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The wurst German ever

“You need to finish that,” she said, cocking her eyes towards my still half full liter stein in front of me. I looked up at my friend Ashley with pleading eyes. “I can’t!” I said, clutching my stomach as if the physical gesture would help plead my case to the girl I’ve known since college. “I’m so full!” I hadn’t wanted all of it to begin with. When our waitress presented me with the stein of Hofbrau Oktoberfest, I practically choked on my pretzel. “I can’t drink all that,” I shrieked. “I can’t even lift the darn thing!”

Ashley laughed as I dramatically clasped both of my hands around the vase-sized glass to demonstrate its considerable girth. It never even occurred to me to be excited about the amount of beer this meant I would get to ingest – my usual reaction when I receive a heavy pour of Sauvignon Blanc at a restaurant. Because even though I’m probably a solid 50% German and my last name, Hossfeld, is clearly indicative of my heritage, I am quite possibly the wurst excuse for a German ever. I have no idea what makes a Hefeweizen different from a Lager or an Ale, and even after looking up Oktoberfest on Wikipedia I still I don’t know what it is exactly, or why it’s called Oktoberfest when it begins in mid September.

Which, of course, explains why I was so stunned to receive a beer the size of my head rather than the standard pint. And why I was eating a veggie sausage for dinner instead of the more culturally appropriate log of encased meat. I tugged at the hem of my dress, a speckled black number that was clearly at odds with the decor of the unembellished neighborhood German pub, and contemplated my untouched sauerkraut, my half full beer and the tail end of my meatless sausage.

I was an Oktoberfest fail.

“You’re not going to finish it?” Ashley asked, her eyes streaked with disappointment that I, the girl who used to do keg stands in college, was about to let good beer go to waste. I shook my head, wondering if my ancestors were watching this scene unfold, screaming down at my unhearing ears to pick up the damn glass and chug it like a good German. Guilt washed through my stomach as Ashley and I headed for the exit, pausing to say a quick goodbye to an acquaintance I’d seen on the way in.

“Stay!” he protested, standing up to position himself between the door and me. “We’re about to order a boot,” he said, nodding to his imbibing companions. “Between the five of us, we could definitely take it down.”

I started to say I was done, started to rub my stomach to indicate how “full” I was from all the fake meat – but something stopped me. I stared at the knee-high, boot-shaped glasses a few guys at a nearby table were drinking. They looked so happy and carefree, clutching their beer-filled footwear, so at ease with life outside the pint of Miller Light. Suddenly, I felt desperate to have the 60 oz. beverage in my hands. I wanted “das boot.”  I wanted to repeat “das boot” over and over like it was the most amusing thing I’d ever said. And, for a moment, I wanted to be the girl I’d occasionally been in college – the girl who didn’t look at her watch when it was 10 pm and think, “I really need to get home if I’m going to get eight hours of sleep tonight.” The girl who wouldn’t fathom staying home on a Saturday night just so she could be up early to get the best selection of plums at the farmers market on Sunday morning. The girl who would spontaneously adopt an indiscernible Eastern European accent when she’d had too much to drink.

As Ashley and our new friends passed around “das boot,” cheering each other on and heckling our neighbors who were still working on theirs, I realized I finally understood what Oktoberfest was all about: community. I was still a terrible German. I still didn’t like sauerkraut and I still had no idea what made the beer we were drinking different from any of the other beers on the list, but it didn’t really matter. I was having fun. So much fun that I didn’t even pause to think about how much backwash was swirling in the heel of das communal boot until the next morning – when I was shopping at the Farmers Market for the best selection of plums.