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  • Berghoff

    Post #1 - November 24th, 2004, 12:45 pm
    Post #1 - November 24th, 2004, 12:45 pm Post #1 - November 24th, 2004, 12:45 pm
    Is the basement of the Berghoff still high-school cafeteria style?

    Berghoff WAS a family tradition for the day after Thanksgiving until they changed the basement. Looks like choices will be to stand in line for the upstairs or go to the Italian Village.

    Any other suggestions in the area? With small kids and Grandma along we don't want to wait in line too long. Hackney's is out, because two in the group are ex-Hackney's waitresses and are "burned out" on their food.
  • Post #2 - November 24th, 2004, 1:00 pm
    Post #2 - November 24th, 2004, 1:00 pm Post #2 - November 24th, 2004, 1:00 pm
    Well, at risk of repeating myself (though I think I said these things on a different website), Berghoff serves lousy German food, something which I say with no pleasure because it is such a neat building and old institution, etc. etc. But sentimentality stops when they serve a processed meat patty and call it a Schnitzel. The only things that seem safe there are basic sandwiches and maybe a Wurst platter.

    In that part of the Loop is Russian Tea Time, over by the Art Institute, just west of Michigan; I haven't been there in a long time but I liked it when I was (pelmeni, shots of icey vodka, black bread... I need to go back soon).

    A little further south on Michigan is Oysy, a Japanese (sushi plus) place (I've never been there). There's also the restaurant in the Printer's Row Hyatt (I forget the name) which might have some interesting offerings for lunch.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #3 - November 24th, 2004, 1:10 pm
    Post #3 - November 24th, 2004, 1:10 pm Post #3 - November 24th, 2004, 1:10 pm
    Antonius, you really think the Berghoff is that bad?

    Granted, I have a huge soft spot for the place, and am convinced that the saloon in Heavan looks exactly like the Berghoff's stand-up bar, but I like a fair amount of things on the menu.

    - The fried halibut, especially in said bar is always a fave

    - I like pretty much any of the dishes served also in the bar, the roast beef and corned beef sammies, the brats, what ever else is being sliced that day, the german fries, gosh those german fries may be the best fried fry in Chicago.

    - I like the turkey well enough although this time of year, I am not gonna be eating Berghoff turkey dinners

    - I really like, and it is one of my default orders, the corned beef and cabbage

    - Two things that may not make a meal for you, but can for me, are their creamed heering and their dill pickles. Their pickles are as good as their german fries IMHO.

    I may not branch out a lot, and perhaps the Berghoff would not be the kinda place that could feed me on a frequent basis, but when I go, I always find something I like, and I am very happy being there.

    Rob
  • Post #4 - November 24th, 2004, 1:23 pm
    Post #4 - November 24th, 2004, 1:23 pm Post #4 - November 24th, 2004, 1:23 pm
    I've eaten at the Berghoff (restaurant section) for lunch twice in the past month, and I will fight if someone tries to make me go there again. On one visit I had turkey with mashed potatoes and creamed spinach, all of which tasted like a swanson's tv dinner.

    On my most recent visit I had the Rahmschnitzel (pork schnitzel with mushroom gravy), and it was horrible. I have memories of quality schnitzel at the Berghoff, but this tasted processed and re-heated. I supposed the schnitzel and spaetzle at Paprikash has spoiled me.

    This is pretty disappointing to me, because I have very fond memories of the Berghoff from years ago, and I have recommeneded it more than once.

    VI, I do have very fond memories of the creamed herring, and if I am forced to go again I will make a meal of herring, rye bread, and beer.

    Best,
    EC
  • Post #5 - November 24th, 2004, 1:26 pm
    Post #5 - November 24th, 2004, 1:26 pm Post #5 - November 24th, 2004, 1:26 pm
    If you've got kids and Grandma along and Berghoff's is out, the 7th floor at Marshall Field's might be a good choice -- not the Walnut Room, because I'm not sure what food I would stand in line for that long, but the food court there, which has decent food with a range of choices, and you do get the Field's Xmas experience, a bit at least. I don't think I've ever been there the day after Thanksgiving, though, so it might be overly crowded too.
    ToniG
  • Post #6 - November 24th, 2004, 1:54 pm
    Post #6 - November 24th, 2004, 1:54 pm Post #6 - November 24th, 2004, 1:54 pm
    Vital Information wrote:Antonius, you really think the Berghoff is that bad?


