13 June 2006

i am a jelly donut.

Ich bin ein Berliner = I am a jelly donut. Ich bin Berliner = I am a citizen of Berlin. It seems W is not the only American President with humorous linguistic mishaps. However, in Kennedy's defense, he was attempting a foreign language, and the Berliners (of the non-edible variety) still loved it. Is that because the donut is just an urban legend? I certainly hope not, because that would take half the fun out of the Cold War, and what good is a 50-year arms race if you can't share a laugh now and then?

While the jelly donut represents the old Berlin, today the doner kebab has far surpassed anything German as the edible symbol of the city. Doner stands abound throughout the city, and at approximately 2 euro each, they're the most cost efficient way to sustain yourself in the city. Similar to a Greek gyro or Lebanese shwarma, the doner consists of an obscenely large spit of meat, thinly sliced onto pita bread with garlicky yoghurt sauce and your choice of veggies. Doner stands are open vitually all hours, so they're equally delicious as an early breakfast after a long night or the more traditional lunch or dinner. Be careful that you don't end up so addicted that you consider bringing one home to share with your friends. We have McDonald's and BBQ, Berlin has doners.

I've already discussed Berlin's massive Turkish population, and fortunately their culinary contribution to the city extends beyond the doner. The Turkish market is home to the city's best (and cheapest!) fresh fruits and vegetables, along with parts of animals that you're probably a better person for not recognizing. And of course, a heavenly selection of olives (and only .10 euro extra for pitted ones)! A fabric selection that puts JoAnn Fabrics to shame, baked goods and other snacks, fresh squeezed juices, tons of jewelry, and knick knacks galore round out the biweekly market. You won't find GDR and Soviet memorbilia like at other Berlin flea markets, but this is a chance to mingle among real Berliners, not just tourists.

And what discussion of food would be complete without complementary drinks? While Germany is most famous for its beer, I prefer the wines. But to each his own - stop by a beer garden and try a dunkel (dark) beer with a pretzel, then visit a restaurant for a German Riesling and cheese, and you be the judge.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Eddie Izzard does a comedy sketch about the donut bit... he's quite hilarious. You should check it out, if you haven't heard it already.

Vince said...

Many people think President Kennedy called himself a jelly doughnut when he spoke in Berlin, but this is an urban legend, a hoax.

See Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ich_bin_ein_berliner and
http://urbanlegends.about.com/cs/historical/a/jfk_berliner.htm

The earliest mention of the jelly doughnut story in print was in the early 1980s. In the 1983 spy novel "Berlin Game," by Len Deighton, the character Bernard Samson is told that he is berlinerisch. His reply:

"'Ich bin ein Berliner,’ I said. It was a joke. A Berliner is a doughnut. The day after President Kennedy made his famous proclamation, Berlin cartoonists had a field day with talking doughnuts."

Len Deighton, Berlin Game, reprinted in Game, Set, Match (1986), page 85 .

"Berlin Game" was a work of fiction. In the preface to the reprint, Deighton notes that the novel is told in the highly subjective voice of the character of Bernard Samson, "who is inclined to complain and exaggerate so that we have to interpret the world around him." The author wrote that "Readers who take Bernard’s words literally are missing a lot of the intended content."

In a related novel, Deighton reminded his readers that the views of the characters were not necessarily those of the writer. "Winter" (1987), page preceding page 1, quoting James Jones: "...readers should remember that the opinions expressed by the characters are not necessarily those of the author..."

No doughnut cartoons have yet been found in the Berlin newspapers of the next day.

So my question is this: did Len originate this story?

Vince Treacy, Washington DC
vtreacy@msn.com