Oktoberfest: Germany’s Annual Culinary Adventure



“O’zapft is!”

Thus every year the Lord Mayor of Munich officially declares the tapping of the very first beer keg at the Oktoberfest in Munich, Bavaria. This year the Anstich will begin on Saturday, September 16 at noon in the Schottenhamel Zelt (tent). Twelve gunshots will announce to the other tents that beer may now be served.

Every year, over six million people from all over the world travel to Munich to have ein Maß Bier (a liter of beer) in one of the fourteen tents on the Wies’n (lawn), a small island created by the river Isar. Wies’n is short for Theresienwiese, so called because this is where Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig celebrated his wedding to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. As heir apparent to the Bavarian throne, the two were what you’d call a celebrity couple, and they celebrated in style. They partied for an entire week, inviting virtually all their subjects from in and around Munich to the party.

Today, men in Lederhosen and women in Dirndl, the traditional Bavarian garb worn by all Oktoberfest officials and many a guest, descend upon the Wies’n for the sixteen days leading up to the first Sunday in October.

German beer, served in a typical gray Bierkrug (beer stein), is a main attraction at Oktoberfest. Each of the fourteen tents offers a different kind of beer from one of the six local breweries. Guests consume seven million Maß (liter) every single year. In addition to the Bier, you can try traditional Bavarian grilled fare such as Hendl (grilled chicken), Schweinshaxe (grilled ham hock), Stecklerfisch (grilled fish on a stick). If you visit the Oktoberfest, you absolutely must try one of the many different Würstl (sausage). The Weißwurst (white sausage), for example is a Bavarian staple: it is made from finely minced veal and pork, spiced with parsley, lemon, onions, and cardamom, and heated up in water just before it is served. Eat it with a Brezn (pretzel) and Bavarian sweet mustard. Though popular in Bavaria and parts of the southern state Baden-Württemberg, Weißwurst is rarely served in other parts of the country, which is why the Bavarian border is often referred to as the Weißwurstäquator. Knödl (dumplings), round bread or potato dumplings, are another truly Bavarian specialty, usually served with meat or Würstl and Sauerkraut. Most Oktoberfest tents will also serve different versions of Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes). These light potato pancakes are either served as a side dish with a salad, or, if you prefer it sweet, alone with a side of applesauce. If you are up for a special treat, try some Obatzda, a spiced cheese spread made of Camembert, butter, and beer.

Obatzda (serves 4)

Ingredients

2 cups ripe Camembert

¼ cup soft butter

1 cup cream cheese

1/3  cup finely chopped onions

Salt, pepper, paprika, caraway to taste

2 tsp. chopped chives

¼ cup finely sliced onion rings

6-8 teaspoons of beer to taste

Preparation

Using a fork, mash the Camembert. Mix in the butter, cream cheese, and onions, then season with salt, pepper, paprika, and caraway to taste. Once all the ingredients have been added, gradually stir in the beer, tasting as you go. Spoon a portion of Obatzda onto each plate and garnish with onion rings, chives, and caraway. Serve with rye bread, radishes, and – of course – a Krug Bier.

Fingerhakeln (finger hooking) is a Bavarian specialty you cannot eat or drink. Popular at the Oktoberfest, this activity has two men hook their middle fingers and try to pull each other over the table.

Under the table, you might notice a few folks engaging in fuaßln: toe-to-toe contact that gets more intimate as the night goes on. If you stay too long and drink too much, you may turn into a Bierdimpfe (a tavern potato). Better to stick with a Radler, a typically Bavarian mixture of Helles (light beer) and lemonade.

Check out the official Oktoberfest website of the Stadt München:http://www.muenchen.de/veranstaltungen/oktoberfest.html or the official website of Oktoberfest: http://www.oktoberfest.de/de

Prost! Cheers!

Image source: Wikimedia Commons