    As I said, I love the place itself and I've never been treated in any way but well by the staff but I've been unhappy with pretty much all my meals there. Let me add, however, that I always kept trying their German offerings and that's why I said "Berghoff serves lousy German food" and not "Berghoff serves lousy food". I also think one can have a decent meal eating basic stuff (sandwiches, Wurst); at least some of the dishes look good and some people I've been there with who ordered something straight forward have been happy enough -- not thrilled with the food but happy to enjoy the atmosphere of the place and eat a decent meal.

    But I stand by my opinion on the German stuff, which is really shockingly off the mark. Admittedly, I'm picky on account of life-long exposure to really good German food, both of the home-cooked and restaurant-cooked varieties. But at Berghoff, whoever the chef is these days, I strongly suspect he has never even tasted the real deal.

    They really ought to address that short-coming but even if they don't, I'll stop in every once in a while for a beer and some atmosphere. And if the occasion arises that I have to eat there, I'll stay away from the German dishes and try the halibut.

    A
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #7 - November 24th, 2004, 2:00 pm
    Post #7 - November 24th, 2004, 2:00 pm Post #7 - November 24th, 2004, 2:00 pm
    eatchicago wrote:On my most recent visit I had the Rahmschnitzel (pork schnitzel with mushroom gravy), and it was horrible. I have memories of quality schnitzel at the Berghoff, but this tasted processed and re-heated.


    Exactly. It is processed and thus not a "Schnitzel" (i.e., slice of meat). When I ordered a Schnitzel at the Berghoff (this is several years ago), I had been taken there by a friend who knew I loved German food and who himself really loved the Berghoff. Under the circumstances, I felt I had to eat up and feign pleasure but it was a bad, very bad food experience.

    A
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #8 - November 24th, 2004, 2:12 pm
    Post #8 - November 24th, 2004, 2:12 pm Post #8 - November 24th, 2004, 2:12 pm
    Several points:

    I did not think that Berghoff's was all that bad. Of course, I only had one of the entrees and quite a bit of the wurst. I did not think that it was worth the one hour wait but one of my St. Louis friends insisted on eating there.

    I haven't eaten at a great German place in years. The place in Elgin down the street from the casino had pretty good food but the dining room was musty and the restaurant looked like it was on life support after the death of its owner three years ago.

    I save my dining dollars for German until I make it to either St. Louis or more surprisingly, Dearborn's Richter's Chalet where the chef makes phenomenal soups and sauces.

    IMO, as one whose great grandparents migrated from Munich in the 1880's, most Germans have assimmilated into the US culture and have abandoned much of the cuisine. Even in strong German areas like Cincinnati and St. Louis, most German places have pretty much shut down.

    In regards to the flagship Marshall Field's, I like all of the eating places that I have tried. Their food shows a lot of scratch cooking and creativity for the price. If I was taking my family there (and I have), I would skip the Walnut Room and head over to the Frango cafe on the 7th Floor and eat there. They have good soup, sandwiches and my nieces say that the ice cream can't be beat.
  • Post #9 - November 24th, 2004, 2:35 pm
    Post #9 - November 24th, 2004, 2:35 pm Post #9 - November 24th, 2004, 2:35 pm
    You might want to give a Petterino's (150 N. Dearborn St.) a try. I believe it's a LEY restaurant and they make an attempt at a "Chicago-revival" atmosphere (steak dianne, shrimp de jonghe, chicken vesuvius). Fairly basic stuff but consistent with a good menu for picky, non-exotic eaters.

    For the real thing, there's also Miller's Pub (134 S. Wabash Ave.). A basic ribs, hamburger, steak kind of place with pleasant red leather booths and lots of atmosphere. Again, nothing fancy, but it doesn't sound like you want anything fancy.

    Russian Tea Time is also a good choice, but it can get expensive.

    As far as the Berghoff is concerned, I avoid it at prime lunch hours -- not worth the lines -- confine myself to the Wurst platter, and along with good rye bread and a nice selection of beers can usually have an enjoyable reasonably priced meal in the middle of the Loop.
    "The fork with two prongs is in use in northern Europe. In England, they’re armed with a steel trident, a fork with three prongs. In France we have a fork with four prongs; it’s the height of civilization." Eugene Briffault (1846)
  • Post #10 - November 24th, 2004, 2:36 pm
    Post #10 - November 24th, 2004, 2:36 pm Post #10 - November 24th, 2004, 2:36 pm
    Why not start a new tradition at the Mirabell on Addison near the Kennedy.
    I've been there recently and was very impressed with the food quality AND atmosphere.

    http://www.mirabellrestaurant.com/
    Reading is a right. Censorship is not.
  • Post #11 - November 24th, 2004, 9:45 pm
    Post #11 - November 24th, 2004, 9:45 pm Post #11 - November 24th, 2004, 9:45 pm
    So, Antonius, what ARE some of your picks for gutes deutsches Essen?

