4 German-Inspired Recipes for the Best Oktoberfest
The first Oktoberfest was an alcohol-free tent celebration of the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig to his bride, Therese von Sachsen-Hildburgerhousen. That was back in 1810, and the entire population of Munich was invited to the five-day feast in a meadow outside the city gates for eating, dancing and merrymaking. The crowning event was a horse race. After that first celebration, it caught on as an annual festival to showcase the harvest.
In Nashville, the Germantown neighborhood hosted its first Oktoberfest in 1980 with a German Mass at the Assumption Catholic Church, a couple of locals grilling bratwurst and an Oompah band. Since then, it has exploded into a four-day affair that hosts thousands of lederhosen and dirndl-clad wannabe yodelers. It is touted as the second-largest Oktoberfest celebration in America.
Germantown in Memphis began its own Oktoberfest a few years ago. It has all of the trappings, rituals and festivities merrymakers expect, and serves as a fundraiser for Germantown schools. I’ll bet you didn’t know that the Memphis-area Germantown got its name from a land surveyor whose name happened to be Herr N.T. German. This coincided with the fact that there were enough Germans in the Memphis area at that time (around 1835) to support two German newspapers.
Many Germans settled near the Emory River in East Tennessee to farm the newly established Lutheran colony of Wartburg, which was touted as “New Germany.” Wartburg gets its name from the German mountain settlement best known for the time Martin Luther spent there. The rich soil and valleys of beautiful East Tennessee appealed to many who wanted family farms and a tight-knit community. They even voted at one point to make German the official language.
Chattanooga, with 99 breweries represented in the Bier Garten, and Gatlinburg, celebrating for 38 days, go ober the top. The celebrations take place in settings that actually look like the tree-covered hills of Bavaria (if you squint and imagine the leaf-bearing trees are conifers). But don’t tell the people of Kingsport that their festival, complete with a Weiner Dog Brat Trot, is not the very best one.
No matter where you choose to polka, you can enjoy delicious German foods this fall.
The Homemade Pretzels shown here appear complicated, but they are easy to make. The odd part is the 2-minute soak in the baking-soda bath. It’s what gives the pretzels their unique shine. I tested a couple of methods and found this buttery one to be the tastiest. The sweet onion and mustard dip is rich and lovely.