The Pommes Buddha is not, as you might suspect, the guru of some new type of religion in the style of the Spaghetti Monster. Rather, it is based on an acoustic misconstruction.
When my English husband first came to Germany, he misheard the very German concept of the Pommesbude (‘chip shop’) to mean Pommes Buddha, and mused what kind of a wondrous authority this ominous Germanic Buddha may be. Like a number of other words, the word Pommes for chips, or French fries, comes from the French pommes frites, as they are also called on most German menus. In colloquial German, however, we refer to the fried potato sticks as Pommes (with an emphasis on the first syllable and, unlike in French, a distinct pronunciation of the -s) or Fritten (hence the rather nerdy, would-be casual alternative Frittenschmiede, literally a ‘chip forge’ – use only if you also have a penchant to wear white tennis socks with sandals).
This is a good time and place to issue a word of warning, dear reader. The German Pommes have nothing, and I repeat: NOTHING, in common with your good old English chippies, as my husband never gets tired of pointing out. Somewhat larger in diameter than the average French fry (for my German readers who may be unaware: the kind that McDonald’s or Burger King serve), they are neither mushy nor, to use the precise and more appropriate technical term, ‘chippy’ enough for any self-respecting Englishperson to write home about. Even the larger, square and chunky Belgian variety, available at selected Pommesbuden at least in our western part of the country, does not elicit outbreaks of patriotic soppiness worth mentioning. So a call at the local fish and chip shop is first on any agenda when visiting la Grande Bretagne – which brings me to the matter of chip accompaniments. But that’s a whole other story … to be continued next week.
The Pommes Buddha says: One man’s Pommes are another man’s chips.