"How much do you weigh?" he was asked. "That's a state secret," Mr Kohl replied tersely. In fact, the Independent can reveal after exhaustive investigation that the Chancellor weighed in for last year's general elections at 125 kilos, just under 20 stones.
Since then, however, Mr Kohl may have put on a pound or two, eating his way through the regions in a gargantuan effort to catalogue the best of German cuisine.
The result is A Culinary Journey through the German Countryside, a fat tome containing more than 300 recipes. It is not for the quiche brigade. From ahzesupp, made with peas and a lot of cream and butter, to zwiebelsuppe, which relies on yet more butter and cheese for consistency, almost every page could have been sponsored by a society of heart surgeons. There are a few recipes leaning towards nouvelle cuisine, but one suspects those were the ones Mr Kohl admitted to not liking very much.
The Chancellor is more of a greasy wurst man. His favourite dishes are saumagen, fried potatoes and pasta, all consumed in copious quantities and washed down with spritzer.
He is also a man of tradition as well as substance, with a mission to tell the world about the sort of food his mother used to cook.
Through the book, whose profits will go to a charity chaired by Hannelore, the Kohls hope to demonstrate that there is more to the national culture than punctuality and thoroughness.
Germans love their food more than foreigners realise, and the dishes are better than they are given credit for, the Chancellor said.
The book launch, at a hotel renowned for its inflated prices and deflated souffles, provided a few samples of the couple's work. Apart from the minor detail that the dishes came from what used to be known as Austro- Hungary, and not Germany, the fare was not exactly mouth-watering.
The tafelspitz - slices of pork embedded in a bed of finely-cut vegetables and jelly - was passable. The pork goulash that followed was awful: tasteless and runny. Perhaps lovers of German culture should stick to Wagner after all. Helmut's home cooking PALATINE SAUMAGEN (PIG'S STOMACH)
Ingredients (to make 3 1/2 to 4 kg)
1 pig's stomach (to be ordered in advance at your butcher's) 30 grammes clarified butter 1/2 kg pork 1 1/2 kg potatoes 1 1/2 kg minced meat 2 -3 tbsp salt 1/2 tsp pepper 1/2 tsp nutmeg 1 tsp marjoram 1/2 tsp ground cloves 1/2 tsp thyme 1/2 tsp ground cardamom 1/2 tsp basil 1 ground bayleaf 50 g onions (diced)
1. Cut the pork into fairly large cubes. Peel and dice the potatoes. Mix the pork, the potatoes and the minced meat and add the spices. 2. Rinse the stomach thoroughly. Tie up two of the stomach's openings with thread, and put the filling in through the third hole. Tie up this as well. (Do not overfill or it will burst.) 3. Put the pig's stomach into recently boiled water and simmer for three hours then drain it. 4. Fry the stomach in clarified butter and bake in pre-heated oven at 200C (400F). Serve with fresh bread, Palatine potatoes, sauerkraut and wine. Hannelore's tip: Should there be any leftovers, the stomach can be cut into slices and fried to a golden brown the following day.Reuse content