The history of Wiener Schnitzels and why we love a good Schnitzelfest so much

If you are a fan of the traditional Wiener Schnitzel and never miss an opportunity to attend one of the many Schnitzelfests organized not only in Austria but in many other countries around the world, you may want to know some more about the origins and the history of this famous and delicious dish.

A Wiener schnitzel is a 3-6 ounce thin slice of veal covered with crumble which is fried and can be served with a lemon slice or with potato salad, French fries, buttered boiled potatoes or with jam.

The name means a schnitzel originating from the capital of Austria – Vienna. In fact, the term “Wiener Schnitzel” is trademarked and protected by Austrian laws which require that a dish can be called “schnitzel” only if it is made of veal.

There are some disagreements about where this amazing dish actually originated between Austrian and Italian culinary experts and historians. According to the historical data, two separate branches of the royal Hapsburg family are claiming to be the originators of the schnitzel, or its Italian counterpart – the Cotoletta Milanese. The Italian side is adamant that the dish was first served as part of the menu for a banquet held back in 1134 at the St.Ambrigio Cathedral in Milan.

The Cotoletta Alla Milanese is a very similar dish made of pounded thin veal which is breaded and commonly served with lemon. The main difference is that it usually is boned, while the Austrian Wiener Schnitzel is boneless.

Other historians and culinary enthusiast claim that the famous dish was actually first introduced by the ancient Romans who according to the historical data found were the first to start tenderizing meat by pounding it and also the first to roll it in breading and fry it. This data can be found in the oldest existing cookbook written by Apicus dated from the 1st century.

After that, it is suggested that the Romans brought the dish to the Germanic countries and historical data shows that veal became a very popular meat in Northern Italy and on the territory of modern Austria in the middle ages.

The actual term “Wiener Schnitzel” was first introduced in 1862 by a famous general from Austria who had spent a lot of time in Milan, Italy.

As you can see to the right it had a bone in it and the Austrian version is boneless.

Even though the law requires that a schnitzel can be called a schnitzel only if it is made of veal, other alternative dishes also known as schnitzel are made from thin and pounded pork, beef or chicken as well.

Traditionally, in Austria a “real” schnitzel not only needs to be breaded and fried perfectly, but the waiter who brings it to your table should be properly adorned with a tux and tails.

If you want to make your own schnitzel at home, there are many books as well as online recipes, videos and other resources which will help you cook this famous dish by yourself, so next time you can organize your own private Schnitzelfest at home and wow your family and guests!

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