The Power of Goetta
Browse any Cincinnati breakfast menu, and chances are your sides will include choices of bacon, sausage, or goetta. But what is “goetta?” To the uninitiated, it may seem like scrapple or mush. But to a Cincinnati native, it may be a reminder of breakfast at Grandma’s or it may be a crucial element in a favorite omelet.
Goetta gets its origin from the German immigrants who settled in what is now the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati. In order to stretch their food dollar, they used the scraps from local butchers and hog slaughterhouses to make a satisfying, inexpensive dish. It reminded some of Knipp or Gruetzwurtz, both poor man’s food common in northern Germany. But our 19th century Cincinnati settlers gave it a name of their own, the very German-sounding “göetta” or “gut-tah” that evolved to the present-day pronunciation “get-tah.”
Because goetta is still a very localized dish, we feature it on several of our Cincinnati Food Tours. At Eckerlin Meats at Findlay Market, the butcher explains how he combines pork shoulder and beef chuck with steel-cut oats and the family’s secret seasonings to make some of the best goetta in town. Across the street at Goose & Elder, you can dig into a slice of goetta as we explain the German heritage surrounding Over-the-Rhine. A few blocks away, B&A Street Kitchen serves a Goetta-Up-and-Go wrap.
It recently occurred to me how powerful this one food can be. Sure, goetta with its high fiber and combination of pork and beef is a high-energy dish that can help you start your day. But goetta is powerful in another way, too. It’s the best conversation starter around a table or on a food tour. Serve a slice of goetta and suddenly you start an exchange of stories regarding history, family traditions, and favorite recipes. “My grandma used to make it…” “Have you ever tried…?” “I like mine with a fried egg…” When Cincinnati Food Tours hosts national journalists or bloggers on our tours, it is inevitable that goetta is mentioned in the resulting story. We have discovered that goetta has the power to connect Cincinnati to people and places near and far. A “poor man’s food” is building bridges and shining a spotlight on the Queen City. You can’t get much more powerful than that.
For more on the outsiders’ perspective of Cincinnati, we recommend you check out the articles below. For the insider’s perspective, we suggest you join us on The Original Findlay Market Tour or our Signature Over-the-Rhine Tour.