Austrian Meals and Customs

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Meals and customs in Austria

Back to Austria

MEALS AND CUSTOMS

Gracious table manners are part of very early lessons for Austrian children. And these are readily learned, especially when the reward is a slice of sachertorte or apfel strudel mit schlag. Mealtimes are mannered and orderly with the father the first to be served, the leader in conversation, and the one whose opinion on everything from the vorspeisen (appetizers) to the mehlspeisen (desserts made with flour) is eagerly anticipated.

Dinner guests are always on time and invariably bring a bouquet of flowers for their hostess. Entertaining and sociability are an indigenous part of the Austrian personality. If not taking a meal with a friend or entertaining guests at home, the gregarious Austrian will likely feel the need to communicate a few words to a pretty girl or even to a complete stranger at the next table in the haffeehaus. Conversation, conviviality, and communication are as much a part of the Austrian soul as food and music.

The day usually begins with an "eye-opener" of small crisp rolls, preserves, and butter, with good coffee. Around 10:00 a.m. a small bowl of hot gulyas, or a sausage with bread and pickles, washed down with a beer, followed by a "real" lunch around 1:00 p.m. of soup (a "real" meal without soup is unthinkable), roast meat or chicken, bread, dumplings or noodles, a small salad of greens, followed by cheese, fresh fruit, or compote. To sustain one through the afternoon hours, one can always muse on which torte will accompany the afternoon jause of coffee and a pastry or two. By 7:00 p.m. businesses are closed and families are together for dinner, a meal suspiciously similar to lunch. After dinner, many Austrians will he off to the theater, opera, or out visiting friends and it would be most unusual if at about 11:00 p.m. one did not find them all chatting over a simple snack of sandwiches, cold salad plates, pas-tries, and coffee.

In Austria, movable wurstel (sausage) stands in strategic locations and cozy hajJeehauser, with their array of sweets, tease and tempt the passerby. Why try to avoid the inevitable? After all, who can deny that a little food helps to console and fortify one against the memories of the past and the uncertainties of the future. In almost any Austrian household that retains even a crumb of Austrian tradition, if there is not a serious discussion of the foods that are being eaten or were eaten, then visions are being conjured up of taste sensations yet to come. And what the father of the household desires will likely comprise the menu of the evening meal or the next snack.

All of this represents the traditional Austrian view-point in matters of gastronomy. "Traditional" should be underlined. The contemporary desire by men and women alike for trim healthy bodies, and the fact that more women are working outside the home, have made inroads even to the Austrian table: meals and snacks are shrinking, waistlines are becoming increasingly visible. Despite this, however, nothing can diminish the opulence of Austrian cuisine.

SPECIAL OCCASIONS

The Austria of today is predominantly Roman Catholic, but many Austrians living elsewhere in the world may be, Jewish or Protestant and celebrate their religious holidays accordingly. Elegant menus of game are often a part of special-occasion fare, together with a great selection of hot and cold garnished platters of other meats, salads, and molds, served with various breads and rolls, beer or Rhine wine, and completed with a tempting array of the country's famed pastries.