Transcript / LoLT: The Currywurst Story & Two New Books — 03 February 2023

Transcript / LoLT: The Currywurst Story & Two New Books — 03 February 2023

Friday, 3 February, 2023

This is a transcription of The Currywurst Story & Two New Books — 03 February 2023’


[cheerful music]

Melissa: Coming up, an homage to Frankenstein set in Antarctica.

David: A book about a little understood emotion.

Melissa: Plus, our distraction of the week. I’m Mel.

David: I’m Dave. This is the library of lost time.

Melissa: I love a good story set in a cold place, so I’m very excited about Cold People by Tom Rob Smith. In my notes, my shorthand for this novel is ‘antarctic’ and ‘apocalypse.’ Publisher’s Weekly called it a triumph of imagination and empathy.

Melissa: So, here’s the set up. Alien invaders are threatening to wipe out all of us. They give all of humanity 30 days to relocate to Antarctica. Suddenly, all of us nasty, tribal, selfish, messy humans have to find a way to work together to save humanity. While, you know, trying not to freeze to death in Antarctica.

Melissa: The mass departure to Antarctica takes place in the summer of 2023, so this is either the perfect time or the worst time to read this novel, depending on your perspective. In the guise of a thriller, this book asks questions like, Can humans evolve fast enough to ensure their survival? And can we figure out a new way to be in society with each other?

Melissa: Years ago, I read this author’s book Child 44 and loved it. That one was a murder mystery set in Communist Russia. The thing I remember most is how well he balanced big issues with page-turning tension. And he’s great at creating atmosphere: I was COLD while I was reading that book. So I’m excited to see what he does with Antarctica.

Melissa: This is Cold People. It’s by Tom Rob Smith, and it’s out on February 7.

David: Dacher Keltner is a professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley. His research focuses on emotion, particularly on compassion, love, beauty, and power. Among his many credits, he collaborated with the directors at Pixar on their movie, ‘Inside Out.’ That’s the one about the band of emotions inside a girl’s head, with Amy Poehler as Joy, and Mindy Kaling as Disgust.

David: Dr. Keltner has a new book out. It’s called ‘Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life.’ I am a fan of awe! Awe is the gateway to curiosity! … This book is about how awe works, and how we can cultivate more.

David: This is a bit from the introduction. Dr. Keltner writes: ‘Awe is the emotion we experience when we encounter vast mysteries that we don’t understand. Why would I recommend that you find happiness in an emotion that is so fleeting and evanescent? A feeling so elusive that it resists simple description? That requires the unexpected, and moves us toward mystery and the unknown rather than what is certain and easy? Because we can find awe anywhere. Because doing so doesn’t require money or the burning of fossil fuels—or even much time. Our research suggests that just a couple of minutes a day will do. Because we have a basic need for awe wired into our brains and bodies, finding awe is easy if we just take a moment and wonder. My hope for you in reading this book is simple;—it is that you will find more awe.’

David: That’s ‘Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life.’ by Dacher Keltner.

David: And now, our Distraction of the Week. [magical sound effect]

David: We went to Germany recently for a weekend getaway, and I had three things I wanted to do: First was visit with a good friend of ours. Second was enjoy the hotel breakfast, because I love a good European buffet breakfast with fresh rolls and cold cuts and sliced cucumbers and yogurt with granola. The third thing I really wanted was to eat currywurst because it’s been about 6 years since I had a nice, spicy-sweet currywurst. I’m very glad to say that when we stopped for lunch in Leipzig, I was able to stuff currywurst and french fries into my face. And it was glorious.

Melissa: Today, I’m going to tell you why currywurst is awesome, and how it came to be.

Melissa: For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure, currywurst is slices of German pork sausage bathed in a sauce made from ketchup that’s been seasoned with curry powder. It’s usually served with french fries alongside, so you can dip them in the sauce, too. The sauce is sweet and spicy, the sausage has a nice, snappy skin — it’s excellent street food.

Melissa: It’s estimated that Germans eat 800 million currywust every year. That’s almost ten per person, per year.

Melissa: Which got me wondering: I know there’s a large Turkish population in Germany, and I understand how that happened. But how the heck did currywurst join the doner kebab as the go-to for street food and/or a hangover remedy?

Melissa: According to the accepted food lore, currywurst was invented in 1949 by a West German woman named Herta Heuwer. She ran a food kiosk in post-war Berlin and was also a Trümmerfrau — that was the name given to women who helped clear the city’s rubble after the war. As you might imagine, there were food shortages and all manner of bartering going on. One day, Herta made a trade with some British solders: she gave them a bottle of spirits in exchange for curry powder and Worcestershire sauce. She poured her spicy-sweet concoction over a sausage to mask its sub-par flavor and boom! she invented the food that came to be called ‘Steak for the Common Man.’

Melissa: Her sausage empire grew and she eventually had a large food stand in the Red Light District of Stuttgarter Platz that had 19 servers and was open day and night. In 1959, she was granted a patent for her sauce, which she called Chillup. Food companies, inlcuding Kraft, tried to buy her recipe, but she kept it to herself and took it to her grave. In 2019, the Berlin State Mint produced a coin with her face on it, and there’s a commemorative plaque at the site of her food stand. On June 30, which would have been Herta’s 100th birthday, she got a Google Doodle.

Melissa: Visit for a currywurst recipe and to see Herta’s plaque and Google Doodle, plus get more details about the books we discussed.

David: Thanks for joining us in the Libary of Lost Time. Remember to visit your local library and your independent book store to lose some time yourself.

Melissa: Stay curious! We’ll talk to you soon.

[cheerful music]


Top image courtesy of Serj Sakharovskiy/Unsplash.

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