Inventor of the döner kebab dies

Quoted from the highly readable Local, Berlin’s most interesting English-language news site:

In sad news for anyone who has been drunk and hungry at 2 am, the man who invented the döner kebab sandwich nearly four decades ago in Berlin has passed away.

Mahmut Aygün, the Turkish immigrant who revolutionised German fast food with his tasty creation, died at age 87 this week after a serious illness.

Aygün came up with the now ubiquitous döner while working at the “City Imbiss” snack shop in West Berlin in 1971. Cutting meat off a huge rotating spit, he was inspired to put it in pita bread and dress it up with vegetables and yoghurt sauce. Selling for two marks, the döner quickly became a staple of German street food alongside Teutonic favourites such as the bratwurst.

Although Aygün went on to considerable culinary success in Berlin, he didn’t make money from the thousands of kebab shops across Germany that copied him because he failed to patent his invention.

Still, he will be remembered by countless legions of döner kebab fans around the world.

Of course, döner kebap has existed for 250 years in Turkey… but Aygün was the first guy to make a sandwich out of it, and thus was created an easy and portable meal. And if you find a good busy place that sells a lot of them, they are actually pretty healthy. No preservatives, relatively lean meat, and a lot of salad.

I used to like the döner stand on Wilmersdorfer Strasse (right past the S-Bahn bridge) but Karen and I these days prefer the Pergamon Grill, a walk-in place in the Friedrich Strasse train station that also serves really good Turkish roll-up pizza.

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