Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Oktoberfest: Not Just About the Beer

A sausage sandwich with "the works" and an amber lager, Brevard, North Carolina (photo by Simone Cannon)

This month, many Germans and German wannabes are celebrating Oktoberfest, the beer/food/more beer/more food/still more beer festival originating in Bavaria, now celebrated around the world. The choices of German beers are mind-boggling and range from the crisp and light (Pilsner and Lager) to unfiltered, floral, summer beers (Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier and Hefeweizen) to amber beers (Leipziger Gose and Bock) to full-bodied, dark beers (Weizenbock and Dunkel). Although the festival is known for its copious amounts of excellent beer, all worth trying, the food served can be just as exciting as the wide variety of beers. At the very least, eating well helps reduce the chance of falling flat on your face when you get up to use the bathroom.

A tempting plate of freshly grilled bratwurst, ready to be gobbled up by Oktoberfest revelers (photo by Luis Bastardo) 

Traditional food as well as regionally modified versions are now served in almost every country. The choices are endless and delicious and the perfect foil for the hardy German beers. In Germany, traditional foods at Oktoberfest include chicken, pork, fish and sausage, usually accompanied by noodles or potatoes and cabbage. Many of these dishes are well-known to non-Germans: Wiener Schnitzel (breaded veal cutlet), Brezn (pretzels), Sauerkraut (marinated cabbage), Knodel (potato or bread dumplings), Kartoffelpuffer (shredded potato pancakes), Bratwurst (pork and beef sausage), Leberwurst (liverwurst) and Hendl (whole roast chicken). But there are also many other wonderful, lesser known options available such as Schweinsbraten (pork roasted with beer), Schweinshaxe (roasted ham hock), Steckerlfisch (grilled, skewered mackerel) and sausages such as Nürnberger Rostbratwurst (mini bratwurst flavored with marjoram), Blutwurst (blood sausage), Teewurst  (fermented, dried, smoked spreadable sausage of pork, beef and bacon) and Gelbwurst (a sausage flavored with  lemon, mace, ginger and cardamon). To accompany the meat, try something different such as Kasspatzen (Spaetzle noodle and cheese casserole, the German version of macaroni and cheese) or Karoffel krapfen (a type of potato croquette).  

Steckerlfisch (grilled, skewered mackerel) (Courtesy of http://pannonien.tv/)

Since the festival has now gone global, many of the tradtional beers and food offerings have taken distinctly international twists. In the United States, you are likely to find bratwurst sandwiches topped with spicy chili con carne, shredded cheddar and saurkraut, a perfect example of international influences converging (Germany, Mexico, England and back to Germany).  In Japan, the ten-day Yokohama Oktoberfest is a hugely popular annual festival of beer, food, music and conga lines, featuring imported German beer as well as Japanese locally brewed versions of German-style beers. Mumbai, India will be hosting an Oktoberfest celebration this year for the first time at Mahalaxmi Race Course, serving German as well as popular Indian beers such as Kingfisher and will even feature entertainment by the German band, Die Oberbayern, flown in just for the occasion. In the annual Oktoberfest celebration in Córdoba, Argentina, German food is served alongside Argentine parilla (various cuts of grilled meats) and dulce de leche desserts. No need to hop a flight to Munich; no matter where you live in the world, there's almost certainly an Oktoberfest celebration nearby, so enjoy. Prost!

Oktoberfest festivities in Córdoba, Argentina (Courtesy of http://www.welcomeargentina.com/

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