Der Grenadiermarsch – March of the Grenadiers

by Thomas Stiegler

Der Grenadiermarsch – March of the Grenadiers

by Thomas Stiegler

One of the greatest problems of the Habsburg Monarchy was to develop a unified tax system. Because a wide variety of ethnic groups, each with its own interests, lived within its borders, this was much more difficult than in France, for example, whose relatively homogeneous population was intrinsically concerned about the welfare of the entire country and thus also willing to contribute its share to a functioning state budget.

As a result, almost all Austrian rulers lacked money, which was also evident from the comparatively low spending on their armies.

This was one of the reasons why they were always militarily inferior to other powers. This led to such dramatic defeats as in the Battle of Königgrätz, when the Prussians’ modern firing needle rifle, which the Austrian general staff had to do without for lack of money, was vastly superior to the Austrian soldiers’ outdated Lorenz rifle.

Gemeiner und Grenadier von Hoch- und Deutschmeister 1836–1848; CC0 Geschichte des k. k. Infanterie-Regimentes Hoch- und Deutschmeister: Nr. 4 – Wilhelm Zimburg von Reiners

But there was not only a lack of money for equipment. At times, it seemed almost impossible to provide basic supplies for the soldiers, and it was easier to disband individual units than to provide more money for the army.

In wartime, it was possible to make do with requisitions and by squeezing the enemy population. But in peacetime, even this way out was closed and one had to make do with the little that the state provided.

The quartermasters therefore not only tried to get food as cheaply as possible, but they also made sure that no food was wasted and that even the last supplies went into the cooking pot.

Resourceful cooks soon made a virtue out of necessity and did not simply serve the soldiers the leftovers of the previous day, but created ever new dishes from them, such as the grenadier march, which soon found its way into bourgeois cuisine.

It is easy to guess why this name was chosen if you look into the origin of the term “grenadier”.

The original name of this unit was “grenadiers”, since it was their task to throw the grenades, which at that time were still unwieldy and weighed up to one kilogram, far into the enemy lines.

However, since this was a danger to the life and limb of their own soldiers if a grenadier lacked skill or had a poor constitution, only the largest and strongest men were selected for this task, and they naturally had to be cared for accordingly afterwards.

After France had begun to raise the first grenadier companies at the end of the 17th century, all other European states were soon forced to do the same. The Archduchy of Austria decided very early on to take this step, and as early as 1670 the first grenadiers in their white uniforms were cavorting in the streets of Vienna.

Although the use of hand grenades gradually became less important in the course of the 18th century, the units were not disbanded, but developed into an elite unit, which was always entrusted with particularly dangerous tasks and was used where it seemed especially important in battle.

On contemporary depictions, the grenadiers can be easily distinguished from other troop units. This is because, in order not to be hindered when throwing grenades, they did not wear the tricorn hat, which was common at that time, but only the simple camp cap.

These pointed caps soon developed into the high and very heavy grenadier cap with metal shield or made of fur, which made the wearer appear even taller and which became an important status symbol.

It is also interesting that the military salute as we know it today goes back directly to the grenadiers. Because of the special shape of their headgear, it was difficult for them to take it off for the salute and therefore it was soon sufficient to simply put the hand to the cap.

For reasons of prestige, more and more units soon insisted on this type of salute and today the “grenadier salute” is the most widespread type of military salute worldwide.

Recipe
400 g potatoes
300 g pasta
200 g sausage
100 g bacon
80 g onions
salt, pepper
marjoram, parsley
50 g lard

 

Boil potatoes and noodles.

Cut sausage and bacon into cubes, onions and potatoes into thin slices.

Heat the lard in a pan, fry the bacon and sausage, add the onion slices and continue frying.

Then add the potatoes, fry and finally mix in the noodles and season.

Serve while still hot.

Despite their special position, the grenadiers were not given preferential treatment, but were given the same food as all other soldiers. And among them was the most famous leftover meal in Austrian cuisine, which has gone down in history under the name of “Grenadiermarsch”.

Of course, the Grenadiermarsch would have remained only a footnote in military history if it had not soon found its way into the parlors of Viennese citizens.

Because there was someone in almost every household who had served in the army and brought their culinary experiences home with them, the Grenadiermarsch soon became a fixed and popular part of Viennese cuisine.

Also as a book – cultural stories of Viennese cuisine!
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