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There’s Nothing More German Than a Döner Kebab 20 avril 2012

Posted by Acturca in Art-Culture, Economy / Economie, Immigration, Turkey / Turquie.
Tags: , , , ,

The Wall Street Journal Asia (USA) April 20, 2012, p. 1

By James Angelos

Big and Juicy Turkish Meat Causes Political Indigestion, Too

In fast food, Germany is better known for wurst. But few German street snacks are more appreciated than the Turkish döner kebab.

Brought to Germany four decades ago, the döner is to Berlin what pizza is to New York: a transplanted food that has taken on a new life in its adopted land. Today, there are more döner stands in Berlin than in Istanbul. And about 720 million servings are sold nationally each year according to an industry association.

German-style döners are seasoned meat processed into a large cylindrical loaf, roasted on a vertical spit, then thinly sliced with a long knife and wrapped in flat bread with vegetable toppings and, sometimes, a spicy sauce.

As Germany recently marked the 50th anniversary of the guest worker treaty that brought hundreds of thousands of Turkish workers to fuel its booming postwar economy, the ubiquitous street snack is held up as a prominent symbol of the cultural and economic influence of Turkish immigration on German society.

But few events signal the food’s rise as did its own recent trade fair, attended by 4,000 döner aficionados, who consumed a ton of it. Döner industry suppliers in suits, hawking everything from spits to pita bread hashed out deals between seminars on quality standards and problems in the meat industry.

« Döner makes you pretty! » Remzi Kaplan, the owner of Kaplan Dönerproduktion GmbH, one of Europe’s largest döner meat producers, bellowed into a microphone as several young men devoured his product during an eating contest with a €500 prize ($655). « Döner makes you healthy! » he continued. « Clever! Slim! »

p. 12

Classic German Street Snack Causes Political Indigestion

Thanks to its sheer size and an ethnic Turkish population of more than 2.5 million, Germany is the leader of a growing European döner industry, generating €3.5 billion in annual revenue and 200,000 jobs across Europe, according to the Berlin-based Association of Turkish Döner Producers in Europe. As with many goods, Germany has turned döner into an export advantage, producing about 400 tons of the meat daily and selling much of it to France, Poland and other European neighbors.

The fair lured big brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, eager to sell trucks to döner producers. French-fry giant Lamb Weston also attended.

« It’s a fast-growing market, » said Dietmar Pagel, an account manager for Lamb Weston’s Germany and Austria operations, as he cleaned a deep fryer he had used to fry up samples. Mr. Pagel said he had just scored a deal to supply nearly 50 tons of fries a week to a major döner distributor.

The booming döner business is also spawning innovation. At one of the fair’s 100 exhibits, Sönke Puls, a representative for Kiesling Fahrzeugbau GmbH, a German maker of refrigerated truck bodies, showed off his company’s « Döner Streaker, » a vehicle customized for the transport of frozen döner. Its special feature: a « döner blocker, » or bar, built into the cargo door to keep the cylinders of meat from rolling out when the door is opened.

Without it, a frozen döner roll weighing between 70 and 220 pounds could tumble out just « like a stone, » said Mr. Puls, sliding the bar into place to demonstrate how it works.

A lamb version of the döner has long been a staple of Turkish cooking. Its German descendant, more likely to be beef, was developed by Turkish guest workers in Berlin in the early 1970s. Though the claim is disputed, Kadir Nurman, a 78-year-old who came to Germany from Turkey in the 1960s, was honored as its inventor at the fair.

Mr. Nurman’s restaurant at the time was located near the Zoologischer Garten train station, a main transport hub in West Berlin. Noticing how workers craved something to eat on the go, he decided one day to wrap döner meat in bread to make it portable.

« When Kadir Nurman gazes at a döner, it’s with the look of a father proud to behold his baby, » the fair organizers wrote of Mr. Nurman.

In a nation that incessantly discusses the role immigration has played in its society, the döner is often cast as a political symbol.

Recently, Thilo Sarrazin, a former Bundesbank official who ignited a simmering debate about immigration with his controversial best seller, « Germany Abolishes Itself, » visited Kreuzberg, a neighborhood in Berlin famous for its large Turkish population. Among Mr. Sarrazin’s many contentious claims was that immigration from Turkey and other Muslim-majority countries has harmed Germany culturally and economically.

With a public-television crew in tow to film his visit, Mr. Sarrazin was asked to leave a well-known Turkish restaurant because of angry reaction to his presence on the street. « No Döner for Sarrazin, » blared German newspaper headlines.

For many Turkish immigrants, the döner has come to represent both opportunity and the limited chances of earlier generations to expand into other fields.

« Many immigrants live from this, » said Levent Cibik, an engineer who was attending the döner trade fair with his father, Mehti, a 50-year-old who came to Germany from east Anatolia 36 years ago and worked as a metal worker in a chocolate factory in Berlin. They were there to promote a product the father had developed, an energy-efficient rotating spit called a Universal Döner Motor.

With his laborer’s rough hands, the elder Mr. Cibik showed off the benefits of his creation, particularly a ball-bearing system that allows one to bring the skewer closer to the flame as the roll of meat gets thinner.

The family, the son said, hoped to profit from the expanding döner industry. He then pointed to a group of döner-industry moguls in suits who were chatting in Turkish. « See those people over there, » he said. « They’re all millionaires. »


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