    I like some things at the Brauhaus (Leberknoedelsuppe, rollmops, rouladen and goulasch are all quite good) and the atmosphere is always fun. Resi's, the one time I went, was also quite enjoyable. Haven't been to Mirabell yet, but it looks good. It's funny, this type of old-school German fare is probably more readily available (in restaurants, anyway) in the USA than in Germany. A typical meal while dining out in Germany will usually be caprese salad with pasta Bolognese or a kebab platter or roast chicken in a pita with tahini and some falafel. There has been somewhat of a return to gutbuergerlisches Essen (homestyle German food) in the Fatherland, but, really, even in most people's homes, the schnitzel/wurst/kraut axis of German food is only found on holidays or in a few holdout bars that have a kitchen. Hey, Germans, your food is nothing to be ashamed of! Dig into that 2 inch layer of fat in that Eisbein and fry those potatoes up extra crispy with oil AND butter, if you please! And only give me the Wurst that has the pieces of rendered fat in it!! MMM-mm!

    Reb
  • Post #12 - November 24th, 2004, 10:50 pm
    Post #12 - November 24th, 2004, 10:50 pm Post #12 - November 24th, 2004, 10:50 pm
    I've eaten at Berghoff's for dinner many times and love their whitefish, creamed spinach, wurst platter and rye bread. As you can tell, I tend to order the same thing whenever I go there. I like both the Walnut Room and the 7th floor food court but the Walnut Room is more of a dining experience. The 7th floor has some unique views of other bldgs and Lake Michigan that are fun to look at. If I'm alone and dining downtown, I tend to go to Heaven on Seven in the Garland Bldg or the Oasis in the Jeweler's Mall. However, neither is open late. I like Italian Village for the seafood pasta served with a spicy marinara sauce. Berghoffs, Field's and the Italian Village are all fun in their own way. There's also Trader Vic's at the Palmer House. It depends on what your family would enjoy and whether you are dining before shopping or after!
  • Post #13 - November 25th, 2004, 1:50 pm
    Post #13 - November 25th, 2004, 1:50 pm Post #13 - November 25th, 2004, 1:50 pm
    I think that most Germans who have emigrated to the US have after a generation assimilated into the culture. With each generation, there is less desire to experience the Old World food. Even though my aunts and uncles enjoyed sauerbraten and thevarious schnitzels, their specialties are not German.

    Germans who have emigrated to other lands (i.e. Latin America) have retained their langage and culture. I could go into length on the subject but Thomas Sowell wrote the book on Culture and Migration.
  • Post #14 - November 26th, 2004, 12:31 pm
    Post #14 - November 26th, 2004, 12:31 pm Post #14 - November 26th, 2004, 12:31 pm
    JL:

    You're quite right that the Germans have in general assimilated culturally to the broader Anglo-American society quickly, but so too virtually all other northern European groups, namely, the Scots, Dutch, Flemings, Scandinavians, Swiss, Walloons and even the much maligned French. Where social and economic factors resulted in the establishment of communities with close social ties and communication networks, however, these groups have resisted assimilation to similar degrees in accordance with corresponding similar degrees of isolation or self-sufficiency or density of their communities and the internal orientation of intercourse.

    In this regard, it is worthwhile to note that a subgroup of German immigrants to this country (and also Canada and Mexico) has constituted the European group which has by far most successfully resisted immigration into their broader social contexts, namely the German Mennonites (across almost the whole spectrum of varieties that term can reasonably include). They have done so both in relatively large numbers and, most strikingly, over many generations, with the first such groups having settled here in North America already in the 18th century. Socially focussed, linguistically alloglot to their surroundings, German Mennonite communities still exist from eastern Pennsylvania to Kansas, from British Columbia to Chihuahua.

    Of course, in this particular case the Mennonites' religious identity and some of the specific tenets of their belief are extraordinary and crucial factors in their conservatism but this only helps confirm the validity of the notion that assimilation is not so much a matter of who you are but who you (and your kids) talk to. What is perhaps the factor which is most crucial to the long-term maintenance of such communities is the barrier to intermarriage, formed at the basic level by the religion in the case of the Mennonites, and the degree to which the basis of that barrier is melded to other essential markers of ethnicity, such as cuisine, dress, traditional vocations and, often most importantly, language.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #15 - November 26th, 2004, 2:43 pm
    Post #15 - November 26th, 2004, 2:43 pm Post #15 - November 26th, 2004, 2:43 pm
    Antonius wrote:Of course, in this particular case the Mennonites' religious identity and some of the specific tenets of their belief are extraordinary and crucial factors in their conservatism but this only helps confirm the validity of the notion that assimilation is not so much a matter of who you are but who you (and your kids) talk to. What is perhaps the factor which is most crucial to the long-term maintenance of such communities is the barrier to intermarriage, formed at the basic level by the religion in the case of the Mennonites, and the degree to which the basis of that barrier is melded to other essential markers of ethnicity, such as cuisine, dress, traditional vocations and, often most importantly, language.

