“Halve Hahn” is the local term for a rye bread roll with cheese and pickles. The rye bread roll is usually served with butter, one or two thick slices of Gouda cheese, gherkins and mustard, sometimes also with onions cut in rings and a pinch of paprika. The snack is very popular in Rhineland’s pubs and restaurants. There are plenty of myths surrounding the origin of the name - Halve Hahn translates as half a chicken but it doesn’t actually contain any chicken.
Probably the oldest known source is a newspaper article of 13th July 1913 with a reader’s letter from the then 72-year-old Wilhelm Vierkötter. He explained that as a young man he came from Wahlscheid to Cologne, and invented the Halve Hahn as part of his birthday celebration. This celebration took place on 18th April 1877 in the Gasthaus Wilhelm Lölgen, Hohe Pforte 8.
He agreed with the Köbes that he would order 14 half chickens for his guests, but that instead the Köbes would bring him 14 "Röggelche met Kies" (rye bread with cheese) after half an hour. These first Halve Hähne cost Vierkötter 15 pfennigs each. Everyone laughed at this joke, and from then on cheese rolls were ordered under the name "Halve Hahn". Adam Wrede also provides a similar derivation in his “Kölnischen Sprachschatz“ (a reference book of the local dialect), without mentioning Vierkötter by name.
According to a different theory, the name comes from the typical food of poor Germans in days gone by, the Handkäse, or sour milk cheese. This extremely strong-tasting variety of cheese was not made from valuable whole milk, but instead from semi-skimmed and soured milk. In Cologne, half of the rye roll with sour milk cheese was shortened linguistically to Halve Hahn, and this name was also preserved when the sour milk cheese was replaced by Gouda.