In the month leading up to Karneval, Germans go crazy for doughnuts. What the doughnut-Karneval connection is, I’m not really sure; Germans don’t really eat doughnuts at all the rest of the year, but during this season the bakeries throughout Germany sell doughnuts galore. And not just any plain old doughnut, but doughnuts stuffed full of jam, cream, nutella, elaborate fruit concoctions,and anything you can imagine. They’re usually dusted with a heavy layer of powdered sugar, or perhaps glazed or chocolate-covered. I’ve even seen doughnuts sold with little syringes so that people can inject the jam themselves into the middle of the doughnut (this is some sort of really weird marketing ploy – do people get special joy (e.g. simulating a high??) from slowly depressing a syringe and injecting strawberry jam into the middle of a ball of dough? Or is it just supposed to look cool? I don’t get it.) My personal favorites are the doughnut sandwiches. Basically, a yeast doughnut is sliced open sandwich-style, and layered with a combination of cream and fruit filling. It’s so dang good- and decadent. I can only justify eating one per year!
In Munich, doughnuts are called Krapfen. There are myriad other names used throughout Germany (i.e. JFK’s infamous “ich bin ein Berliner” speech – a Berliner is a jelly doughnut)- every region apparently has its own doughnut tradition. I was first introduced to Krapfen at work. It was probably my second week of work, when a colleague took me off to another department for a visit because they had brought in a box of Krapfen to share around the office. It had been a lazy afternoon, and I thought I was misunderstanding her when she asked, in German, whether I wanted to come with her to get some sort of really special doughnut. I guess I had just never linked doughnuts with a holiday.
Since that first year, I now always look forward to doughnut season. It’s one of the small things about life in Germany that is somehow simultaneously unexpected and yet perfectly fitting (had any of you non-Germans ever previously associated doughnuts with Germany? Random, right?). I’m also just a fan of any seasonal food tradition. I think we ought to do more of that- I know it goes against the prevailing trend to make anything and everything available around the clock, but there’s a sweet suspense to knowing that something short-lived and pleasurable is about to have it’s fleeting, annual passage through your life. Even if only a doughnut.