26 March 2008

[liff] Actually German/Actually Not German

1444. Welcome to the first (and actually probably only) installment of Actually German/Not Actually German, a what-looks-to-be extremely occasional series where we find one thing that we thought was red-white-and blue American but is actually German, and one thing that people think is German and is actually American, sit the two ironically beside each other, sit back, and smile knowingly.

Still with us? Yes? Alright then, here we go:

Actually German: Bayer Asprin.

We don't know about you, but when we were growing up, the aspirin in the house was Bayer. Good old, "wonder drug that works wonders" Bayer. America's aspirin. Good for what ails ya, provided what ails ya isn't the plague or the loss of a limb.

There are actually some things Aspirin can't do, as it happens.

Born and bred auf Deutschland. Born in 1836 in a suburb of the Rhineland town of Wuppertal, in Germany's Second Empire, Bayer successfully marketed the then-now acetylsalicilic acid to great success. The concern itself, Bayer AG, was founded by Frederich Bayer, whose last name derives from bayerisch, or, "Bavarian", which is at the other end of the country, which further complicates things.

But good old Bayer aspirin is actually German.

Trademark law fun fact: Aspirin is actually a registered trademark of Bayer AG. Through a long chain of happenings beginning the seizure and sale of foreign-based German assets after World War I and a ruling in the late 20's that the term had been genericized due to the immense number of aspirins on the market, Bayer's sole right to the name no longer exists in the USA. It does in other countries, , e.g. Canada. Still, Bayer's aspirin page lives at http://www.aspirin.com.

Actually Not German: German chocolate cake.

With its rich chocolate taste and fudge frosting with a topping of coconut-pecan glaze, German chocolate cake sure seems to resemble a downmarket Schwartzwälder Kirschtorte, but, as President Morgan Freeman gravely advised crusading MSNBC reporter Téa Leoni in the first act of Deep Impact, "It only seems that way".

Modern bakers are familiar with Baker's Unsweetened baking cocoa and chocolate (it's the kind you don't eat straight, regardless of how much it looks like candy. If you don't know why, then try sometime ... it's an adventure in dining. And the brand was named after a man named Baker. Eerie). As it happened, sometime in the 1950s an enterprising housewife whose name seems to be lost to time sent in a recipe for a kind of chocolate cake to a Texas newspaper. One of the ingredients was Baker's "German's Sweet Chocolate".

Wheels within wheels within wheels: The German of the name above was Sam German ... who was an Englishman.

The company that marketed German's Sweet Chocolate also made things like coconut, and the recipe became quite popular, so at that point Marketing took over. It really was a match made auf Himmel. As time went by, the 's atrophied and dropped off, and German's chocolate cake became German chocolate cake.

Born in Britain and America, but with enough layers-on-layers that even a member of the Illuminati should love it.

German chocolate cake – marketed by a Baker who wasn't a baker, using an ingredient created by a German who was an Englishman ... it might be Deutsch-a-licious to be sure, actually not German.

Please join us next time on Actually German/Actually Not German, when we do two other things entirely. We wouldn't do the same things again, because that would be silly, and this is silly enough.

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