Ask a German what Kohl liked to eat, and they will answer without hesitation: “Saumagen!” The dish is a specialty of Kohl’s native state, Rhineland-Palatinate, and seems the kind of food you would have to be raised on to love: a pig’s stomach is stuffed with well-spiced pork, carrots and potatoes, the whole is cooked in hot water, then sliced, pan-fried, and served with sauerkraut and local wine.

Popular lore holds that Saumagen originated as a rustic peasant dish, a way of using up leftovers from the pig, but other theories hold that it was a highlight of the autumn butcher fest. It is a perfect union of high and low, and Kohl made a practice of serving it to visiting dignitaries.

Did Kohl ever serve Saumagen to Maggie Thatcher?

It seems unlikely, given this most memorable of all Kohl eating tales.

Obituary: Helmut Kohl died on June 16th, aged 87, in The Economist.

The former German chancellor piloted his country and Europe through unification

 ... His giant girth was much mocked: his nickname was die Birne (“the Pear”). But people underestimated him at their peril. His unabashed provincialism grated with modern-minded Germans who expected their politicians to be cerebral, cultured and cosmopolitan. He spoke no foreign language, and some said his German was poor, too. He displayed only a token interest in art, music and literature. His personal life was fraught: his long-suffering wife Hannelore committed suicide in 2001. Outside politics, his main interest was food: solid German fare, and plenty of it. Asked if anything interrupted his sleep, he said it was night-time forays to the fridge.

Only with Margaret Thatcher could he strike no chord. When she was holidaying in his favourite lakeside resort he cut short a meeting, pleading “unbreakable commitments”. Walking down the street later, Britain’s leader saw Mr Kohl in a café, busy only with a large cream cake. Their relationship never recovered.

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