With the dirge of Chopin’s Funeral March playing in the background, the men filed into the big room bearing ‘him’ on a board resting upon their shoulders. They were dressed in traditional Oktoberfest regalia: lederhosen hunting pants, loden green vests and green Bavarian hats with white feathers. He was adorned in the finest funereal style, an apple stuffed into his lipsticked mouth and a laurel wreath crowning his porcine head.
To the cheers and laughter of the ‘mourners’ the deceased was paraded around the room then returned to the kitchen, at which point the band switched to more upbeat music and the dancing began. We could have been someplace in the Bavarian Alps, but it was a Schlachtfest at the Crystal Brook Mountain Brauhaus Resort in the Catskill Mountains of New York State.
Our friends, she born in Germany and he in England, invited us and another couple to join them for this memorable October weekend a number of years ago. The three couples having been friends for years, and having traveled frequently together to Alaska, The Canal du Midi in France and Tuscany, as well as other less exotic destinations, always enjoyed each other’s company. So this promised to be a laughter-filled weekend, and it certainly was. It was also a pork and beer filled weekend.
The pork-fest began after about a ½ hour of athletic German dancing, which was fueled by steins of frothy German beer. So when the food began to arrive, the appetites were ready. First there was the traditional soup, followed by platters of knockwurst, bratwurst, bauernwurst and weisswurst, accompanied by bowls of sauerkraut and red cabbage.
The neophytes among us, thinking that this was the extent of the meal, foolishly gorged ourselves on this course, only to be surprised by the arrival of platters of roast pork with gravy, roasted potatoes and more sauerkraut and red cabbage. Despite the fullness of our stomachs, we dutifully managed to devour all, as it would have been an insult to the dearly departed not to have done so.
After dinner, there was a raffle. The guest of honor, having been expertly butchered while we dined on the remains of one of his cousins, was the prize. Ribs, chops, hocks and other assorted parts, neatly tied up in butcher’s paper, were handed out to the winning ticket holders. Unfortunately, none of us were among the winners. But, when it came to the grand prize, the pig’s head, we fervently hoped that we did not hold the winning ticket. Thankfully, we did not!
The rest of that weekend was a haze of more beer and more pork: bacon and sausages with breakfast, ham hocks and sausages for lunch, etc. Suffice it to say that after this pork-fest weekend, we abstained from anything swinish for quite some time.
However, each year, as the chilly nights of autumn become more frequent and the body begins to prepare for the long siege of winter, the atavistic urge for pork returns. So last week my wife prepared her splendid Roast Loin of Pork, with all of the traditional accompaniments: roasted potatoes, red cabbage and apple sauce, which we washed down with thirst-quenching beer. Let old man winter come! We are prepared!