A new book about authentic German food is the 12th installment of the Eat Smart culinary guidebook series.
My new book, "Eat Smart in Germany," is about how to cook genuine German dishes at home and eat authentically when traveling to that country. A chapter about culinary history acknowledges the importance of two unlikely sources, brothers Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm.
We know of their literature as popular fairytales for children: Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Snow White and others assume leading roles. We also debate the themes of violence and abuse in these bedtime stories, and Hollywood refuels that dark discussion with the recent release of "Jack the Giant Slayer," a weakly received PG-13 spinoff of the Grimm brothers' "Jack and the Beanstalk."
Between 2012 and 2014, filmmakers will release about 20 fairy tale adaptations for adults. The Boston Globe refers to this as a "Grimm obsession," but in Germany, these tales are a proud source of heritage and reason to travel, especially this year because the first edition of the brothers' 86-story book is 200 years old.
Germany's 375-mile Fairytale Route, which is decades old, begins in Hanau (near Frankfurt), where the brothers were born. It ends north in Buxtehude (near Hamburg), the setting for "The Hedgehog and the Hare," a lesser-known tale in the U.S. This self-drive trail passes forests, farms and many small, medieval towns in the states of Hessen, Lower Saxony and Bremen.
The route's 50 communities include Alsfeld, gateway to "Little Red Riding Hood" country; Bad Wildungen, home to "Snow White" sites; Hameln, home to "Pied Piper" shows; Kassel, home to a Grimm brothers museum; Lahntal, home to the fairy tale illustrator's studio; Oberweser, home to "Puss in Boots" and "Snow White"; Sababurg, home to the "Sleeping Beauty" castle; and Trendelburg, where the "Rapunzel" tower also is a hotel.
These are tourist attractions every year, but Germans have turned 2013 into a monthslong celebration of the fairytales' bicentennial. Consider that a reason to travel now or wait a bit, depending upon how much you love fairy tales and crowds.
The area's Brothers Grimm Fairytale Festival includes outdoor performances May 1 to July 1 in Hanau, concerts and theater July 18 to Aug. 18 in Kassel and a puppet festival from September to October in Steinau. A special "Expedition Grimm" exhibit stays open until Sept. 8 in Kassel.
What about the Grimm brothers as food historians? Food often wove its way into fairy tales, which documented the fables and lifestyles of average people. Simple foods - not gluttonous feasts - were a reward for virtuous living. Over and over, these stories teach that food is not to be taken for granted.
To Germans, the Grimm fairy tales reinforce core values. Happy endings are the result of hard work, obedience and making the right choices when faced with adversity.
What we call bedtime stories in the U.S. began as German folklore and legends, recorded (with footnotes, at first) by two brothers who were librarians and university professors, not fiction writers.
For complete details about Germany's Grimm anniversary celebration, go to grimm2013.de (click on the British flag, at the top right corner, for an English translation). The range of activities is designed to interest families to intellectually curious adults.
The Fairytale Route is one of 200 themed trails for tourists in Germany. For more: germany.travel.