|The Dürüm-Dönerbürste being put into action in Vienna.|
That handsome feller on the right didn't even have time
to put his umbrella down.
The Döner gets its name from the Turkish word for "to turn around", and though its history begins on the shores of the Sea of Marmara in western Turkey, its true glory and worldwide fame wasn't realized until it traveled along with the Turkish Gastarbeiter (literally "guest workers") of the 1960s all the way to the German capital. Only there did it assume its current form as a sandwich, along with that wonderful mix of 'Salat komplett' (or ohne Zwiebeln if that's how you roll, though you're missing out) that we all know and love.
|Where it all started: Iskender in Bursa, Turkey|
|Only Döner is a better incentive than money (Photo from|
the always-entertaining Notes of Berlin)
We fast forward to the 1960s in Germany, where work was plentiful, but working-aged men were not. Italians, Greeks, Spaniards, Moroccans, and of course Turks came to Germany as Gastarbeiter to fill the ranks. The full history of the Gastarbeiter is a topic for a different blog, but suffice it to say that – to the chagrin of many a German xenophobe – thousands upon thousands of Turkish men came in large numbers, and their families eventually followed. Somewhere in that mix, some Iskender enthusiasts settled down in Berlin and sought to give their fellow Turkish workers a little 'slice' of home, but this time a slightly more convenient and portable one. As with many of my favorite legendary food and drink inventions (the Reuben, the Martini, sliced bread, etc.), there is some dispute as to who exactly was the first person to take the bread that Iskender was served over, and repurpose it as a vehicle for the turning meat. One of the main claimants to the Döner Throne is now a retiree in Berlin named Kadir Nurman. With his humble stand near Bahnhof Zoo in the early 70s, he was slingin' Döner before it was cool, and it didn't take long before his Turkish clientele was joined by ze hungry Chermans. Let the controversy begin, though, because in 2009, the very reputable Guardian reported the death of the 'man who invented the Döner' in 1971, Mahmut Aygun. Perhaps the world will never know who really created the Döner. I like to think it was the multi-cultural soul of the city of Berlin that birthed such a divine drunk food. In the 40 years hence, Döner Kebab spits of wildly varying quality can be found on every street corner on nearly every town in Germany and increasingly Europe-wide: today, there are well over 1,000 Döner shops in Berlin, and over 16,000 in Germany alone.
Despite a fair bit of controversy in recent years stemming from questions on the origins of the Pressfleisch-type Döner meat, the Döner continues to be serious business. Over 720 million Döner are sold annually in Germany (!), and even Angela Merkel was recently photographed awkwardly trying her hand with a big slicer. There is now an official certificate issued by the ATDiD (Avrupa Türk Döner Imalatçıları Dernegi, or the Union of Turkish Döner Makers in Europe), who despite piss-poor website design are at the very least pretending to regulate the quality of the turning meat. They even have their own annual conference, so it's gotta be legit, right? I mean, I'm sure at least there's no horse meat hanging out in there.
|Mustafa's Kebab in Mitte (also in XBerg).|