National dish

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Chili con Carne - a spicy meat dish of controversial origin; since 1977 official State Dish of the US state and "Chili State" of Texas

A national dish is a dish that is a typical component of a national cuisine . The term is generally associated with the idea that traditionally ancestral dishes are eaten by the majority of the population in the country concerned. The attribution is often not made by the country's inhabitants themselves, but from the point of view of other countries with the intention of identifying foreign kitchens and distinguishing them from their own. So-called national dishes can have both positive and negative connotations and are often used as clichés . Colloquially and in cookbooks, well-known regional dishes are sometimes referred to as national dishes, for example Labskaus as "Hamburg's national dish ".


The term national dish, like national cuisine, did not come into use in Europe until the 19th century and was largely unknown beforehand because it is related to the idea of ​​the nation state and a national culture. In the Oeconomischen encyclopedia of Johann Georg Krünitz 18th century, the term is not listed, although it example entries for national costume and national pride are. In German dictionary of the brothers Grimm , there is no separate entry for the term, however, the word is known. In the Haberbrei article, for example , it is an “old national dish of the Germans”.

“National kitchens are usually constructs that are based on the age of the nation states, that is, mostly in the 19th century. These constructs helped to bundle the diverse regional cuisines and to build a more or less uniform image towards the outside world. ”Sociologists and cultural historians assume that national dishes are stereotypes or clichés that match the real ones Eating and cooking habits of the general population of a country often have little to do with it. Eva Barlösius speaks of “fictional constructions”. " [...] the idea that there is such a thing as a traditional national dish is phoney, first because many of them are borrowed or adapted from elsewhere, and second because the idea of ​​authentic national food is just as erroneous as that of an authentic national culture. ”(German:“ The idea that there is such a thing as a traditional national dish is hypocrisy, firstly because many dishes are adopted by others, and secondly because the idea of ​​authentic national food is just as erroneous as that of an authentic national culture. ”)

In some countries, once purely regional dishes were declared national dishes and only later popularized, partly in connection with the increasing tourism in the 20th century . Using the example of Italian pizza, it can be proven that an insignificant dish, which was more of a poor man's food , experienced a change in image due to refinement and popularization abroad, initially in the USA, and was only then included in the national cuisine and became the national dish of Country of origin is collected.

National dishes have a double function, on the one hand to strengthen the feeling of cultural identity by giving them positive connotations, and on the other hand to enable a demarcation from other cultures. Other cuisines and their typical dishes are often classified as less tasty and devalued. “National kitchens are [...] idealized self-images that are suitable for promoting feelings of cultural superiority over other nations. In addition, there are disparaging names for foreign, supposedly national cooking styles. ”National dishes are sometimes viewed as typical for an assumed“ folk character ”. The spicy Hungarian goulash seasoned with paprika, for example, was associated with temperament, but also licentiousness.

The Austrian gastronomy journalist Christoph Wagner speaks of “culinary nationalism”, which expresses itself in the fact that alleged national dishes are used as derogatory terms for other nationalities. The English refer to the French as “frogs” and Germans as “Krauts”; in Germany and Austria, Italians were declared “spaghetti eaters” in the 1960s. However, the identification with their own kitchen and the devaluation of foreign dishes also exist independently of national states and is also documented in indigenous peoples who sometimes refer to the food of other tribes as “cattle feed”.

There are a number of examples that meals by immigrants or foreign workers in the country of immigration are used to specifically identify these social groups and to distinguish themselves from them. As a result, these dishes are declared from the outside to be typical national dishes of the countries of origin, without knowledge of the real national cuisine and although the dishes are actually only typical for the social and regional environment of the migrants, who often come from lower social classes. Examples are pizza, macaroni, and kebab . Since poor people's meals do not have high social prestige in their home country, they are particularly suitable as a negative stereotype.

Examples of the creation of national dishes


Wilhelm Busch : Max and Moritz (“Widow Bolte am Sauerkrautfass”), 1865

The existence of a national kitchen is a prerequisite for the creation of a national dish. In the scientific literature, the prevailing opinion is that there is no national German cuisine, only regional cuisine . "For the past there is [...] no recognizable attempt to develop a style-defining style for the entire German cuisine out of the extraordinarily differentiated regional cuisine." The diet in southern Germany has deviated significantly from that in northern Germany and also in the eastern areas since the 16th century from. Barlösius speaks of "North German meat and vegetables" and "South German milk and pastries". This difference is also evident in the regional festive dishes.

