Discovering Diverse Food

Caitlin Jarrell, IIP: Berlin Summer '22

As a picky eater for the first nineteen years of my life, I would agree that food is the window to the soul. My particularity about what I eat definitely reflected my stubbornness and specificity for my life choices. Like with my food preferences, I was always a bit rigid and stressed out easily when things outside of the norm occurred. I am so glad to say that this experience in Berlin changed that. I felt that as I grew to be a more open and flexible person, my food palate also expanded. Something that remained the same, though, was my affinity for eating out much too often. Even in Pittsburgh, I am terrible about balancing cooking with eating out. I have no idea why I thought this would be different in another country where I am constantly surrounded by amazing food options.
During the first few weeks in Berlin, I made it a goal to try restaurants in different areas of the city, which also helped me get the hang of the public transportation system. Bonding over new food was also a great opportunity to get to know the other students in the program, and we kept up this habit throughout the program. Some of my favorite spots are in Kreuzberg, but I explored food in other neighborhoods like Friedrichshain, Mitte, and Prenzlauerberg. Over the course of my nine weeks in Berlin, I tried a lot of new food, which originated at Markthalle Neun Street Food Night. This huge market offered many new options that I had never seen before, such as octopus dumplings. I found myself gravitating towards Asian cuisine, and myself and another student went to a place famous for their noodles and bao. We even waited an hour in line because they don’t take reservations! I think that the large variation of food options within Berlin represents how many people come to Berlin from other countries, making it a huge cultural hotspot.
Out of all the food I ate in Germany, I think that there are two types of cuisine that stick out as representative of Berlin. The first of which, unsurprisingly, is traditional German cuisine. I went to multiple traditional German restaurants, tried three kinds of schnitzel, and was served some of the best potatoes I’ve had in my entire life. Potatoes are a staple in German cuisine, which is said to be because Friedrich the Great showed the citizens how to eat potatoes by walking through town eating them raw. I think that these restaurants are a great representation of older German culture alive in a very modern city, so it was cool to appreciate the amazing food. Another food that I believe represents the city of Berlin, as well as played a large part in my time there, is döner. If you are not aware what it is, döner is a classic Turkish cuisine that comes in many forms: sandwich, wrap, box, etc. It became my new favorite food, and I already miss the taste of shaved lamb meat, spicy sauce, salad, and the crunchy sandwich bread I always got it in. The reason that this is so important to the city of Berlin is because of how it became so popular and easily accessible within the city. There is a huge Turkish presence in Germany, specifically in Berlin. While exploring the city, we met many Turkish people who were trilingual and so interested in practicing their English with us. The Turkish quarter of the city is in Mitte, right in the center, and it has the best döner in the city. I think that this reflects how multicultural Berlin is, which is a huge part of why I chose to study there. Overall, I am grateful that this experience expanded my mind and food palate, while also teaching me about different cultures within the city.