Oktoberfest is upon us!! Today kicked off the 200th wedding anniversary of Prince (later to become King) Ludwig I and his bride, Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen of Bavaria (try saying that 3 times fast, or even once slowly)… Question: if 100 years warrants a 10K diamond – and according to Google it does – what is the expected gift for 200 years??? I have not discovered the answer, but I suspect it is BIG!
Prince Ludwig I and Therese married in October of 1810, kicking off their new life together with a ‘little’ one-week long celebration. The entire town was invited, something unheard of in that day and age for a royal wedding. The wedding ceremony got the ball rolling on October 12th, and the festivities continued through the week, eventually being brought to a close with a horse race on October 17th. Thus began what many consider to be the most celebrated festival of the world. Oktoberfest has grown and evolved over the past two centuries and has expanded to countries all over the world. Munich locals call it ‘Die Wiesn’, referring to the meadow in which the royal couple was married…and where it is still held today. The horse race – a highlight of the earliest festivals – is no longer included in the many activities; however, many other traditions and events have taken its place. The ‘official tapping of the keg’ is one of the highlights…obviously beer-drinking is directly associated with Oktoberfest and has been an important part of its celebration since around 1818. And of course you really cannot have an authentic Oktoberfest without traditional folk music and men dressed in lederhosen and women in Bavarian dirndls.
I hear the rumblings of ‘but why is it called Oktoberfest when it is held in September?’…As you can see, it did originate in October and was held solely in October for many years. However, as it grew from one week into several it was decided to move the start date up to September. This allowed the festivities to be enjoyed during more favorable weather conditions. Now it begins the third Saturday of September and runs through the first Sunday of October. A special stein is designed each year, and this year’s stein features a portrait of the happy royal couple to commemorate their 200th anniversary. Since 1810 the festival has been held 177 times. Those years which did not see a festival were due to either war or cholera epidemics.
My posts over the next couple of weeks will delve deeper into the history and traditions of Oktoberfest. I will include information on traditional foods and drink served at the festival. My German heritage eagerly awaits this opportunity!
Last night I FINALLY got my homemade eggnog fix. We usually have it before Christmas at an annual caroling party. My neighbor hosts the gathering, which includes several families – kids and all – and I bring the homemade eggnog. This year, however, the caroling party was the night before we left town, which also happened to be within the same week my husband and I returned from London (to find exploded egg all over my kitchen – another story for another time…), the week my son returned home from college for Winter Break, and the day after we celebrated our family Christmas. In addition to all of this I was not feeling well, and somehow the idea of using raw eggs while sick was unappealing. I certainly did not want to serve it to anyone! So this brings me to last night. We returned to TX on New Year’s Eve in time to celebrate the new year with friends. Yesterday I just could not stand the fact that the season was passing without my annual eggnog, so I whipped up a batch. We did have some last night, but it will taste so much better today after the flavors have had a chance to ripen together. Perhaps we will even invite some friends to help us partake of all this goodness…
Our tradition of homemade eggnog goes back many years – even before my husband and I were married. His father made eggnog on Christmas Eve every year. I had never had homemade eggnog until then, but after the first sip I was hooked! I believe his recipe came from the back of a Meyers Dark Rum bottle because it called for an entire bottle of dark rum…lots of nog to go with a little egg! When we moved to TX we really missed the tradition of homemade eggnog, so we began hosting our own eggnog get-together for friends and neighbors. Most had never sampled homemade eggnog, only the falsely-thickened, store-bought, overly sweet variety. Trust me, once you have had the real thing it is difficult to go back to the carton! So over the years this has become our own holiday tradition…a few years back we combined it with our neighbor’s caroling party due to time constraints, and the rest is history!
My recipe is a mixture of several recipes, and it does use dark rum like my father-in-law’s; however, I also add Maker’s Mark Bourbon to mine – generally half rum/half bourbon. I chose to keep with my FIL’s tradition of a high ratio of nog to egg…somehow it seems to be the right thing to do! Some recipes add peach brandy or cognac instead of (or in addition to) rum and/or bourbon…it is really a taste preference and what flavor you associate with eggnog. The consistent part includes separated eggs, hard alcohol, sugar, milk, and heavy cream. I also add freshly grated nutmeg, which in my mind is a must-do. I have found that the flavor is best when the egg yolk and sugar mixture is combined with the milk and alcohol and sits for a minimum of several hours, preferably overnight. Just before serving I fold in the whipped egg whites and whipped heavy cream, then grate the nutmeg on top. I even have a special bowl and ladle I purchased about 8 or 9 years ago specifically for eggnog! Is this over the top? Perhaps…but when the neighbors see that bowl heading down the street they know what the night holds in store!!!
This has been a great week for reconnecting with family and friends. I have enjoyed the time spent with parents, in-laws, extended family, and friends. I am grateful that I recovered so quickly from being sick, and just in time for Christmas, too! We have traveled all over the area – DC, DE, PA…we head back from DC to TX on Thursday (New Year’s Eve) in time to bring in the new year with friends. I look forward to a bit of peace and serenity once the holidays have passed. This has been the busiest season I have ever had with Thanksgiving (and those 11 pies!), London, being sick, and finally travel to DE/PA to visit family.
The new year is nearly upon us. As with many of you, I am considering what, if anything, I will adopt as my New Year’s resolution. I generally avoid making such committments since they are usually tossed aside by the end of January, but I think I may give in this year. My New Year’s Resolution will involve working on my website – expanding it to evolve into something much more exciting. Writing has always been one of my passions, and food is an even bigger passion than writing. I look forward to sharing my love of all things food: recipes, restaurant reviews, history of food, nutrition, etc.
And to anyone out there who might actually be reading this: What is *your* New Year’s Resolution???
Well, it has been a rough week or so. After all of the hustle and bustle associated with Thanksgiving, London, and Christmas preparations my body finally gave in to it all and forced me to slow down. I am feeling much better as of this morning and have regained my Christmas cheer along with my health!!! I have baked no cookies, and my annual homemade eggnog had to fall by the wayside this year to allow for my body to heal…I am hopeful that I can make up for this before the season ends…