The kitchen of the German nobility was based in Germany until the First World War on the French cuisine . "The national cuisine was always also the cuisine of the subjects, from which one as an aristocrat - despite all Germanness - had to stand out." Since the 18th century, representatives of the bourgeoisie have distanced themselves from the supposedly "artificial" French culinary art and the " Verelification ”of German cuisine. As a typical German cuisine they looked at the home cooking .

During the time of National Socialism there were ideologically motivated efforts to create a German national kitchen. From 1933 onwards, the Nazi regime prescribed the so-called stew Sunday for the population once a month . In contrast to the Sunday meat meal , stew was a cheap dish and the money saved in this way was to be donated to the Nazi People's Welfare . That was a state decreed national dish.

In many countries, sauerkraut is the German national dish, mostly in combination with bratwurst or pork knuckle . The assessment that this is “typically German food” did not only arise abroad, but was also spread by well-known German poets. The Swabian Ludwig Uhland praised the sauerkraut in his butcher's soup song : “Even our noble sauerkraut, we shouldn't forget it; a German built it first, so it's a German meal. ”His contemporary Ludwig Börne wrote in his mixed essays, slightly ironic,“ The sauerkraut is a real German meal; the Germans invented it and love it and tend it with all tenderness. ” Heinrich Heine mentions it in Germany. A winter fairy tale : “The table was set. Here I found the old Germanic cuisine. Greetings to me, my sauerkraut, your smells are lovely! ”. With Wilhelm Busch it occurs in the well-known picture story Max and Moritz .

For a long time, sauerkraut was a common everyday dish, especially in southern Germany, and was eaten by all classes. It was also one of the favorite dishes of Liselotte von der Pfalz , who lived at the court of Louis XIV in Versailles . She had a recipe for sauerkraut sent to her from Hanover and translated it for the French cook. "Mett and Knackwurst sausages, smoked geese and also sauerkraut were sent to Liselotte again and again by her German relatives."

During the First and Second World Wars , the term Krauts was used by the Americans and the British as a swear word for Germans, but the association of sauerkraut with German cuisine is much older and can be traced back to the 17th century based on sources in the USA. At that time, German immigrants from Krefeld settled in Germantown near Philadelphia , who continued to cultivate their local cuisine, which also included sausages and sauerkraut. In the 19th century, many of the German immigrants came from southern Germany and the Palatinate , who decisively shaped the image of German culture in the USA. Beer, sauerkraut and bratwurst appeared to be typical of German cuisine. In New York , Germans initially lived mostly on a street that was nicknamed "Sauerkraut Boulevard". Today hot dog with sauerkraut is a popular fast food in New York. The word sauerkraut was adopted in the English language.

Bratwurst is just as German in the USA as sauerkraut. The Wisconsin Historical Society is convinced: “ Bratwurst and its close companion the semmel (hard roll) share a past deeply rooted in German culture. ”(Eng .: Bratwurst and its close companion, the bread roll, share a past that is deeply rooted in German culture.) In the USA there is practically a Bratwurst region that stretches from Chicago to Wisconsin to Minnesota , in of which a particularly large number of Americans of German origin live. Milwaukee , Wisconsin is considered the center of the bratwurst tradition, and the town of Sheboygan has named itself the "Bratwurst Capital" and celebrates the "Bratwurst Days" every August. American bratwurst is generally served with sauerkraut, mustard, and onions.

In Germany, Thuringia and Franconia are best known for their sausages, in Holzhausen near Erfurt there is the 1st German Bratwurst Museum .

In the meantime, dishes that were not originally created in the German-speaking area, such as doner kebab and pizza, are often referred to as German national dishes in view of their popularity and spread in Germany.


A plate of fish and chips

Fish and chips are now considered the English national dish . However, the national identification with the consumption of beef, especially in the form of roast beef, is much older . This preference has been emphasized in kitchen literature for centuries, not least in order to distinguish itself from French cuisine, which supposedly prefers vegetables. Evidence for this description of the English as "beef eater" has been there since the 16th century, among others in William Shakespeare . With the help of sources, cultural historians can prove that beef consumption primarily had a symbolic function, as the majority of the population lived on cereals and foods such as porridge until the 19th century .

