Most menus in Germany are suspiciously similar: a half-dozen variations on the schnitzel theme swamped in a creamy mustard sauce, some veal (usually subjected to the same inundation of sauce), a steak or two, venison stew with wild mushrooms, and whatever the local wurstel is.

Each dish is accompanied by any of a number of preparations of potato or a dense dumpling made from a starch-based food so cooked-down it’s impossible to tell what it started out as, plus some form of sauerkraut. It’s hearty, it’s filling, and it’s fairly obvious, after a few days on this diet, why there are so many Italian restaurants in Germany. French, Chinese, and Greek ones, too. Yesterday I passed one called “Ristorantisches Zagreb,” proudly offering Balkan cuisine. It was packed.

Don’t get me wrong: a platter of wurstel, a side of roasted potatoes, a salty bretzlern, and a liter-sized stein of bier to wash it all down is great fun and terribly tasty. But a steady sausage diet can get real old real fast, and there are some varieties of wurstel…well, let’s just say the sheath of pig intestines into which the filling is stuffed is by far the least offensive ingredient involved.

Plus, it’s all meat-and-starch, all the time. As a general rule, I care very, very little for sauerkraut. But here I find myself attacking the piles of slimy, pickled cabbage with a relish, egged on by a primal need for something resembling a fruit, a vegetable, or, really, just anything containing vitamins.

Schnitzel, too, gets pretty boring pretty quickly, especially when it’s invariably protected under an armor of fried bread crumbs and hidden beneath a creamy sea of mustard sauce. I know it’s just me, but every once in a while, even when it’s well-prepared, in the midst of forking my way through yet another platter of schnitzel, the whole thing suddenly looks and tastes exactly like a Hungry Man TV dinner. That’s when I know it’s time to order another liter of beer.

Still, I grimly plow on through the many and varied regional preparations of cholesterol and polyunsaturated fats, my perverse sense of travel correctness keeping me from even glancing askance at the menus posted outside the dozens of pizzerie, “trattorien,” and restaurants named after famous Italian cities and islands. I have to stick to the local specialties, even if it kills me (here my arteries would like to voice their opposition to this rule).

My vague rule of thumb is that you have to spend at least two weeks in a country before you’re allowed to cheat and get a pizza. There are exceptions, of course. London, like NYC, is home to a globe’s worth of interesting exotic options. In Prague, French cuisine ranks a close second to Czech in local popularity. The nineteen-course Indonesian feasts in the Netherlands are incredibly tasty and perfectly legit, given the country’s colonial history in Southeast Asia.

Even Germany has an exception to the rule: they have now reached the critical mass of immigrant Turks necessary to make Turkish food a legitimate local option. Therefore, for the occasional lunch you are allowed a dönnerkebab, a split piece of flatbread stuffed with carved slices of spicy roast lamb with lettuce, tomatoes, and three kinds of sauce, one of which burns off your taste buds. Otherwise, though, it’s wurstel and schnitzel all the way, baby.

Still, there are plenty of opportunities for the weak-willed to cheat, to take the coward’s way out of arterial sclerosis. On most German menus, even in the most heuiriger (cozy) lilttle gestätte (tavern), if you look closely enough you’ll find an escape clause, a dish such as “currywurst mit pommes frites,” or “hen-flesh strips” prepared Orientischer art (Oriental style) with a pepper/cashew sauce, pan-fried veggies, and rice. But frankly, I have yet to meet any chef but an Indian who can apply curry to a dish in an appetizing manner. As for Orientichers art, if God had intended the Germans to stir-fry, he would have had them invent the wok. Instead, He apparently blessed them with a surfeit of pigs.

I’ve only been in Germany a few days—well shy of the two-week mark—and I already used up my lunchtime get-out-of-schnitzel-free dönnerkebab, so I’m finding other little ways to rebel. For instance, I am writing this bit in the Rhine village of Bachrach at a table in the Weinhaus Altes Haus—a half-timbered structure of red beams and white plaster that was apparently saved right in the midst of falling in on itself, so all the walls are at odd angles and from the outside it looks like a spritely illustration from a book of Grimm’s fairy tales. I am awaiting the delivery of my carefully crafted light meal, to consist of a large mixed salad, a cheese sampler platter, and Apfelstrudel with cinnamon ice cream for dessert. I plan thusly to run an endgame around the “main courses” part of the menu—which promised schnitzel in a cheese-potato sauce with French fries, boiled beef in a berry sauce with potatoes, and something unfortunately translated as “Beef broth with stripes of noodle bags.”

I am making amends for having ordered a modest bill of fare by padding my meal with not merely a glass of wine (which is the most that the largely abstemious Germans will drink with their meals—and which insanely always costs at minimum €2.50, usually €5 to €9), but rather a full bottle of the 2000 Toni Jost Reisling, grown on the slopes just outside of town.

What? Wine? In Germany? What happened to the massive mugs of beer? Tune in next post…