Last weekend, we were invited to a barbecue. It took place in a generously-proportioned allotment garden on the outskirts of Wiesbaden in a quiet, wooded spot where our local park meets the edge of the forest. Arranged as a potluck dinner, the spread included a selection of Bratwürstchen from an organic farm in nearby Erbenheim, trimmed lamb chops from a local Turkish supermarket, and various homemade sides involving Swabian-style potato salad, a huge bowl of tzatziki, and thin slices of cold, fresh cucumber. To drink, a variety of bottled German beers and copious amounts of rosé wine.
The best of all of it, however, came in the form of a casually assembled pan of fried potatoes (Bratkartoffeln). They’d been boiled on the outside hob and peeled at the table – I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to taking the skins off whilst they’re hot, I always end up burning my fingers – before being sliced directly into a lightly-oiled cast iron pan. The pan was slid between the hot charcoals and the swinging grill (Schwenkgrill) on which the sausages were cooking, so that the sausage fat and juices dripped down into them. From time to time, the pan was removed and the potatoes flipped over so that each slice turned golden and slightly crusty around the edges. I’m a so-so fan of the humble fried potato, but I’ve never tasted anything like these did: deeply savoury and porky and extraordinarily more-ish. Bratkartoffeln will never be the same for me again.
For dessert, a paper bag full of cherries arrived on the table alongside a luscious mango and lemon cake and vast quantities of locally-produced organic ice cream (made by one of our hosts). It might have been the rosé – or indeed the bottle of apple and pear Obstwasser (fruit brandy) that made an appearance shortly before we left to wander home through the pitch black park – but our Saturday night turned into one of those idyllic evenings that felt almost like a dream. The garden was still warm once the sun had set, a huge candelabra was lit on the long table beneath the trees, and fireflies twinkled around the bushes as we listened to a guitar being strummed at the party going on next door. (And, admittedly, some small children listening to AC/DC in the hammock whilst they spat out cherry pits across the grass.) I’ll feel nostalgic about such a wonderful evening with neighbours and new friends in years to come, and I’m definitely going to have to recreate those pork fat fried potatoes.