May The Slaughter Plate Live Forever

Deutschland Über Us

Image: [martin]

It might be hard to believe—given, you know, the way certain events played out—but German history is rich with brave heroes who battled tyrannical forces at home and abroad. The White Rose. The Cold War “Mole.” The questionable individuals who built this parade float. And now, world, let it be known that another force in the German Widerstandsgeschichte (history of resistance) has awakened. Meet the Society for the Promotion of the Reputation of Blood and Liver Sausages, located in Bad Höhenstadt, a teeny-tiny Bavarian village near the Austrian border.

The sausage in the SPRBLS’s German logo is bleeding. THE SAUSAGE IS BLEEDING. Screengrab: Society for the Promotion of the Reputation of Blood and Liver Sausages.

OK, sure, let’s back the Lastkraftwagen up for a second: What, precisely, are Blut- und Leberwürste? And what, exactly, is the existential threat to these highly perishable delicacies? And who, exactly, are the two undaunted old Bavarian dudes who have taken up this crucially important mantle of advocacy on their behalf?

“The slaughter plate must not die!”

According to a recent interview in the highly regarded Süddeutsche Zeitung — basically the German New York Times — the cherished Bavarian meal of Schlachtschüssel, literally “slaughter plate,” is in (very ironic) danger for its life, thanks to a decline in popularity in the age of “veganism, Trumpism, and the ‘insulted liverwurst,’” the latter a “humorous” German term (beleidigte Leberwurst spielen) for someone who’s pouting and lashing out for no reason, and an apparent unfair maligning of the eponymous sickly looking column of meat.

Speaking of which: Why, you might wonder, is the President included in this particular round-up of ignominy? Unclear, though sending Trump an official greeting is their “diplomatic duty,” according to Hans Göttler, the Society’s self-styled Minister of Innards (Minister der Innereien, a play on the German Innenminister, or Sectretary of the Interior), who, along with founder Franz Achatz, spoke to the Süddeutsche during the Society’s recent yearly meeting of all members. (A membership which, Ashatz claimed, currently numbers 350—“although,” he admits, “those could be alternative facts.”)

But this still doesn’t explain why these two Herren are so dead-set on making the slaughter plate großartig again — or, for that matter, its original appeal in its alleged heyday. And here I have a confession: they might confiscate my German doctorate for admitting this, but I don’t know why either, because I’ve never had the pleasure of consuming either sausage variety. You see, for the first 37.5 years of my life (including the time I spent in Germany and Austria), I was a vegetarian—a Vegetariarin, mind you, and not, as I always used to call myself, vegetarisch, which my German friend Kersten helpfully translates as “suitable for a vegetarian to eat.” (Thus: incorrect and inaccurate!)

Blutwurst, German or Austrian blood sausage, is made from pig’s blood, pork rind, barley, and the highly perishable tears of Alicia Silverstone. Definitely not suitable for vegetarians to eat. Image: Matthias Süßen via Wikimedia Commons.

So, here’s what I do know: according to renowned scholar Prof. Wikipedia, the slaughter plate is so named because it predates refrigeration, and its vittles — made, as they are, of coagulated pig’s blood and obliterated liver—are so perishable that they couldn’t be preserved by old-timey methods of salting, curing, and (I can only assume) submersion in the forcibly obtained breastmilk of a young woman suspected of committing infanticide. (Fun fact: the preservation method is a lie, but the force-milking is true, at least according to UC-Irvine Professor of German Gail K. Hart in my 2007 graduate seminar on the Sturm und Drang.)

This 1776 play is just straight-up called THE CHILD MURDERESS.

Anyway, because of the acute probability of untimely demise via the consumption of very-easily spoiled blood sausages — combined with the good butcher’s hesitancy to waste any part of the animal, and the alleged deliciousness of blood and/or liver — meant that Blut- und Leberwürste had to be eaten on the day their erstwhile host was dispatched. This accounts for the Schlachtschüssel’s relatively massive portion, and, of course, its name.

Now, although I started eating meat when I was pregnant with my daughter in 2014 (gestational anemia makes you crave dirt!), and I’m somewhat ashamed to admit I haven’t stopped since, I readily admit that despite my newfound propensity for a bacon cheeseburger, neither Blut- nor Leberwurst seems like something I would like to put into mouth and chew.

Nein, Danke. Image: Eugene Kim via Wikimedia Commons.

I am, in effect, the number-one target market for the Verein zur Förderung des Ansehens der Blut- und Leberwürste, whose masterful use of the double genitive case gives this jocular club — its “highest distinction,” after all, is the Order of the Insulted Liverwurst—an air of gravitas. The genitive, which Germans call “the fourth case,” and thus the least necessary for successful communication, is used to denote possession, i.e. das Buch meines Vaters, or “my father’s book.” It’s widely regarded as the most pompous of all the cases, so much so that in Austria and the more laid-back parts of Germany — i.e. Bavaria, the very home of this august organization — it’s not even used in everyday speech. Although I sure love a nice deployment of a double-genitive as much as the next person who is not suitable for vegetarians to eat, what does the Society for the Promotion of the Reputation of Blood and Liver Sausages really have to offer me?

“Everyone is welcome with us,” insists Achatz, who says the membership ranks boast businesspeople, academics, service workers and retirees. “Our main problem,” he says, “is that only 200 Würstbegeisterte [literally: “those enchanted by sausages”] can fit in the venue.” Touché. And even I must admit I’d probably jostle in for a place among those 200 simply to belt out the Society’s official anthem, the first verse of which, apparently, goes like this:

Gott mit dir, du Land der Würste/God be with you, land of sausages
Voller Leber, voller Blut/Full of liver, full of blood!
Ach wie schmeckt ihr doch so köstlich!/Oh you are just so delicious!
Gschmackig, würzig, einfach gut!/Tasty, tangy, simply good!

Göttler, by the way, is also no fan of Angela Merkel, whom he describes as a Bazi, the Bavarian slur for hustler, racketeer or scallywag. “If she’s voted out,” he says, “there’s only one thing left to do: Banish her to Vienna,” where she’ll have to attend the legendary Opera Ball as “Girlie an der Seite” (literally “girlie on the side,” or arm candy) of Richard Lugner, the ancient Austrian jabillionaire and ostentatious jackass known for paying extravagant sums for the accompaniment of J-list starlets to high society’s marquee event. (In other words, he’s the 2002-era Austrian Donald Trump.)

A gratuitous shot of yours truly, as a tiny wrinkle-free baby grad student of 32 years of age, at the Vienna Technical University Ball in February 2009. My date was not Richard Lugner. It was a friend of mine named Björn. Image: Lana Link.

All right, Minister of Entrails, I was with you until now. You better watch your damn Würstbegeisterte mouth about Angela Merkel, possibly the most important worldwide figure in our current moment of Widerstandsgeschichte. Still, there’s probably a better chance of Merkel showing up at the Opera Ball with a spray tan and Richard Lugner on her arm than of a morsel of Blutwurst passing my lips. Long live the “slaughter plate” indeed.