Bratkartoffelverhältnis: The Fried Potato Relationship

By Darlene Fuchs on Email

Bratkartoffelverhältnis literally translated means, “fried potato relationship” or one could say an “on-off relationship,” which does not have to be short-lived, just a casual arrangement of mutual convenience.  The idiom, “Er hat ein Bratkartoffelverhätnis mit ihr.” translates into “he only see her because she provides water and food for him.” Even stranger, “Er sucht ein Bratkartoffelverhältnis.” which means, “he’s looking for a meal ticket.”

This colloquial expression, for a casual affair, is probably due to the impact WWI had on a man’s basic necessities.  Having a woman who provided such things as a warm meal and shelter were more important than purposeful relationships.  After the Second World War it was a popular term to describe the casual love relationship between returning veterans and widows, who were living in common-law relationships, to avoid losing the widows’ pensions.

Today, in Germany, it is used casually when referring to relationships that are sporadic or not very serious love affairs; sometimes also used as a metaphor for occasional friendly cooperation in other areas of life. This form of co-existence was considered a breach of good manners until the mid 1970’s. Extending a rental contract to an unmarried couple was seen as facilitating pandering, which was illegal, making the agreement invalid.  Until 1969 it was a criminal risk for landlords to enter into these contracts.  The protests of 1968 consisted of a worldwide series of protests, largely participated in by an anti-establishment culture.  With the change in sexual tolerance since then, non-marital partnerships have been increasingly tolerated in Germany.

Some may ask, “what version of “Bratkartoffelverhältnis” did you mean?”  Often it can be a little intimate and friendly relationship, and sometimes it can just be intimate while others say it can be just friendly.

Bratkartofflen are one of the most common side dishes in Germany. Simple, like many of the time-honored dishes in any traditional cuisine, but just perfect.  Bratkartoffeln are raw or cooked potatoes fried with bacon and onion, often seasoned with salt and pepper. Bratkartoffeln are served as a side dish with many types of entrees and also make a good breakfast dish when served with “Rühreier” (scrambled eggs).  It will take 20 – 30 minutes to cook them to a crispy golden brown, but the wait is worth it. One could call them “German soul food.”

“Lass es dir schmecken”!

Other German words you may know that share the “Brat=” prefix include: The world known bratwurst (sausage), Brathänchen (fried or broiled chicken), Brathering fried herring, Bratapfel (baked apple), Bratpfanne (frying pan/skillet) and even the musical instrument, Bratsche (viola).


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Darlene Fuchs