    Antonius



    Would this not also be true, for say Dutch/Dutch Reform, who for the most part have maintained an ethnic identity--as compared to say the (Dutch) Knickerbockers who first settled NYC? And related would be the Amman in Iowa. It shows that people hold much stronger to these religious groupings than Nationhood.

    Which also brings up the fact that when these German peoples immigrated to the USA in the 19th century, I do not think, necessarily, they thought of themselves as "German". Germany was not even a consolidated nation until the late 1900's, and people much more associated with their region or state--i.e., Prussian, Bavarian, Saxon, etc. No?

    The other thing, is that Meyer and such still serve a population that is more German than just German American. It is not that unusual to shop on a Saturday and hear a bunch of customers talking in German. These are then, not the people who settled in Chicago many, many years ago.

    Rob
  • Post #16 - November 26th, 2004, 3:31 pm
    Post #16 - November 26th, 2004, 3:31 pm Post #16 - November 26th, 2004, 3:31 pm
    Vital Information wrote:The other thing, is that Meyer and such still serve a population that is more German than just German American. It is not that unusual to shop on a Saturday and hear a bunch of customers talking in German. These are then, not the people who settled in Chicago many, many years ago.


    Yes, I do agree with JLawrence that German-Americans in general have been strongly inclined to give up their culinary traditions (and in this regard, see too the related observations by Hungryrabbi above concerning culinary trends in Germany) and it's certainly true that at Meyer's, for example, a significant percentage of their business is from recent immigrants or ex-pats; a further element are people who have spent time in Germany, whether of German ancestry or not. But I'm sure a not wholly inconsequential percentage of their business is from people who are a couple or more generations removed from the boat but come from families that maintained some traditions (among whom I partly count).

    Vital Information wrote:Would this not also be true, for say Dutch/Dutch Reform, who for the most part have maintained an ethnic identity--as compared to say the (Dutch) Knickerbockers who first settled NYC? And related would be the Amman in Iowa. It shows that people hold much stronger to these religious groupings than Nationhood.



    There has been, I strongly suspect, more immigration from the Netherlands since WWII than from Germany, and some of that has been very focussed, i.e., with immigrants settling together and forming a community of sufficient size to allow for some cross-generational maintenance of language. The most successful (in holding onto the old) have been those communities with a religious focus.

    The Dutch who settled in New Netherland did all assimilate to the conquering English culture and language but at very different rates by area. In New Amsterdam/New York, the shift to English language and English ways was quite rapid but in some parts of Brooklyn, Staten Island, in Albany and middle stretches of the Raritan and Hudson valleys, Dutch survived from the definitive British conquest (1672) into the early 19th century. In my native neck of the woods, Bergen County, New Jersey, and also in parts of the Mohawk Valley, Dutch survived into the 20th century. The last native speaker of Jersey Dutch that I know of died in 1964, a scant 10 miles from Manhattan!!!

    Vital Information wrote:Which also brings up the fact that when these German peoples immigrated to the USA in the 19th century, I do not think, necessarily, they thought of themselves as "German". Germany was not even a consolidated nation until the late 1900's, and people much more associated with their region or state--i.e., Prussian, Bavarian, Saxon, etc. No?


    You're right that a national sense of being German was not fully formed in the mid 19th century, but I think most Germans already had a strong sense of 'Deutschtum'. Still, primary regional or local identities could well have contributed to a lack of cohesiveness in immigrant communities and encouraged accelerated assimilation. That's true to some degree with Italians too...