Meat, and especially red meat, was associated with power and strength, as expressed in the patriotic song The Roast Beef of Old England by Henry Fielding in 1731: “ When mighty Roast Beef was the Englishman's Food, it enobled our Hearts and enriched our Blood; our Soldiers were brave and our Courtiers were good. Oh, the Roast Beef of old England […]. ”(German:“ When the mighty roast beef was the food of the English, it ennobled our hearts and enriched our blood; our soldiers were brave and our courtiers were good. Oh, the roast beef of old England […]. ”) Many English ones Butchers still decorate their shops with the Union Jack . In a 2004 BBC survey of major symbols of national identity, 73 percent of respondents named roast beef ahead of Yorkshire pudding and fish and chips .

The fish and chips fast food dish emerged in this form in the mid-19th century. The breaded fish baked in oil (mostly haddock and cod) was originally a traditional dish of Jewish immigrants from Portugal ( marranos ) who came to England in the 16th century . Baked potatoes were mainly eaten in Ireland and Lancashire as well . A Jewish immigrant named Joseph Malin is said to have opened the first fish-and-chip shop in London's East End in 1860, followed by a takeaway vendor in Lancashire in 1863. In the following years, fish and chips became an essential part of the everyday diet of the lower classes and had the reputation of being poor people's food . At the latest during the Second World War, this fast food dish also became popular among the middle class; it was one of the few foods that was not rationed by the government during the war .

In Meyers Encyclopedia states that the end of the 19th century England's kitchen: "wheat bread and roasted meat (replacing it with the workers often bacon) and heavy puddings are the national dishes. Roast beef and plum pudding made from raisins, flour, kidney fat, etc. is not missing even in the poor man at Christmas, not even in the poor houses. Heavy beer ( ale and porter ) and juniper schnapps ( gin ) are the national drinks. "


Neapolitan macaroni eater, popular illustration from 1890

The pizza was until about 40 years ago no Italian national dish, but only in Naples known where in 1830 the first pizzeria was opened, but even there she was not particularly widespread in the 20th century. It was a simple meal for the rural population. However, the dish was often eaten by Neapolitan immigrants in the United States, so it was considered a typical Italian specialty. As early as 1905, the first pizzeria in the USA is said to have opened in Little Italy in Manhattan . Before World War II, pizza was practically only eaten by Italian-Americans in the United States, but in the 1950s pizza was sold as fast food by street vendors and takeaways in numerous cities , albeit in an "Americanized" form. In 1957 the first frozen pizza came onto the market in the USA. Due to the growing popularity of pizza in the USA and in European countries with Italian immigrants, it was virtually re-imported to Italy in the 1970s and known nationwide.

Also pasta plays in Italy only since the 18th century an important role as a staple food . Only in Sicily was noodles a part of everyday food in the Middle Ages, which is why Sicilians in Italy were given the nickname mangiamaccheroni , "macaroni eaters ". In the 17th century, pasta was also introduced in Naples when the population there began to grow rapidly and the supply of meat and vegetables, the previous main courses, was no longer sufficient. From Naples, macaroni and spaghetti spread to other regions of Italy. At first they were eaten pure or only with grated cheese.


The Austrian cuisine is due to the political history of Austria and numerous immigrants traditionally a "multi-ethnic cuisine" with many dishes from other countries kitchens. Many Austrian national dishes do not originally come from Austria at all. The apple strudel , for example, like other strudel, was introduced by the Janissaries from the Ottoman Empire . The Salzburger Nockerln are supposedly an imitation of French soufflés , pancakes are actually a Hungarian specialty.

Statements about the international roots of Austrian and Viennese cuisine are for their part also a popular topos in local cultural historiography that fulfills a function. The historian Susanne Breuss interprets the adoption and change of originally foreign dishes in her own kitchen as an expression of a cultural hegemony , with which the supremacy of Austria in the Danube monarchy should be emphasized. In this context, the ability to select the best dishes from different cuisines, to refine them and to integrate them into one's own kitchen tradition, is often emphasized as typical of one's own Austrian cuisine. “The emphasis on the multicultural roots in the discourses on the Austrian and in particular the Viennese food culture makes it clear that the development of national cultural identity is to be understood as a hybrid formation in which heterogeneous cultural, linguistic, social and regional elements are forcibly combined into a contradicting unit . "

