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OBERRIED: Schwarzwälder Torte, Speck and Sausages (Satis Shroff)

Oberried is a wellness place, tucked away on the highest Black Forest mountains. From here you can trek to Feldberg and Schauinsland. There’s a church with a big, the Heimatmuseum called ‘Schniederlihof’, the mountain museum Schauinsland and for young and elderly the amusement park Steinwasen located on a hillside. The reason I went there with my friend Klaus Sütterle was to pay the local butcher Peter Reichenbach in his Metzgerei.

It was a short drive past beautiful Foret Noir scenery. Up there it was still winter and there was snow all over the slopes, spurs, hills and rooftops of the Black Forest farmsteads. The vegetation in this area Dreisam Valley is subalpine and you see numerous ski-lifts, ski tracks and trekking trails paved by a bulldozer on the mantle of snow covering the Black Forest.

Peter Reichenbach is a stocky guy with a moustache, short hair and an excellent sense of Schwarzwälder humour. He had two ladies working with him. In Germany you are allowed to open a butchery only if you possess the Meisterbrief, which is a certificate hat you receive after a strict exam. You have to work as an apprentice under such a master and then are allowed to take the Meister examination. The two ladies didn’t have any ambitions of doing the Meisterprüfung, as exam are called in German. Germany has a dual system of education and the brighter ones are allowed to attend the Gymnasium after the fourth class, where you can do final exams that are equivalent to the General Certificate of Education ‘A’ level in the UK and the Bacculaureate in France. The others can take up a profession after the tenth class in a Hauptschule or a Realschule. So the German society still sorts out the best scholars early and the parents sit with their children and help them with their homework or if they don’t have time they send their charges to institutes specialised in doing homeworks for the kids.

Since the biting Black Forest wind was still howling outside the Metzgerei, the metal door had to be closed shut if, and when, someone came in or went out.  You could instantaneously discern the aromatic smell of the scores of sausages hanging from the low ceiling: blood sausages, liver sausages, speck and schinken, the famous Schwarzwälder speck, chicken, geese and other dairy products. In England you hear that Germans don’t laugh or don’t crack jokes. But here you could see and hear them laughing and working with their clients. And Klaus, my laughing, good humoured companion, seems to know almost all the people in Oberried, Buchenbach, Kappel and Kirchzarten. He grew up here, you know, and is actually an IT-specialist and also the chairman of the MGV Kappel where we sing together as second tenors.

He who knows the Black Forest also knows the famous speciality: Schwarzwälder Schinken. And Peter Reichenbach smokes his own Black Forest speck according to an old recipe handed down to his father from his grandpa. The Schwarzwälder aren’t a tall folk and are similar in stature to the Nepalese from the hills. The pork speck and wine from the areas are traditional dishes. The speck has to be cut in very thin slices and eaten with fresh Bauernbrot, which is a big round bread smeared with Black Forest butter. A jug of the Schwarzwälder milk and you’re ready to do the day’s work. Ah, the wonderful smell of speck with the aroma of elderberry. There’s also an elderberry-wine. The speck belongs to the staple food of the farmers since centuries. The longer the pork speck is smokes in the Black Forest homesteads, the more it loses its water content and becomes harder and more intensive. That’s the reason why you have to cut it in extremely thin slices. Peter Reichenbach’s motto and logo is: Gut zu wissen, wo’s herkommt. He’s absolutely right. It’s good to know where it comes from in these days of adultration where people only want to make fast money.

Easter falls normally in the month of March, which is actually a Roman month named after Martius in Latin. In olde Rome it was named after the God of War: Mars, and it had 31 days and was the first month of the Roman calendar. In the Holy Week (Passion) it was  a religious tradition to eat a ‘green’ meal. Green cabbage and nettle (Nepali: sisnu) with cress and hop. As an alternative the Swabians still cook dumplings filled with minced vegetables called ‘Maulschellen’ to remind the people of the slap in the face that Jesus received from Caiphas.

We bade Peter Reichenbach and his team adieu and drove down the scenic landscape to a local conditor. If you like cakes and coffee you ought to try the Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, a sumptuous cake decorated with cherries, cream and almost immersed in the excellent and fiery Kirschwasser schnaps. It’s not for small children, you know, with all that schnaps. It is thought that the torte came from Switzerland, although with biscuits, cherries and nuts, combined with cream. The Schwarzwälder Torte sold by the Swiss chain Migros has a generous portion of chocolate. In 1915  the confectioner Joseph Keller of the prominent Café Agner in Bad Godesberg, near Bonn, said he’d created the torte. But there’s no proof of it. It was mentioned for the first time in 1934 by J.M.Erich Weber (Dresden) in his book: ‘250 Confectionery Specialities and How they are Made.’ In those days this speciality was offered in big German, Austrian and Swiss cities. After 1945 the Black Forest Torte became the most popular cake in Germany and is relished in all parts of the world.

Guten Appetit! And welcome to the Black Forest.

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