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #17 - November 26th, 2004, 4:08 pm
    Post #17 - November 26th, 2004, 4:08 pm Post #17 - November 26th, 2004, 4:08 pm
    Hi,

    The German topic rises up yet again.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #18 - November 26th, 2004, 5:08 pm
    Post #18 - November 26th, 2004, 5:08 pm Post #18 - November 26th, 2004, 5:08 pm
    Ah, but Antonius, while the Germans who moved here may have had some sense of German-ness the exception to that, oddly enough, would be the very group you say (rightly) has stuck together-- the Mennonites. Many of the Mennonites in this country (including my forebears), though ethnically German, actually emigrated from Russia, having been invited there by Catherine the Great and kicked out a century or so later by some other Tsar. (And in any case my ancestors came from Gdansk, though they were German speaking.) I would bet that that is predominantly the case among those who settled in the midwest, though there are Pennsylvania Mennonites and others who go back to William Penn's time and thus came here straight from Germany. So ironically, the "most" German group today was the one that probably thought least about being German as such when they got here (with their Russian winter wheat, perfect for the American midwest).

    Anyway, my point is that I think any ethnic group tends to stop being so ethnic and get assimilated as soon as the wellspring of primary immigration dries up. Certainly if you look at what communities are strongest here, they're the ones being replenished continuously (Mexican, Polish, Thai, Indian) and much less so the ones that aren't (German, Swedish, Slovak). The German Mennonites are a bit of an exception in that, as you say, they have kept it together as a community in some areas, though if that were true 100%, I'd be Mennonite today (to the extent that I would be me, since my mother would have never have met my German-Irish, but not at all Mennonite, father).

    As it happens, though, I did just make pfeffernusse yesterday for Christmas. A little heritage survives to this day.
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  • Post #19 - November 26th, 2004, 6:00 pm
    Post #19 - November 26th, 2004, 6:00 pm Post #19 - November 26th, 2004, 6:00 pm
    Yes, a lot of the loss of German culture in America, including the food culture, comes from the assimilation of Germans into "American" society. It's not because the German food isn't good; it's some of the best. But when we speak of German assimilation in America, let's not forget that a good deal of that "assimiliation" is more like "expungement." A lot of it was a conscious political choice, likely associated with the inability of many Americans to separate in their minds their German-American neighbors from the instigators of two certain intercontinental disputes that pre-occupied Europe and the Americas during the early and mid-parts of the twentieth century. German-American culture is clearly not dead yet, but it was mortally wounded and it won't ever be the same.

    Here are two little examples I know of; perhaps you know some more. In my hometown of Indianapolis, as German a town as there ever was in this country in the late 19th century and early 20th, German culture went from the pride of housing dozens of German-American social and political associations and as many as 26 German-language newspapers, to the shame of changing the name of a key cultural institution from "Das Deutsche Haus" to "The Athenaeum" in 1914 -- and it wasn't because it was bought by the Greeks. Here's another example of how German-American culture was erased from memory (almost) in Indianapolis as part of the war effort. Currently in that city is a curiously named street called "Bosart." For a while, it was "Bozart." Before that (and until about .. oh, 1914) it was "Mozart." Ponder that a while.

    Prior to the first World War, being part of one of the "right" German-American families in Indianapolis was like being a member of the Rotary Club, a Mason and on the Board of Halliburton, all rolled into one. I have to guess it was about the same in Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis, etc. That may not have changed overnight (indeed, I suppose the financial and social status of the German-Americans didn't change a whit, if they were willing to drop the old-fashioned accents and start calling themselves "Bill" instead of Wilhelm.) But certainly, for about 40 or 50 years there, one didn't casually wear a "Kiss Me, I'm German" t-shirt.

    The unfairness and perversity of this should be obvious, as we're talking about German-American culture being erased, not Kaiser Wilhelm's color guard being asked to stop marching around the Circle. These were Americans of German heritage who were probably victims not only of their fellow citizens' misguided xenophobia, but also of that peculiar form of German shame others have noted here before. I say this because the German-American community in the Midwest in the 20th century (at least in the urban centers) was in a position of economic and political superiority where presumably they didn't have to stand for being oppressed or having their cultural identity expunged, but probably chose it (or allowed it to be imposed) themselves.

    So now I've identified the problem, what is the solution? To the extent German-American culture has managed to hang in there at all in this country, it's probably due to that other characteristic German trait of stubborness. And that of course is a key sign of the real problem. Stubborness isn't cool, and Germans aren't cool enough -- or at least not perceived as cool enough -- in a thousand other ways. In the popular mind, Germans are still seen (falsely) as monocle-wearing war monkeys who find moral worth in overstarched collars, or else as foot-slapping, lederhosen-wearing buffoons. That's an obvious slander that needs correcting, but it's all an image problem of the sort that modern America was created to fix. What German-Americans (and those who love them) need to understand is that they need to forget such old-fashioned concepts as "pride" and "intellectual rigor" and "stuffy old country values." Coolness is the only value that matters today -- and there is nothing more cool than being oppressed. That is, being oppressed is not, in itself, cool, if you are the one actually being oppressed; but your coolness factor among key demographics like college students will rise dramatically if your civil rights are (or can be convincingly portrayed as being) abused. And once you're in with the college demo, it's smoooooth sailing, Heinrich!