The famous Wiener Schnitzel has the function of a national symbol and is depicted on postcards in the shape of the geographical outline of Austria or in the shape of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna . The fact that it is a copy of the Italian Costoletta alla milanese and was introduced by Radetzky from Milan has been refuted as a legend by cultural historians. Nevertheless, this story persists in publications, and the alleged origin of breading in Byzantium is often pointed out. “So there is a lot of evidence that the Wiener Schnitzel was not imported from Milan - for the image of the Viennese and Austrian food culture, which is anchored in both self and in the image of others, the decades-long retention and development of the Milan legend is essential significant. "

The equally famous boiled beef is supposed to taste of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I of boiled beef with side dishes back that was served regularly at court. The bourgeoisie took over the “ennobled” food as a Sunday meal. The Kaiserschmarrn was originally a simple meal of the dairymen on the alpine pastures , which was baked over an open fire and has only recently been refined into a fine dessert . Another famous dessert is the so-called Sachertorte , which Franz Sacher invented on behalf of Prince Metternich in 1832.


The most famous Swiss national dish is the cheese fondue . It is likely that it was originally prepared by herdsmen over an open fire and is therefore a dish from the Alpine region. The "invention" is claimed by several Swiss cantons, as well as by the Savoy region . In any case, the name is French, derived from fondu (melted). The first traditional fondue recipe was published by the well-known French gastronomy critic Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in 1794. The ingredients were Gruyère , eggs and butter. Wine as a fondue ingredient is only mentioned in cookbooks after 1900. However, it has only been regarded as a national dish since the 1950s, after it was accepted as regular food in the military canteens and was advertised with a slogan of the Swiss Cheese Union : “Fondue isch guet und git e gueti Luune” - in the 80s then its acronym FIGUGEGL was used. The soldiers spread the judgment in families after they finished their military service. In 1955 the first ready-made fondue came onto the market in Switzerland. Eva Barlösius: “It (the fondue, add.) Was invented at the time of the global economic crisis in order to economically strengthen the local cheese producers compared to the already industrialized cheese producers, for example from Holland. This also explains why the recipe calls for cheeses from different Swiss regions. "

The name of the national dish, raclette, comes from the wooden squeegee with which the melted cheese is spread from half the cheese onto the plate. Traditionally, the cheese was simply lying on the iron stove, today right in front of an electric heating coil of a corresponding household appliance.

Rösti are also widespread . Boiled and peeled potatoes, sometimes raw, are rubbed over a raffle iron and the shavings are fried together with onion rings in lard or butter. Rösti are available in all variations, for example additionally with bacon, cheese, fried egg etc.


Goulash in the cauldron

One dish that had been considered typically Hungarian by the Hungarians themselves since the mid-17th century was a stew with sauerkraut and meat that was eaten by all classes. Gulyás (German: goulash) was initially just a simple meal of the Magyar cattle herders, which was prepared in kettles over an open fire. It was a stew that is similar to the goulash soup known to us . The word gulyás literally means “herdsman”, the dish was actually called “gulyás hús” (shepherd's meat). Originally it was only seasoned with salt and pepper, because paprika was only grown in Hungary since the 17th century. It was considered a cheap substitute for pepper for the common people at the time.

When the Hungarian nobility rebelled against the Austrian emperor and Hungarian king Joseph II at the end of the 18th century , who wanted to create a great empire out of Austria, Bohemia and Hungary, they invented symbols of national culture in order to distinguish themselves from Austria and Bohemia. In addition to a Hungarian costume, this included the declaration of gulyás as a national dish, although the Hungarian nobility had never eaten it because this dish was unknown in Austria, and paprika was not used in Austrian cuisine . In the 19th century, however, the Austrians unexpectedly first adopted recipes for the stew and then also a Hungarian meat dish with paprika, which in Hungary itself is called pörkölt . In Austria, however, it was named after the stew, Germanized goulash, and made the dish popular under this name as typically Hungarian.

In the later Austro-Hungarian Empire , the national component no longer played a role, at which point gulyás had become an everyday food of the middle class. As a national dish , gulyás in Hungary was not referred to until the 20th century on the initiative of the tourism industry, although tourists understand it to be pörkölt .

Historical assignments

At the end of the 19th century, Meyer's Konversationslexikon explicitly referred to a number of dishes as national dishes, which today are generally no longer regarded as such.

