When I was a teenager I did not want to have anything to do with cooking anymore, stubborn as I was, even though I used to love helping my parents and especially my grandmother in the kitchen as a little child! However, now there were more important things like my friends, being as bad in school as possible without repeating a class and partying. My consciously denied enthusiasm was reawakened by a show with the title “Schmeckt nicht, gibt’s nicht! (engl.: Bad taste is not an option!)”, whose host was a young cook named Tim Mälzer. His way of handling food and preparing recipes, as well as his sympathetic nature reminded me that cooking is actually fantastic and everything related to it is incredibly exciting. Tim Mälzer’s cooking show was an eyeopener and unleashed an incredible fascination for similar formats and cookbooks at the same time, which I still thoroughly indulge.
By now Tim Mälzer is one of the most famous German TV chefs and I have remained a loyal fan over the years. I own several of his eight cookbooks, and in recent lights (our move to Tennessee) his sixth book touched me deeply. It bears the title HEIMAT (Heimat is the German word for HOME) and was published in 2014 by the Mosaik Verlag. Tim Mälzer writes about the German cuisine and his journey through our home Germany, which he undertook on the occasion of researching the book. With his wonderful collection of traditional recipes, he wants to take the chance to show the Germans how amazing their own cooking culture is and, at the same time, to point out how modern and how high quality the dishes, the products and their producers are.
In my opinion, that is a wonderful idea. However, the book also convinces me for another reason. It displays how diverse the German cuisine is and that it has more to offer than just Weißwurst, Pretzels and Schweinebraten (although we love these dishes, no question!). It is an important point for me, as I’ve been wondering in recent months, how little the people I meet in Tennessee know about the food culture of my country. I suppose, I was a bit naïve to think that onion cake, Spätzle and Co. are export hits, too and therefore well known. I have to admit, I was damn wrong.
Tim Mälzer’s intention to get the Germans closer to their own cuisine, as well as mine to introduce the American to the diverse recipes of my wonderful home, is the reason why I write about HEIMAT and want to tell you more about it.
So, let’s go: The external appearance of the cookbook appears very classic and noble. Its golden hardcover with the black leather back and the clear writing occurs very valuable. The elegant, almost dramatic design is broken up by three garden gnomes, who hold a knife, a fork and a spoon in their hands and seem to be ready to face the delicious dishes of German cuisine.
Once you open the book, the endpapers, the parts of the book that links the cover to the pages, scream at you in bright neon pink. In contrast, the interior has a restrained yet cheerful color, which delivers a playful impression. A convenient gimmick that Tim Mälzer has already used for some of his other books is the red ribbon that offers the opportunity to mark a particular page.
The recipes are grouped into individual thematic blocks, which are presented in the nicely designed table of content, followed by the obligatory imprint and the title page: Soups – Lunch – Fish – Meat – Salads, Vegetables & Side Dishes – Dinner – Dessert – Register. Instead of jumping right to the recipes Tim Mälzer uses an introduction to describe his initial ideas for the book, and how it developed and emerged.
On the next, almost 280 pages, the focus is set on the German dishes with their products and producers. The recipe pages convince by a great clarity. Each recipe specifies for how many people the quantities of needed ingredients are calculated and how much time you will need for the preparation. The ingredients are listed and the individual preparation steps are clear and easy to understand, at the same time they leave room for interpretation, also thanks to the many tips and tricks added. And of course, there are pictures and illustrations for all dishes that trigger emotions, help a lot, make your mouth watery, or just make you smile.
The introduction of the products and producers are kept brief, however do not lose their informative character. The accompanying, large-format images are descriptive and have something dreamy, homely, yes loving. The associated texts deliver the same feeling. Finally, Tim Mälzer’s thanks go to the people of Germany, his team and all contributors. As the author of the book, he addresses us, the reader, with his last words and concludes with a big “Thank you from the heart! Tim”. Nice!
It’s genuinely fun to browse through the book. I missed some dishes like the Hessian Kochkäse and the Bavarian Obatzer, however I am fully aware that not every regional dish could make it into the selection. Tim Mälzer himself states in his introduction that he makes no claim to completeness. And of course, I absolutely understand that as a child of the North, he priorities Labskaus over my beloved Kochkäse.
The book is filled with 138 recipes (if I have counted right). A great collection that is well coordinated. You will find German classics like roasted chicken or Maultaschen without which the book would be incomplete. Tim Mälzer even suggest new German recipes such as a salmon pickled in gin, which I can really recommend. It’s sooooo good!
By all means, I have already tried many recipes, such as the goulash and the chicken broth, which I have often prepared following with my very own recipe. Both dishes tasted delicious in the HEIMAT version and the tricks that I learned, such as the addition of sugar and giblets to the chicken broth, I will definitely stick to.
It was a special pleasure for me to find the recipe for “Strammer Max”, a sourdough bread accompanied by ham and fried egg. I cannot remember ever having seen this recipe in another cookbook. It’s not my favorite food, but it has a lot of memories. First, it bears the name of my brother (without the “Strammer”, of course) and it also reminds me of my Papa (german for dad), who loved that dish. Because I am already enthusing and remembering, I would like to have a closer look at the subchapters Homemade and Giblets. Currently I just have a preference for homemade food and would like to learn more about it. Giblets always were an important part of my families cooking tradition and I really enjoy eating them. I can only agree with Tim Mälzer on page 155 noting that a lot of people underestimate giblets and miss out on something special. It makes me happy to see that the book reserves a small space for livers, kidneys and hearts that allows them to show what they can do. And that is one thing above all: to taste damn good!
I’m certainly looking forward to trying out many other recipes such as the Krazete with the white asparagus, the egg salad, the char carpaccio, the Reibekuchen (a german version of hush browns), liver with apricots, duck fresh out the oven and much more. You see, I still have a lot of work to do.
There is a tiny little downer for me here in America. It will not be easy to get all the ingredients, for example the white asparagus will be hard to find in the United States. However, I am a creative person and so are you! Together we will find a tasty substitute for the missing things. Despite some products being only seasonably (or in my case geographically) available, all ingredients used in the book are well accessible and easy to find on the market, at the butcher shop or in the bakeries.
All in all, Tim Mälzer has put together a lovely recipe collection called HEIMAT, which shows that German cuisine can do more than just be hearty and heavy. He takes a modern look at classics and polishes up traditions by sensitively reinterpreting them. It is undoubtful that the well-traveled chef enjoys exploring his own culinary home, rediscovering it and even being surprised by it. Regionality plays a major role, although the book states clearly that regionality will only bring out its best if it is open to globalization. If both enrich each other, something wonderful unleashes delivering the comforting feeling of being at home without looking dusty, petit bourgeois or outdated. In addition to the cuisine, the ingredients as well as the people behind them are the stars of this cook and travel book. It displays the diversity Germany has to offer and portraits all the committed producers, manufactures and craftsmen. They share with us their ideas, wishes and dreams for the future. The interesting reports and information on this new generation of fishermen, baker, butcher, etc. are spellbinding and makes you want to learn more.
HEIMAT is a loving tribute to Germany and its cuisine. I am absolutely able to recommend this book without reservation. Thanks to the appealing and skillful design, it’s fun to browse, fun to try out recipes or just to look at the great, humorous and informative pictures. It would be nice if this book would be available in multiple languages to give those who do not speak German the opportunity to get to know German cuisine from its best side.
To conclude I can only thank Tim Mälzer, because without him and his great team I would not be able to share this wonderful book with you. So, I remain with best regards and a sincere intention: Thank you very much! Eva