The best part of traveling is the discovery of everything local—of people, places, foods, art. Lucky for me, my Frankfurt host during the last leg of my trip was a proud native Frankfurter named Ute who collects art, knows just about everyone in the city, and has a most charming Italian husband.
Ute, a veritable whirlwind of energy, picked me up at that logistical nightmare known as the Frankfurt airport. She didn’t want to be late to that evening’s Grüne Soße (or “Grie Soß” in the local dialect) festival meal. “What is Grüüüne soße?” I queried.
Grüne Soße just happens to be Frankfurt’s, or rather, the state of Hesse’s, most famous condiment! Used to garnish meat, potatoes, eggs, or whatever else you can pour it over, this hearty sauce traditionally includes: oil, vinegar, sour cream, hardboiled egg, and the SIEBEN (count them, SEVEN) KRAUTER that I was to hear about for the rest of the week: sorrel, chervil, parsley, garden cress, chives, salad burnet, and borage. Some variations exist on those seven herbs, but I think those are the main ones.
As for the festival, it features eight evenings of competition. Each evening, seven different restaurants create their version of this beloved sauce, and throw themselves at the mercy of the evenings’ attendees, who choose the best of the evening. On the eighth evening, all of the previous nights’ winners compete for the main title. Ute has been involved in the organization of this festival for so long, she now receives complimentary tickets for the whole event, which she attends every night, every year, as part of the exclusive club of the PGSF: Permanente Grie Soß Fresser—Permanent Green Sauce Predators. Yes, my friends, Grie Soß exists, and it has groupies. During the day, the festival continues with tastings and events for schoolchildren.
I had the pleasure of joining her for two evenings. Each time, about 600 diners (maybe more?) filed into a huge tent erected at Roßmarkt, a plaza in downtown Frankfurt, where local comedian Anton Le Goff shepherds the crowd through comedy sketches, musical acts, and, of course, the meal. I enjoyed myself immensely, despite not understanding very much of the comedy sketches. Food was the one thing I could understand, and I took the grie soß judging seriously! Both evenings, I whittled my choices down to two, one of which ended up winning that evening. Both times, though, I chose the other sauce. Ute, who consistently chooses the evenings’ winners, consoled my by saying that with many years of tasting, I could develop a better sense of the ideal grie soß.
With that second evening of grie soß, my trip had ended. I walked away with a head full of memories, a stomach full of sauce, and my hands full of grie soß memorabilia.