    Admittedly, this would be an easier case to make 90 years ago (when the German-Americans were more German-seeming than today), but I say let's give it a try. If the German-Americans were portrayed in textbooks, on coffee mugs, in Mother Jones, etc. as an oppressed minority (and anyone who can actually speak German is definitely a minority), it might actually be cool to be German! College students would continue wearing Birkenstocks (which are, I believe, "beyond cool and evil"), but would replace their Ramen noodles with boiled wurst, cooked in the same electric coffee pots in their dorm rooms. Beer also would remain popular among college students, but it would be drunk with greater gemutlichkeit.

    But oh, who am I kidding. That won't be happening in our lifetimes. The German-Americans 90 years ago blew it for all of us when they went in the cultural closet, never to emerge ...
  • Post #20 - November 26th, 2004, 6:51 pm
    Post #20 - November 26th, 2004, 6:51 pm Post #20 - November 26th, 2004, 6:51 pm
    Not to mention that prominent German family that changed their name from Battenberg to Mountbatten....

    But really. Who could possibly be cooler than Dieter of Sprockets... Governor Schwarzenegger (Austrian but close enough)... Kraftwerk... and above all, Klaus Nomi? Germans rock! (In a rather studied, humorless way.)

    And above all, there's Traumschiff Surprise.
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  • Post #21 - November 26th, 2004, 7:05 pm
    Post #21 - November 26th, 2004, 7:05 pm Post #21 - November 26th, 2004, 7:05 pm
    Mike G wrote:(Austrian but close enough)


    Hmm ... that sounds like something somebody else was thinking about over a few biers back in old Munchen ...

    Seriously, the reason your examples don't work (with the possible exception of Arnie) is that either (1) they are fictional, like Dieter or (2) they don't eat food (or at least they don't enjoy it). Just to bring things back onto topic. :wink:
    Last edited by JimInLoganSquare on November 26th, 2004, 7:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #22 - November 26th, 2004, 7:07 pm
    Post #22 - November 26th, 2004, 7:07 pm Post #22 - November 26th, 2004, 7:07 pm
    Mike G wrote:Ah, but Antonius, while the Germans who moved here may have had some sense of German-ness the exception to that, oddly enough, would be the very group you say (rightly) has stuck together-- the Mennonites. Many of the Mennonites in this country (including my forebears), though ethnically German, actually emigrated from Russia, having been invited there by Catherine the Great and kicked out a century or so later by some other Tsar. (And in any case my ancestors came from Gdansk, though they were German speaking.) I would bet that that is predominantly the case among those who settled in the midwest, though there are Pennsylvania Mennonites and others who go back to William Penn's time and thus came here straight from Germany. So ironically, the "most" German group today was the one that probably thought least about being German as such when they got here (with their Russian winter wheat, perfect for the American midwest).


    There are indeed many Russian or Volga Deutsch settlements in the midwest and west but many settlements in the midwest and Texas are offshoots from the original, large-scale settlement in Pennsylvania.

    The existence of groups coming from Russia does not weaken my claim but rather strengthens it and I actually had them very much in mind. Though they unquestionably had no sense of being tied to a German state, they very much partook in a sense of being culturally German, of 'Deutschtum' (albeit in their own special sense), and maintained that throughout their stay in Russia and on into their settlement in North America.

    I remember being impressed with the strength of the ethnic identity in a man I interviewed from a Mennonite community in British Columbia. He had turned his back completely on the religion but was delighted to speak to someone who knew something of and about the Platt- or Niederdeutsch dialect he had grown up speaking. The fact that his community had maintained a certain knowledge of Hochdeutsch, as liturgical language, alongside their vernacular Niederdeutsch through the time in Russia and on through a century of being settled in Canada says lots about the degree to which religion and language have been inextricably bound up with other elements of a strong -- and very German -- ethnic identity.

    Of course these communities gradually weaken but in the case of the Mennonites in North America, the degree to which they have lost members to the broader culture is not nearly so striking or interesting as the degree to which they have maintained their complex identity over so much time.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #23 - November 26th, 2004, 9:06 pm
    Post #23 - November 26th, 2004, 9:06 pm Post #23 - November 26th, 2004, 9:06 pm
    I guess what I mean is, whatever you think of as the stereotypical (but nevertheless not entirely inaccurate) German-American immigrant culture-- beer gardens, brass bands playing Sonntag's Nibelungen March, high schools named for Carl Schurz, whatever-- well, the amount of that you will find in a Mennonite community is approximately zero, no matter how much hochdeutsch may still get spoken. Indeed, even the food is somewhat different-- though I would be willing to entertain the idea that Mennonite food is closer to how ordinary people in Germany actually ate than German-American restaurant food is; in any case the food that has been passed down in my family has almost no direct overlap with any dishes I've seen on menus in big city German restaurants, whatever the reason.

