Anyone that’s eaten an undercooked bratwurst will feel why the word ‘botulism’ derives from the Latin for sausage. Similarly dismal results may come of too much drinking. And yet, in one of the season’s happy conjunctions, the pairing of sausage and beer is universally honored this time of year.
Our local Oktoberfest was celebrated the weekend before last, the main drag closed to all but pedestrian traffic. It’s only a faint echo at six thousands miles’ distance of the heroic beer halls of Bavaria. The municipal authorities like to hire Army reservists for security and you’ll find them posted in fatigues around the perimeter of downtown. It lends the whole thing a martial air that reminds me of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s visit to the Munich Hofbrauhaus in 1933 (from A Time of Gifts):
I squeezed in at a table full of peasants, and was soon lifting one of those masskrugs to my lips. It was heavier than a brace of iron dumb-bells, but the blonde beer inside was cool and marvelous, a brooding cylindrical litre of Teutonic myth… The gun-metal-colored cylinders were stamped with a blue HB conjoined under the Bavarian crown, like the foundry-mark on cannon. The tables, in my mind’s eyes, were becoming batteries where each gunner served a silent and recoil-less piece of ordinance which, trained on himself, pounded away in steady siege. Mass-gunfire! Here and there on the tables, with their heads in puddles of beer, isolated bombardiers had been mown down in their emplacements. The vaults reverberated with the thunder of a creeping barrage… Supported by comrades, the walking wounded reeled through the battle smoke and a fresh gunner leaped into each place as it fell empty.