Spreading the Love

7 bizarre things that Europeans put on bread

By / January 2016

In Sweden, they add tubed caviar. In the Netherlands, butter and sprinkles. In Germany, it’s raw pork and onions. From Michelin-starred French cuisine to rustic Italian cooking, there is no shortage of great food in Europe. But if you want a daring culinary experience that is both simple and cheap, look at what these locals spread on bread:

1. Lutenica (Bulgaria)


In Bulgaria, you have to try Lutenica, a red pepper paste made with tomatoes, spices and sometimes eggplant. “This is the Bulgarian standard to put on bread,” says my friend Vera in Plovdiv. “But often, the Bulgarians sprinkle a seasoned salt called Sheren Sol on their bread in place of butter or some other spread.” Sheren Sol is a delicious spice. It contains an herb called chubritza, similar to oregano, but in the mint family.


2. Marmite (UK)


Years ago, I was enjoying breakfast with friends in a London pub. Among the tiny packages of jams, cream cheese and butter were small packets of something called Marmite. I smeared the blackish paste on my toast. One bite and I felt like my tongue had been seized and put in handcuffs. I had, indeed, been violated by a total assault on my taste buds. My friends burst out laughing. “It’s grainy, thick, salty, and disgusting – yet people here love it,” says my friend, Keri, who recently settled in Birmingham. “It’s a breakfast spread, usually eaten on toast. It goes against our American taste for sweet jelly on toast. Yet, Marmite is supposedly very filling. But that could be because your mouth has no desire to eat anything else.”


3. Mett (Germany)


The meat spreads in Germany are for the truly brave. Many people have heard of Liverwurst, which is spicy liver pate. But there are many types of mince meat spreads. Mett, a popular raw ground pork spread, is often served with slice onions. It’s so popular that some companies increase morale with Mett Mittwoch (Wednesday), kind of like Taco Tuesday, because nothing says teamwork like large trays of raw minced pork covered in onion slices. “I tried a tiny bit,” says my friend Jackie, who lives Gelsenkirchen. “It tasted good, kind of like loose salami, but the ick-factor was too high.”


4. Nutella (Italy)


Nutella, a chocolate hazelnut cream, is a favorite spread in many European countries, but it’s manufactured in Italy. Now that you know, you can have fun pronouncing Nutella the Italian way –“nu – TEY – le”. With delicious choices like gnocci, pasta carbonara, risotto, and authentic Italian pizza cooked in a wood-fire oven, Nutella may not be on your bucket list. That’s okay. It’s exported to more than 75 countries worldwide. While Jackie over in Germany is not a fan of the meat spreads, she shamelessly admits to loving Nutella with real butter smeared under it.


5. Hagelslag (Netherlands)

Hagelslag sprinkles

For the Dutch, it’s all about the butter. Oh, and the sprinkles! They call it hagelslag. “Butter and chocolate sprinkles are eaten often by my kids and [husband] Frank,” says my friend Mary from Rotterdam. “They go through stages where they like it and then get tired of it. Personally, I don’t care for the butter and chocolate sprinkles, but I see all ages eating it. It is mainly a breakfast food, but kids eat it as a between meal snack.”


6. Biscoff Spread (Belgium)

Biscoff spread

Since 1985, Biscoff cookies have been served on major domestic flights throughout the United States. I was always thrilled when that was the option, rather than peanuts. Once, at a work conference in Belgium, I found packets of Biscoff cookie butter next to the bread on the breakfast buffet. I remembered those wonderful airline cookies and I was intrigued. I spread it on a baguette and took a bite. It looked like peanut butter, but it tasted just like those cookies – like sweet gingerbread and burnt sugar. Right then, I fell in love with Belgium, the country that made their cookies into a completely acceptable breakfast food.


7. Kalles Kaviar (Sweden)

Kalles Kaviar

Kalles Kaviar comes in a blue tube similar to toothpaste, is made from cod roe and spices, and is a favorite among Swedish children and adults. “You spread Kalles Kaviar on Wasa hard bread or toast with (and there it is, again) butter,” says a friend Claes from Kristianstad. “It has a potent flavor. People either love it or hate it. I, personally, think it has a very refreshing taste that brings back childhood memories. Because of the strong flavor, I normally would not have it for breakfast, but as a side for lunch with a boiled egg, or as a snack. I prefer to drink milk with it.”


Tara Thomas, an EthnoTraveler contributor, lives and writes in Germany.