Many countries have kebabs, a lot have Döner Kebabs and quite a few countries (Sweden, Canada, UK amongst others) sell "German Döner Kebab" even though the owners have nothing to do with Germany. But why exactly is the German Döner so popular? This is part one in a series of articles trying to describe the Döner Kebab in Germany.
The easy answer would be to say: Because it's good! But even though it has some truth to it, its not the whole truth. In our opinionm the Döner draws so much attention because it can be used as a symbol to tell a story about the society we live in today.
The Döner is described as a symbol of integration between the first generation of Turkish migrants coming to Germany in the 1960's and native Germans. Following the saying that the way to a man's heart goes through the stomach, the Turkish street food has been a way to many German hearts since the 1970's. There's even the talk about Nazis eating Döner, the delicious food being irresistible even for out right racist.
It's not only positive feelings surrounding the Döner though, it has also been seen as a symbol of the limited opportunities offered to migrants living in Germany. "If you can't get a real job, you can always sell Döner" has been an option not much liked by the younger generations of migrants in Germany.
In Germany's neighbouring country France, the kebab is rising in popularity and the French footballer Yohan Cabaye has even been advertising kebab flavoured chips. But from the political side there has been little support. The far right party, formerly known as Front National, has even talked about the "kebabisation" of the country as a symbol of a nation in crisis. As a contrast, the political elite in Germany has taken the Döner in, both in a symbolic and a very literal sense.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is a regular guest at the yearly summit of small and medium sized businesses in Germany which often includes the opportunity to have a go at the rotating spear of grilled meat. Merkel hasn't been shy of such a photo opportunity. So big is her love for the flat bread sandwich, that she has stated that she prefers Döner and Ayran over schnitzel and beer! It's quite clear, that Merkel sees the Döner as a positive contribution to the culture of the country she has been governing for more than 13 years.
The list of politicians sharing their Dönerlove is long and includes ministers, presidents and local politicians from all over the country. The former President Joachim Gauck, not known for his culinary curiosity, has described how he has eaten a lot Döners but still haven't tried a Burger. In Berlin, the local politician Taylan Kurt has even made it a statement to wear a Döner shirt in his fight against cliches and discrimination.
To sum it up. Yes, the Döner in Germany is good but the hype has been created through years of debate about what the food symbolizes and how we should understand the changes in our globalised, multi cultural society.
www.haz.de, www.bild.de, www.24aktuelles.com, www.wsj.com, www.kebab-frites.com, www.businessinsider.com and more.