Individual evidence

  1. Uwe Spiekermann: Europe's kitchens. An approximation  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , in: International Working Group for Cultural Research in Food, Issue 5, p. 42 (PDF; 562 kB)  ( page no longer available , search in web archives )@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  @1@ 2Template: Dead Link /
  2. a b c d Eva Barlösius, Sociology of Food, Weinheim 1999, p. 148
  3. Patrick West: We didn't invent fish and chips
  4. a b Eva Barlösius, Sociology of Food, Weinheim 1999, p. 161
  5. Christoph Wagner: Cooking pot Europe? in: time step. Magazin for modern politics, issue 8 ( Memento from September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  6. ^ A b c d Franz Serverin Berger: Panier instead of gold leaf. The history of the Wiener Schnitzel and other national dishes ( Memento from November 5, 2005 in the Internet Archive )
  7. ^ Eva Barlösius, Sociology of Food, Weinheim 1999, p. 160 f.
  8. ^ Eva Barlösius, Soziologie des Essens, Weinheim 1999, p. 149
  9. ^ Eva Barlösius, Social and historical aspects of German cuisine, in: Stephen Mennell, Die Kultivierung des Appetits, Frankfurt / M. 1988, p. 425
  10. ^ Eva Barlösius, Social and Historical Aspects of German Cuisine, p. 432
  11. Uwe Spiekermann: Europe's kitchens. An approximation  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , in: International Working Group for Cultural Research in Food, Issue 5, p. 31 (PDF; 562 kB)  ( page no longer available , search in web archives )@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  @1@ 2Template: Dead Link /
  12. ^ Rainer Horbelt / Sonja Spindle, German cuisine in the 20th century, Frankfurt / M. 2000, p. 124 ff.
  13. Ulrika Zischka / Hanns Ottomeyer (ed.): The decent lust. From eating culture and table manners, "Stew - the ordained national dish", Munich 1994, p. 511
  14. cf. “How young people from Great Britain see Germany”, in: Schekker. Youth magazine of the Federal Government (2006) ( Memento from December 3, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  15. ^ Source of inspiration for German poetry: Sauerkraut ( Memento from September 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  16. Klaus Mattheier, Deutsche Eßkultur am Versailler Hof Ludwig XIV. On the culinary likes and dislikes of Elisabeth Charlotte von Orléans, in: Hans-Jürgen Teuteberg (Ed.): Essen und Kulturen Identity, Berlin 1997, p. 151
  17. Olaf Peters The legend of the 'Krauts' Goethe-Institut, accessed on November 8, 2011
  18. ^ Germans in Philadelphia ( Memento from December 3, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  19. Article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (2006)
  20. Fire up the Grill! It's Bratwurst Time!
  21. Article Bratwurst of the English Wikipedia
  22. Döner is the typical German snack ( Ärztezeitung October 15, 2004)
  23. a b Menno Spiering, Food, Phagophobia and English National Identity, in: Thomas M. Wilson, Food, Drink and Identity in Europe, 2006, p. 31 ff.
  24. On the history of fish and chips ( Memento from September 29, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  25. Article in The Observer (2003)
  26. ^ History of Pizza ( Memento from August 18, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  27. Massimo Montanari , Hunger and Abundance. Cultural history of nutrition in Europe, Munich 1999, p. 171 ff.
  28. ^ Susanne Breuss, Incorporated Homeland. Austria's culinary places of memory, in: Emil Brix u. a. (Ed.), Memoria Austriae, 2005, p. 308.
  29. Heinz-Dieter Pohl, The Austrian Kitchen Language, Vienna 2007, article Wiener Schnitzel
  30. ^ Susanne Breuss, Incorporated Homeland. Austria's culinary places of memory, in: Emil Brix u. a. (Ed.), Memoria Austriae, 2005, p. 313.
  31. On the history of fondue
  32. Alain Wey: On the trail of the fondue ( Memento from October 21, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  33. Eszter Kisbán, Dishes as Samples and Symbols: National and Ethnic Markers in Hungary, in: Hans-Jürgen Teuteberg u. a. (Ed.): Food and cultural identity, Berlin 1997, p. 204 ff.
  34. Excerpt from Hannes Etzelstorfer (ed.), Kitchen Art & Table Culture
  35. About the origin of the goulash  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /