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Ethnic Cuisine: Austria
For over 600 years, until World War I, the Austrian Empire had extended its national borders into modern Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy, former Czechoslovakia, Hungary, former Yugoslavia, Poland, and old geographical areas that were once upon a time called Bohemia and Moravia. It is a multi-ethnic melting pot that includes over 8 million people, who are 99% German-speaking but are not Germans. It is a country of Austrians who speak Viennese with a special, softer, Germanic accent, Austrians who commonly are bilingual and who speak Austrian/German with either a Hungarian, or Serbo-Croat, or Czech, or Northern Italian-Tirolean accent.
It is located in the southern part of Central Europe. Mountainous, wooded, and quaint, modern Austria borders Switzerland and Liechtenstein in the west, Germany in the northwest, the Czech Republic in the north, Hungary and former Yugoslavia in the east and southeast, and Italy in the southwest. It is today the political-administrative reflection of a federation of nine smaller states called the "Bundeslander." The nine Austrian Bundeslander are: Burgenland (with Eisenstadt as the state capital); Kaernten/Carinthia (with the city of Klagenfurt); Niederoesterreich/Lower Austria (with St. Polten); Oberoesterreich/Upper Austria (with Linz); Salzburg (with Salzburg); Steiermark/Styria (with Graz); Tirol (with Innsbruck); Vorarlberg (with Bregenz); Wien (with the internationally known city of Vienna, which is both capital of the state and capital of the country).
Austrian cuisine in general: It is the culinary reflection of an ethnically mixed people who, during the many centuries of the Austrian Habsburg empire's expansion and contraction, have exchanged culinary know-how with Turkish, Swiss, Alsacian, French, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, German, Bohemian-Moravian, Hungarian, Polish, Croatian, Slovenian, Slovakian, Serbian, and Jewish cuisine. Typical Austrian dishes vary today according to the Bundeslander culinary history and to each "Bundesland's" agriculture with its export/import tradition.
For example, Burgenland cuisine is influenced by its flat topography and proximity to Hungary. Its specialties are prepared with abundant locally grown fruits and free roaming chicken and geese, and include dishes like the "Buergenlandisches Erdbeerkoch" (a type of baked strawberry mush dessert) and "Buergenlandische Gaenseleber" (goose liver simmered with onions). East southern Kaernten/Carinthia and Steiermark/Styria's cuisines, with Hungarian, Yugoslavian, and Italian culinary influences, feature Mediterranean style foods, including ham, a favorite ingredient in all three surrounding countries, and mild climate herbs and vegetables. Dishes from these areas include "Steirisches Verhackert's" (diced "Speck" (Austrian cured ham) mixed with minced garlic and heavy flavored pumpkin seed oil) or "Steirisches Poulard" (roasted herb stuffed capon or chicken). Niederoesterreich/Lower Austria's way of cooking reflects historic ties with eastern, Middle Eastern, and oriental cooking, and includes "Serviettenknoedel mit Semmelkren" (baked bread loaf with saffron gravy) and "Gezogener Apfelstrudel" (an almost transparent roll of pastry dough filled with apples which has common culinary roots with oriental "baklava").
Oberoesterreich/Upper Austria and ancient Salzburg states, which border with Germany and the Czech Republic include culinary classics like the well known "Linzertorte" (a flaky cake lined with currant or raspberry jam, encased and covered by a lattice of cake dough), and Mozart's home town's specialty, "Salzburger Nockerln" (a very light dessert souffle dusted with vanilla sugar). Tirolean and Vorarlberg specialties, inspired by ingredients native of mountainous poor soil and cool wooded areas with a tradition of importing from Italy and exchanging with Switzerland, include "Tiroler Leber mit Polenta" (veal or beef liver with onions, "speck," capers, lemon juice and white wine served on corn mush), "Groestl" (sliced pan fried onions and potatoes with or without meat), or "Schlutzkrapfen" (spinach stuffed pasta pockets, served like "ravioli," without tomato sauce only topped with melted butter and Parmesan cheese).
Due to the city's historic past steeped in European history, Vienna' s cuisine is unique and international. Viennese specialties were created by, and for, people who were influenced by a monarchic system that until the early part of this century was among the most influential European political powers and which had cultural ties to Europe as well as the American New World. As Vienna's Habsburg royal family was involved in power politics as far away as Spain, its cuisine absorbed many international ingredients. Viennese cuisine includes "Wiener Schnitzel" (breaded veal cutlet which has its twin version in Milan, Italy, called "Cotoletta alla Milanese"), "Parmesanschoeberlsuppe" (clear broth with diamond shaped Parmesan cheese flavored souffle dumplings created after Vienna's political power became dominant in Northern Italy), and Fiaker Goulash (Viennese paprika beef stew very similar to chili and to Hungarian goulash), and, of course, the renowned Sacher Torte (chocolate glazed cake filled with either apricot, currant or raspberry jam).
A typical Austrian meal includes usually from 2 to 7 courses according to the importance of the meal's guest or occasion. It is usually made up of an appetizer (Vorspeise), a soup (Suppe), and a main course (Hauptspeise) with one or two either raw or cooked side dishes (Beilagen). It may also include a dessert which can be either a cake ("Kuchen" or "Torte"), any baked specialty made with flour ("Mehlspeise"), or a warm or cold after-meal sweet treat ("Nachspeise"). With a fine meal, Austrian adults favor drinking either beer, wine or "sekt" (sparkling wine). Fruit juices, soft drinks like fruit flavored waters, and wine spritzers are also favorites among the younger generation of Austrians.