Passions: When hitting the slopes, Austria’s carb-rich cuisine comes into its own
Most people think of Italy, France and Spain as the great culinary nations of Europe, and fair enough – even the most hardcore fans of other food cultures would have to admit that those three are superpowers of scran. That said, food is often about context. You might not fancy a gelato if it’s minus five and snowing. Similarly, a croissant for breakfast is fine if all you have planned for the day is a mosey around a few Parisian art galleries. If you’re planning to break a sweat though, you’re not going to be able to fuel your body very effectively on a pastry that’s mostly made out of butter and air.
The Austrians, by contrast, know how to pack in the calories with maximum Teutonic efficiency. Not everyone in this well-forested neck of the woods is a lumberjack by trade, but, as if laid down in some ancient Habsburg decree, every restaurant seems to offer dishes packing lumberjack-levels of carbs.
The famous one is Weiner schnitzel – slices of veal pounded flat, then rolled in flour, eggs and breadcrumbs and pan-fried until golden-brown. Traditionally, this delicacy is only supposed to be served with lemon, parsley and perhaps cranberry sauce, but the more down-home the establishment you’re dining at, the more likely it is to come with a hearty side of mashed potatoes. The ski hill version is often Wiener Schnitzel vom Schwein – where pork is used instead of veal – and chips on the side are as likely as spuds. Want a smaller version for the kids? No problem! And look, in lieu of salad they’ve put a packet of Haribo on top of the chips!Delicious and calorific as Weiner schnitzel undoubtedly is, however, it’s really only an entry-level dish to help you transition to the Class A carbs.
Think soup is always a good option for the calorie-conscious? Then you’ve never visited Austria. In a typical bowl of Tirolean Speckknödelsuppe (bacon dumpling soup), each of the dumplings you find bobbing in your broth will contain more than enough kilojoules to power an average-size car from Salzburg to Vienna. Want to go all in? Then you should order a Tiroler gröstl – chunks of ham, onion and potato fried up together in plenty of oil, seasoned with caraway and paprika and then delicately garnished with... a fried egg. Paradise. Guten Appetit!
Roger Cox is Arts Editor of The Scotsman