"Don't make me run; I'm full of chocolate!"
From a dietitian’s point of view, German’s don’t have the best public image. Whether it’s Uter Zorker, Augustus Gloop, or a golly, beer loving, suspender wearing gentleman, they’re often nicely rotund, to say the least.
It breaks my heart to admit that Italian’s have a similar image. Mario and Luigi have quite the belly for professional athletes, and it seems you can’t be a pizza maker without a mustache and chubby cheeks.
This similarity is interesting, considering Germans rank 146th in the world for deaths from cardiovascular disease, and Italians rank significantly lower at 176th place. This difference is even more interesting when you consider the countries are (almost) next door neighbours. It’s no surprise that the Mediterranean Diet can help account for some of this difference- whilst Italians sip wine, Germans guzzle beer. Whilst Italians pour olive oil, Germans spread butter. But let’s embrace a similarity for now.
Pasta. That’s right! If there’s one thing living in the Australian outback has taught me, it’s that German’s have their own pasta (in case you were wondering, I have an Aussie-German housemate). On one level, spatzle actually puts Italian pasta to shame. It follows the principals of Nonna’s passed down recipe: 100g flour to 1 egg, per person. However the secret ingredient, water, allows the dough to be wetter (unsurprisingly), so instead of expending energy kneading and kneading, then winding and winding the dough through the pasta machine, Germans simply scrape or push it through a simple spatzle utensil, straight into the boiling water. Could the significant reduction in energy expenditure be one reason for the 30 place difference in CVD ranking? What surprised me almost as much as finding out my grandparents national dish is not so unique, and could be a fraud, is that that you can buy these special utensils (titled “Potato Ricer” in English), in the middle of the desert, in your nearest Big W. So naturally, it needed to be tested out.
Like pasta, spatzle is only half the equation; like the number of pasta sauces, spatzle accompaniments are endless. Often it is served with meat, gravy, mushroom sauce or butter and cheese- in short, rich, heavy foods. Alternatively, 90% of the time pasta is served with a plain tomato sauce in Italy. Not the rich bolognese toppings, cheesy bakes or cream-laden sauces we have become so used to. Could this be a second reason for the ranking difference? Even the beloved carbonara received an Aussie makeover before making it’s way to our plates. During the makeover, cream got prime position, moving up from it’s previous place of non-existent. Cream, 35% fat, has ten times the amount of fat of full cream milk, and two thirds of this is the cardiovascular disease promoting saturated fat. So whilst our Australian version of pasta carbonara is quite similar to German mushroom sauce and spatzle, the traditional omission of cream, saves around 11g of fat and 10.5g of saturated fat from each serve.
So is Italy's national dish a fraud? Is it, in fact, a copy of a German dish? Or, opening a new can of worms, are they both a copy of the Chinese's noodles? Let's sit on the fence, and appreciate that this is simply another food that unites us in it's similarities, and it's tastiness!