    Perhaps the best way to put it is that Mennonites have a distinct subculture, which is a German subculture, but is not the same as German culture, any more than you would consider Salt Lake the quintessential American city....
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  • Post #24 - November 26th, 2004, 11:58 pm
    Post #24 - November 26th, 2004, 11:58 pm Post #24 - November 26th, 2004, 11:58 pm
    This has been a very interesting thread! Not all Volga Deutsch are Mennonites, BTW. Many are Catholic. I am descended on Dad's side from Germans from Russia and did some geneological research at one time. There was a huge migration of Germans into Russia during the 18th century under Empress Catherine. They were allowed to keep their language and religion and did not serve in the Russian army. They lived in the Volga River region for around 100 years and began emigrating to the U.S. after the Civil War. The geneological society is called The American Historical Society of Germans from Russia.

    Professor Kloberdanz at North Dakota State University has written about Germans from Russia and had a program on public television a few years ago about their food customs called Schmeckfest. Lots of flour and butter!

    The German Russian contribution is the runza or bierock which was mentioned in another post about the history of sandwiches. I like this website because it has a photo, recipe and spells February with a "w">
    www.forestcity.brewers.org

    My grandmother emigrated from Milwaukee to Chicago after WWII and said that North Avenue was lined with German beer gardens.
  • Post #25 - November 27th, 2004, 12:56 am
    Post #25 - November 27th, 2004, 12:56 am Post #25 - November 27th, 2004, 12:56 am
    Thanks,Apple.I mentioned Schmeckfest in the Christkindlmarkt thread under Events.I blew the spelling which is why I could not find the info.I saw the PBS program and was interested to see if they are airing it this year.
  • Post #26 - November 27th, 2004, 5:33 am
    Post #26 - November 27th, 2004, 5:33 am Post #26 - November 27th, 2004, 5:33 am
    Mike G wrote:Perhaps the best way to put it is that Mennonites have a distinct subculture, which is a German subculture, but is not the same as German culture, any more than you would consider Salt Lake the quintessential American city....


    This is precisely the point of departure for my remarks above: most German immigrants and their descendants assimilated quickly but in some instances, under particular circumstances, assimilation was resisted, in ways analogous to what we see with other groups. BUT very much overlooked in such discussions are the Mennonites and other related religious groups who together represent (for very apparent reasons) the group from Europe that has arguably resisted assimilation longest and most effectively.

    The various dissident religious groups that left Germany in the 18th century and sooner or later ended up in North America were on account of their faith on the periphery of German culture; outside of Germany, in places where their religious separateness was at least tolerated if not appreciated, they remained on the periphery of mainstream culture but then also in large part because of their "Germanness".

    ***

    Cultural generalisations are at times necessary and therefore not necessarily bad , but we must not lend too much weight to the generalised and stereotypical. Few, very few cultures are in any meaningful sense monolithic and an awareness and knowledge of, a senstivity to and a respect for the diversity that underlies overarching ethnic or national labels is necessary to keep at bay the prejudicial.

    There are some things that most Germans* share and some things that lots of people (Germans and others) think most Germans share, but in considering a country the size of Germany that leaves a lot of room for error.

    Anyway, I think I'll make for lunch some quesadillas today with left-over turkey and queso Mennonita, then later hit the Berghoff for a couple of beers.

    A

    * You can substitue for 'Germans' here 'Frenchmen', 'Italians', 'Americans', etc.
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #27 - November 27th, 2004, 7:41 am
    Post #27 - November 27th, 2004, 7:41 am Post #27 - November 27th, 2004, 7:41 am
    Funny how these things inevitably sound a little sinister when you start talking about "German-ness" and the things Germans share, in a way that, say, "Puerto Rican-ness" doesn't. But then even I grew up playing WWII and shooting at the Germans. THAT'S assimilation.

    Cast an issue vaguely enough and who can disagree. Mennonites must be German, they sure ain't Hawaiian. But bringing up stereotypes is not merely being superficial, at least not on a food board-- it's precisely in restaurants that the most contact occurs between "us" gringos and any ethnic culture, and that discourse is conducted on a level of artful stereotyping, of reducing one's own culture to a series of friendly, exotic-yet-approachable dishes, practices, decor, costumes, etc.

