Annals of spiciness

On my posting on the 27th, “Scalarity on the menu”, about a Korean restaurant in Berlin offering food with sauces that were: not spicy, medium spicy, German spicy, Korean spicy — this comment on Facebook from Antonia Clicquot:

Reminds me of the menu of an Indian restaurant in Erlangen [in Bavaria, not far from Nuremberg] – they do all their meals germanisch, indogermanisch and indisch scharf.

The adjective indogermanisch leaps out to a linguist’s eye, because for us it picks out not a kind of food but a kind of language, namely Indo-European.

In German, indogermanisch is still the standard scientific term in German for what has come to be called Indo-European in English (with corresponding terms in other European languages — even, in German, indoeuropäisch). The term Indo-European alludes to the geographic range of the languages, from northern India east to Europe (to Ireland and Iceland), and including (among living languages) the Indic languages, Persian, Pashto, Kurdish, Armenian, the Slavic languages, the Baltic languages, Greek, Albanian, the Romance languages, the Germanic languages, and the Celtic languages.

Obviously, this is not what the Erlangen restaurant menu was referring to. Clearly the menu was using germanisch to mean deutsch ‘German’; then since indisch means ‘Indian’, indogermanisch means ‘Indian German’.

[Digression: this use of germanisch was news to me — germanisch ‘Germanic’ yes, but ‘German’, no — but then I haven’t been to any German-speaking country in years, and never had Indian food when I was in the region — Turkish food, yes, but that’s irrelevant — so what do I know? Maybe it’s an Indian-restaurant thing in some German-speaking places. Can any reader enlighten me?]

On to Erlangen, a city of about 100,000 in Bavaria, not far north of Nuremberg (Nürnberg). TripAdvisor tells me that Erlangen has 9 Indian restaurants, one of them Sur Mandir, which apparently used to be in Nuremberg, and Sur Mandir is relevant because when it was in Nuremberg it got these reviews (from anonymous reviewers in 2007) on the Toytown Germany site:

(1) This is one of the best Indians in Nürnberg. They have an 11 level rating of spiciness, so you’re assured consistent spiciness once you get to know the system. Haven’t gone above 9 myself and unlikely to.

(2) They don’t mess around with the heat ratings. They go from “Germanisch-Scharf” through several levels of heat all the way up to “Indisch-Plus.” Anything near Indisch is very spicy. The owner will make sure you understand how hot the menu items really are. I’ve tried the Murg [chicken] Nirwana (hottest item on the menu, supposedly a step above Indisch-Plus), and it’s even nuclear hot by chile-head standards [note the modifier even elevated in its NP: even nuclear hot by chile-head standards ‘nuclear hot even by chile-head standards’]. That being said, the food is very flavorful, even the Murg Nirwana. They provide a salad with a jogurt-dill dressing with every meal, probably to help with the heat. The mango lassi is very good, and so is the chai tea. Naan is mediocre, and although they used to, they no longer have any Indian beers.

The dining room at Sur Mandir and a display of food there:



(Unfortunately, you can’t smell or taste the food in this picture.)

This might not be the restaurant Antonia Clicquot was thinking of (in its Erlangen incarnation), but it has an elaborate scale of spiciness with germanisch naming the low end of the scale, so it’s relevant here.

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