The Ingenious German Way to Do Dinner

updated May 24, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Anthony McAulay)

German food evokes strong opinions. Encased meats, starchy noodle and potato dishes, and pickled things — it’s not exactly the sexiest food. Although, I might argue, what’s not to love about encased meats, starchy noodle and potato dishes, and pickled things? (Not to mention, there’s a whole lot more to German food.)

Regardless of your feelings about German food in general, there is one German food tradition that is completely ingenious: Abendbrot.

What Is Abendbrot?

Abendbrot translates as “evening bread.” It used to be — although not so much anymore — that the big hot meal of the day was lunch, often served at the office cafeteria (it’s still true that many German businesses have their own cafeterias and that they are a much bigger deal here than in the States). Full from a heavy lunch of meat and potatoes, this meant that dinner was an easy fix: bread with butter and sliced meat, cheese, and vegetables.

Okay, this could seem really underwhelming, but hear me out — there are (at least) three reasons why Abendbrot is so great.

3 Reasons Abendbrot Is the Perfect Dinner

  1. It’s like going to your favorite neighborhood wine bar. With a great fresh loaf of dark, whole-grain bread, a collection of cheeses, and sliced meats like cured ham and mortadella, Abendbrot feels like ordering the cheese plate at your favorite wine bar and then feeling no guilt about letting that be dinner.
  2. It takes the edge off. There’s something about assembling your own open-faced radish-and-butter sandwiches that encourages lingering over the dinner table rather than laboring over the stove. Conversations about the day flow easily into the evening. Abendbrot takes the edge off.
  3. It makes breakfast a piece of cake (or bread, rather). The other great thing about Abendbrot is that keeping its components in the house leaves you ready for breakfast. “Continental breakfast” might conjure images of a croissant and cappuccino, but there is nothing light or hurried about a traditional German breakfast: a huge, packed table of fresh rolls, butter, jams, meat and cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and cut-up vegetables. Maybe, let’s be real, a bottle of cheap sparkling wine.

Brunch: Yet Another Thing Germans Do Well

Which brings me to another thing Germans do really well: brunch.

I had associated hosting brunch with baking multiple sweet and savory casseroles, but a German brunch keeps the food prep during the bleary morning hours to a minimum (yes!).

German brunch requires nothing more than being able to run to the bakery for rolls and artfully set out boards heavy with Gouda, liverwurst, or smoked trout. Well, maybe you have to do one more thing: equally distribute the dishes so that no one has to fight over the last roll.

Who would have thought that German food would provide the perfect answer to the perpetual search for quick and easy weeknight and weekend meals?