    It may be a cartoon of the culture (as in the strip mall Chinese restaurant with the zodiac paper placemats, which I assume bears almost no resemblance to actual life in China), or it may be a reasonably accurate reduction-- and my experience of dining in German restaurants in America is not so very different from dining in restaurants in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. What both are different from is any experience I've had with Mennonites in America (or Canada). Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.
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  • Post #28 - November 27th, 2004, 10:05 am
    Post #28 - November 27th, 2004, 10:05 am Post #28 - November 27th, 2004, 10:05 am
    Mike, I am a bit lost on your point(s).

    As I think is being said in this thread, implicit and expressed, is that there are two groups of German-American immigrants. One from "mainstream" German populations, and one driven in a large part by their religious identity. The German-American groups took very prominent roles and stood out, culturally in many cites, especially the ones cited above. They had their Turner clubs and such. On the other hand, there were groups that tended to isolate themselves and not otherwise participate in American, surely not American urban life. It is not THAT surprising, that these groups have stayed more culturally distinct these days. But I think we all agree that these groups like Amana, the Dutch Reform of Holland Michigan or the Mennoites are true first and foremost to their sense of, what, tribal, idenitity; whereas the other group tends to think of itself as American if not German-American, given marriage patterns dilute everything. (If both your parents are Irish, you're Irish, etc.)

    Foodwise, on one hand, I think we agree that there was a stereotypical, exagerated German restaurant, vaguely Bavarian in style if not in cusine. What I do not fully know is, did German Americans just set up these restaurants because they seemed like money-making propositions, or was this what German-Americans thought at the time to eat. It is the same thing with Italian-American restaurants. The menus soon came to seem nothing like how Italians ate in their homes and certainly did not follow menu patterns and styles in Italy.

    With the other groups, over time, in the Amman colonies, in Pennsyvania Dutch country with all its great town names that we cannot say on LTH, a style of restaurant developed too. Again, was this not a money-making enterprise, a distilliation of what the Amish ate, not actual Ammish meals?

    So, my last point, I suppose, is that restaurants are often (if not nearly always) a conversation from home or "real" cooking. We cannot compare what is served at restaurants to what is the actual cooking because we know all sorts of factors change things.

    I guess.

    Rob
  • Post #29 - November 27th, 2004, 9:33 pm
    Post #29 - November 27th, 2004, 9:33 pm Post #29 - November 27th, 2004, 9:33 pm
    Yes, Rob, that's what I was saying.

    The urban German-American community built restaurants and beer gardens, and holds Oktoberfests and so on, in a way which is somewhat self-caricaturing but nevertheless is very similar to the kind of thing you'd actually find over there. I once went to a beer hall in Salzburg which was like German stereotype heaven, except it was hundreds of years old and had been packing them in every night for all that time, which means, I guess, that it's where the stereotype comes from.

    That kind of place is dying out in America, partly I think because there isn't constant immigration to replenish the community, partly because it's so square. Antonius said that there was a community which remained very German to this day-- but the way in which they are German (or Mennonite, which I also think is at least as much their identity, not least, as I pointed out, because lots of them had spent their entire lives in Russia before coming to America) has very little to do with beer halls and gemutlichkeit and that kind of German-ness. And as it's a peasant farm culture, not a burgher/city culture, its food bears little resemblance to what you find in urban German restaurants, either.
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  • Post #30 - November 28th, 2004, 10:27 am
    Post #30 - November 28th, 2004, 10:27 am Post #30 - November 28th, 2004, 10:27 am
    JimInLoganSquare wrote:
    These were Americans of German heritage who were probably victims not only of their fellow citizens' misguided xenophobia, but also of that peculiar form of German shame others have noted here before. I say this because the German-American community in the Midwest in the 20th century (at least in the urban centers) was in a position of economic and political superiority where presumably they didn't have to stand for being oppressed or having their cultural identity expunged, but probably chose it (or allowed it to be imposed) themselves.


    I'm a little late to this discussion, but this is exactly the situation the Jews found themselves in in Germany when Adolph decided to wipe them out. Their economic and political superiority didn't seem to help them much. Don't get me wrong. I like a good rouladen as much as the next guy, but trying to portray mainstream Germans as victims is a little over the top, don't you think? Of course religeous outcast groups such as the Mennonites, Ammen, etc., as Mike G. has pointed out, are part of, but certainly not examples of mainstream German culture. They were thrown out of the Faterland, after all.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven

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