Once upon a time in the city of Munich, Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. All the people of Munich were invited to attend the festivities, which were held on Oct. 12, 1810, on the fields in front of the city gates. All of Bavaria celebrated with the happy couple, and the party ended with horse races in the presence of the royal family.
The decision to repeat the horse races the following year started the festival of Oktoberfest. And so it continued year after year, beer after beer, with agriculture shows, carousel rides and beer stands being replaced by beer tents. Ludwig, a few years later, became King Ludwig I, and Therese was honored by having the fields named after her – Theresienwiese (Theresa’s fields), which are now called Wies’n. The greeting “Welcome to Wies’n” means “Welcome to Oktoberfest.” However, the tale of the Oktoberfest must take a turn here and venture down the road a bit to follow the story of Lola Montez.
It is impossible to talk about Ludwig I without speaking of Lola Montez. Seems Ludwig celebrated Oktoberfest with as much enthusiasm as he celebrated women. One of his dalliances involved Lola Montez (Eliza Rosanna Gilbert), who was born in Ireland in 1821, and made her way to England and then to Paris as a dancer. She was (in)famous in Europe, in America, and later in Australia, for her shameless “spider dance.” Accounts of her dance suggest that it would have made Miley Cyrus’ recent twerking episode look like small potatoes. It seems history often does repeat itself.
Lola came to Munich, was discovered by King Ludwig, and soon became his mistress and courtesan. She apparently captivated Ludwig so much that he bestowed on her the title of Countess of Landsfeld. She was influential in the politics of his kingdom, and persuaded him to close down the University of Munich. A revolt ensued, and Ludwig abdicated the throne, while Lola was forced to flee Germany. Ludwig lived out his life in Germany. Lola sailed to America and made her way across the country from coast to coast. The Philadelphia Press, which later was absorbed by the Philadelphia Inquirer, reported on some of her exploits. The notorious Lola has been the subject of many books and movies. Apparently, she was born before her time.
My son Chris, resident historian extraordinaire, shared his knowledge of Lola with me, and so I am able to tell her tale.
Well, get out your dirndls, lederhosen and beer mugs! Too late to make it to Munich this year, as the festivities ended Sunday, Oct. 6. But why not have an October party to honor the original Oktoberfest celebration? Flip off the cap of your favorite beer bottle with the cry “O’ZAPFT IS!” — meaning “IT’S TAPPED!” – and let your Oktoberfest begin.
What food to serve? You’ll need sausage, sauerkraut, pork, spaetzle and, of course, kartoffels (potatoes) of some kind. Germany’s potato dumplings, potato pancakes or warm potato salad could definitely be on the menu. Some form of potato soup could also be a good choice. The following recipe is one I make and enjoy.
KARTOFFEL (POTATO) SOUP
4 Tbsp. butter
2 medium leeks, chopped, use white bulb and about 2 inches of green – (about 2 cups)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 medium potatoes, chopped
1 Tbsp. minced parsley
6 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
-Clean leeks thoroughly, as dirt is often trapped between layers near bulb. In a soup pot, saute leeks and onion in the butter, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes.
-Add the potatoes, chicken stock and parsley. Bring soup to a boil, then cover and reduce heat, continuing to cook until potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
-Season to taste with salt and pepper.
CREAMY KARTOFFEL (POTATO) SOUP
Follow the directions above and then:
-Strain soup, saving the liquid in a bowl.
-Put vegetables in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
-Return liquid and puree to pot and whisk. Stir in 1 cup light cream or milk. Reheat, but do not boil.
As they say at the end of the Oktoberfest, “Es ist aus.” As we say here, “It’s over!”
Eat well, live long, enjoy! ••
(Questions or tips can be sent to Donna Zitter Bordelon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Northeast Times, 2512 Metropolitan Drive, Trevose, PA 19053)