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Let's have some Monkey Mess!

Alina Warne


Believe it or not, but someone has conducted a study in order to show how many cookbooks there are in UK households and how often they are being used.


Average seven; never. Those were the results.


Why, I own eight cook books and I’ve read them all, some of them many times!

I usually read them whilst gobbling up something “found in the kitchen and hastily put together”. Isn’t it what cooking is all about? Wasn’t it exactly how Eton Mess was invented, hastily and under the influence of extremely low blood sugar?


I confess I’m not one of those people who follow recipes in a slavish manner. I’m rather looking out for inspiration and general explanation of techniques; in other words, I constantly fret and “improve”.


No book could have been better for this purpose than my brand new and glossy “DDR Kochbuch” (Komet Verlag, Köln 2004). I simply love the retro look of the photographs; they really seem to have been taken by the old Soviet Zorka Camera and printed on lousy paper. Ah, nostalgia! And I always suspected ‘female hygiene products’ were marketed under the name ‘Freedom’ in the DDR.


Already after a quick glance at the recipes I knew I was bound to delete two of the most common ingredients – tomatoes and peppers. They were everywhere! The explanation is simple: they were still fairly exotic vegetables during the communist era, and people were constantly told how nutritious they were; they arrived en masse from our friends in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. After 21 years of tomatoes and peppers being literally pushed down my throat, I think I had my share. Delete!


Then I had some jolly good laughs, and some serious chokes over the DDR Glossary. Black pudding was called “Dead Granny”, and because of cocoa shortage there was a great deal of ox blood in a product pretending to be chocolate and marketed under the delicious name of…Creck. To meet the demand, DDR authorities used to play Little Chemist with foods using “Delete the Expensive Ingredient, Add Very Cheap One and Mix” techniques and came up with products that tasted bad and didn’t serve their purpose.


For instance, butter was melted and mixed with water which produced a hard yet crumbly lump impossible to spread on bread, and which violently evaporated when put in a frying pan. The apparatchik sense of humor even called the product ‘Fresh Cream Butter’, claiming it was really healthy because of the low fat content!


Real coffee was ‘blended’ with ground, roasted grains which ruined coffee machines as well as any remaining eagerness to build a communist world.


The real treat for one’s imagination comes on page 73, right after Bulgur. It is called Affenfett – Monkey Fat. Now, I would very much like to know what you are thinking. Let your imagination play while I type out the recipe.






50 grams bacon

1 medium size onion

1 cup milk

1 egg

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon marjoram

Salt and pepper


Cut the bacon in small cubes, chop the peeled onion finely. Fry the bacon with the onion without browning them. Combine the remaining ingredients, whip with a fork and pour the mixture into the pan. Let it get firm, stir occasionally, don’t let it burn.

Spread the warm Affenfett on bread.


Delicious indeed, the book says. I wouldn’t know since I still haven’t made it. I know, I know. I did, however, tell my dear Danish friend about it and even sent her the book with a plea to make Affenfett. She is Berlinerin at heart and a very keen cook.


The recipe originated in Berlin, right after the war when food supplies were scarce.

Keeping the sentiments of my friend in mind, I tried to imagine how the name of the dish came about. It had, I thought, something wonderfully sarcastic and provoking about it, the humor of Berlin people spicing it up. I wrote this imaginary dialogue:


What’s that you’re having?

Monkey Fat.

But monkeys aren’t fat.

I know.


I don’t mean to boast about it, but I actually did cook a dish from the DDR cookbook. Confusingly enough it has nothing to do with the DDR at all, and it is not really a dish that requires serious cooking either. It’s called Schnitzel Holstein after Chancellor Bismarck’s eminence grise, Fritz von Holstein.


I imagine that when he dined at his favorite restaurant, the Baron was as much in a hurry as any hamburger-munching, coffee-spilling, constantly-running late person of our time, just without a cell phone pressed to his ear. He didn’t have time to eat more than one course so the Chef invented a veal escalope with ‘everything else’.


One simply fries a veal escalope and serves with fried egg, toast, sardines, capers, smoked salmon, pickled cucumbers and fried potatoes. For those of you who care for each of the ingredients, the Holstein tastes better than it sounds. For those who don’t, it tastes even worse.


I wish you’d make Affenfett and let me know how the day progresses.


Currently my imagination is already working on a marriage between Eton Mess and Affenfett, the result of which I shall call Monkey Mess. You don’t find the name appealing? Just think of ‘Dead Granny’.


To your health!



PS I know you’re dying to learn more about Eton Mess. Suffice to say Jamie Oliver puts berries in his, while Heston Blumenthal goes for bananas and limes. In my mind, I’ve already deleted the bananas. Google!