How to eat well and feed the sharing economy, one foraged apple and expired yoghurt cup at a time.
The people’s kitchen
Its name is forever changing – from Suppenküche in the 1980s to Volksküche in the 1990s to the current “KüFA” (Küche für alle; thank PEGIDA for stigmatising “Volk”, or blame activists for being such dogmatic, PC pussies) – but the time-honoured Berlin tradition of by-donation, communal meals at anarchist bars and squats is still going strong. On any given non-Saturday, there are at least seven such options around Berlin, mostly vegan and vegetarian, asking €1.50-8 in donations. One of the best options for both tastebuds and conscience is Neukölln lefty bar B-Lage, which hosts political groups like “African Unity” and “Action Syria” on alternating Wednesdays and Thursdays. For €3 and up, you can help fight poverty in Cameroon or provide medicine and winter clothing to Syria and eat tasty vegan recipes a touch more exotic than the standard salads and pastas you’ll find elsewhere. A true win-win.
Mareschstr. 1, Neukölln, 20:00
Fun with foraging
Did you know that Berlin is full of wild pear, cherry and plum trees, bushes swelling with walnuts and hazelnuts and tasty herbs like thyme and rosemary, growing right under your nose? Under the motto “The city is your garden,” the online platform Mundraub founded in 2012 has designed a digital map of all of these hidden and unhidden treasures, making the edible landscape of the city accessible to everyone and simultaneously preventing food waste. Just click on one of the fruit tree, berry, herb or nut symbols, and the address of the plant in question will appear. But that doesn’t guarantee your journey there will bear (literal) fruit; the map isn’t updated seasonally. This is intentional, says the project’s developer Konstantin Schroth. “We want people to get to know the trees even when they’re not blossoming. The educational aspect is important to us.” More than 30,000 people are involved in the idealistic project, which works independently of political interest groups and survives through donations and partnerships. Besides the map, Mundraub organises excursions like “berry-bike-tours” not only in Berlin but in all of Germany, and they’ve also published the e-book Der Erntecamp Leitfaden (handbook for harvesting) for free download.
Dumpster diving gone legit
Expiry dates ain’t nothing but a number. Or so goes the philosophy of the online platform Foodsharing, which helps “save” some of the 1.3 million tonnes of past-their-prime groceries that get tossed out every year. The digital platform works on two levels: a peer-to-peer “sharing” network that lets you pick up someone else’s unwanted dishes or give away your own (handy if you’re just about to go out of town and don’t want to waste that kilo of yoghurt), and a more complicated “food saving” system where some 300 coordinators collect just-expired goods from around 1000 bakeries and supermarkets, including Bio Company. Once you’ve “saved” some food, it’s yours to eat yourself, share among friends, bring to “Fair-Teiler” refrigerators spread around the city or donate to shelters. The system runs 100 percent on voluntary labour, although its idealism might be a bit undermined by the rather elitist procedure: to become a food saver, you have to take a complicated German-language test of 10 questions (only two errors allowed!) and take part in no less than three physical “food saving-actions”. And after all that, you still might be left with mouldy broccoli and stale bread – but hey, at least you did something good!
If you’re a Feinschmecker who’s also handy behind a stove, Markthalle IX’s FoodXchange could land you a bounty of artisanal goodies. Once per season, around 12-13 Berliners bring in a specialty they’ve prepared themselves. After a round of tasting, they bid on the product they wish to take home. If you’re lucky, the man or woman behind those delicious rhubarb cupcakes will want to trade for your homemade tomato salt. Right now, basically all the participants are middle-aged ladies (and great cooks!) but anyone can sign up on the web or Facebook, or just show up. And though even this cooking-incapable journalist got invited to contribute to the next meet-up in the autumn, the standard of the products is always high, claims co-founder Pamela Dorsch, one of Markthalle IX’s organisers. Judging from the pesto, chocolate-whisky balls and spelt Brötchen we tried last month, she’s not lying!
Check dates on facebook.com/foodxchangeberlin