The Thirty Year War (1618-48) is arguably the most destructive war in German history, resulting in a loss of about 8 million people. The war began when the Roman Catholic Empire attempted to control the religious activities of its subjects, which started a rebellion among Protestants in Germany. The war involved Sweden, France, Spain and Austria, all waging campaigns on German soil.

Legend has it, in around 1642 a very hungry Swedish cavalry division arrived in Freckenfeld, a small town in Rhineland-Palatinate, and threatened to murder everyone and destroy the town. However, if the town people fed the soldiers, they would leave in peace. It was a time of real hardship, and the food was scarce, but a fortunate stroke of serendipity saved the town. The town baker Johannes Muck came up with the idea of cooking dampfundel (plural dampfundeln, literally steamed noodles) with a sack of flour he had in his bakery.  He mixed the flour with water, yeast, salt, butter and sugar. With the help of his wife and maid, he formed the dough into balls about the size of an egg, left them to rise and then cooked them in a closed pot. He made 1,286 dampfundeln and served then with wine sauce to hungry soldiers. Fed and satisfied soldiers left the town peacefully.

Dampfundel is a typical dish in southern Germany. It’s a white bread roll and served either with savoury accompaniments such as cabbage, salad, gherkins and potato or lentil soup or as a dessert with custard or jam.

In 1660, Johannes’s grandson built a gate with 1,286 little stone dampfundeln. The gate, known as Dampfnudeltor, still stands in Freckenfeld, now a town with a population of about 1,600. Dampfnudeltor even features in the town’s coat of arms.

© Surendra Verma 2019

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