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Food fads: A Berlin food decade

What a difference a decade makes! Our food critic on how Berliners have grown from food-dummy to food-fussy.

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Photo by Erica Löfmann. Beyond Meat Burger at Vincent Vegan. The rise of veganism was first out of compassion for animals, now it’s because the planet depends on it.

Remember 2010, when “gourmet street food” meant paying €3 for a döner instead of the usual €1.99? When organic was for wor­ried mums and vegan for dreadlocked anarchists? Back then, the opening of a Korean barbecue joint or Australian brunch spot was major news, and London and NYC expats huddled together at underground supper clubs in search of the flavours they missed from back home. Berliners started this decade knowing nothing about food. They’re ending it knowing way too much.

What happened? For one, we got rich. Some of us, anyway, enough to afford tasting menus and €30 entrees and a never-ending cascade of shareable small plates. With the influx of money and international transplants came worldliness, a hunger for “real” Asian, American and Middle Eastern dishes instead of their German-friendly facsimiles. And the rise of Instagram meant trends that previously would’ve taken years to reach Berlin now arrive within months (aloha, poke bowls).

But expanding just as fast as the horizons of what we could eat was the nagging awareness of what we shouldn’t. We went paleo and gluten-free. We juiced. We got really into chia and quinoa, then turned on them for their carbon footprint and dubious social impact. We stopped eating animal products, first out of compassion for the animals, then because our very planet depended on it. When we had cleansed our meals of all possible sin, we turned our atten­tion to the packaging they came in.

And so here we are, caught between haute-izakaya fare and strawless green smoothies, Brandenburg beef and mass-manufactured textured vegetable protein. Who will help us navigate this complicated new era? The earnest gents of Die Gemeinschaft (Ernst, Nobelhart & Schmutzig, Mrs. Robin­son’s), who reject industrial farming in favour of lovingly raised pigs, curated carrots and the sky-high prices that come with them? The fearless women relentlessly broaden­ing Germans’ picky palates at places like Kin Dee, Mama Shabz, and Chung King Noodles? The waste-free warriors of Frea, Isla Coffee and Stadtfarm? Remembering the old times, we’re just happy to have all of the above – and more.