As I flipped through channels on my TV tonight, I came across a show on The Cooking Channel regarding Italian Christmas traditions across America: An Italian Christmas with Mario and Giada, featuring chefs Mario Batali and Giada De Laurentiis. I enjoy shows about cultural heritage and even though I have no Italian roots, this show gave me some insights to my husband's Italian family. I couldn't help but wonder when the German version of such a show would air. But then reality struck and I realized it wouldn't happen. There are no German cooking shows. There are no German heritage shows.
I consider myself an American...my family has been here too long to actually claim any one heritage. But when it all comes down to it my maiden name is German and that, along with Irish, is the heritage I claim. That being said, I insist on cooking German foods and we always celebrate Oktoberfest in our own way. In the 1860s, an estimated 1.3 million native born Germans lived in the United States and there were more than 200 German language publications across the country. In the 1880s, the largest period of German immigration, nearly 1.5 million Germans immigrated to America. In 1894 German language publications reached 800 in number. By the turn of the 20th century, however, the German culture began to fade bit by bit. German-language publications started to decline.* Of course World War I and World War II served to only further the decline of German culture in America.
|A map of distribution of German ancestry based on data from the 1890 census. Published 1898 in Statistical Atlas of the United States.|
After living in Germany for three years I am especially sensitive to missing German culture. You see, I tasted the honey and now I want more. Our family has driven hours just to attend various Oktoberfests across America, only to be disappointed. Special note to Oktoberfest planners: deep-fried oreos and Italian sausage are NOT German. Would it kill you to make some schnitzel or bratwurst? In all honesty, it is not the fault of the planners or organizers, there just aren't vendors to support such a festival. I also suppose that any recognition of the German culture, however inaccurate, is better than no recognition at all.
One of our favorite aspects of Germany was the holiday season. We loved the Christmas markets, outdoor markets with vendor and craft booths, food and my favorite: Gluhwein, or warm spiced wine. Fantastic fun! How many crepes mit Nutella have I eaten, I ask you? Americans would eat this concept up. Walk through an outdoor market, with a chill in the air, finding unique Christmas presents in one spot...and have wine, hot chocolate or beer? It is a no brainer. Chicago has a very nice Christmas market that is just like a real German market. It is a must visit. A quick Google search finds similar Christmas markets across the country.
|A Christmas Market in Koln, Germany|
Alas, I don't think there is an easy answer. But I do know that it is up to passionate German-Americans to maintain and continue that culture. So I'll continue to make schnitzel and to polish up my German and hopefully, one day, my dream of owning a traveling schnitzel cart will be realized. Until then...tschuss!
Here are some links I found about German-American culture:
- German Originality
- Goethe Institut, U.S. page
- German-American Heritage Foundation of the USA
- German-American Heritage Museum
- A list of German Clubs across America
*Information taken from Chronology: The Germans in America, European Reading Room, The Library of Congress.