War of The Wings and Other Favorite Things…

A Long Time Ago

Before the so-called Chicken Wars on social media and YouTube videos, celebrities eating hot wings, before Colonel Sanders shot a rival and put the chicken in a big bucket before there were fistfights and shootings over a chicken sandwich before some idiot dreamed a sexual fantasy of hot wings served by women in skimpy outfits. In the town of Frankenmuth, Michigan although they won’t tell you a street divides a feud that started in Germany and came over to Michigan. That is the feud of the Francioans (Zenders) and Baviaians (Bavarian Inn) one that got so bitter in Germany and Europe that many left to the Midwest when the Holy Roman Empire sided with Francoians and Bavarians wanting to declare their land separate from Germany even today.

During the Thirty Years War Germany was not one whole Germany or even a unified country, it was divided into Ductches, Catholics, and Lutherans which is who the first settlers of Frankenmuth were. After the war in what is now Germany all in one piece, Bavaria had a wolf and pig problem which inspired the Grimms Little Red Riding Hood but the Francoians inspired Hansel and Gretal because around that period famines lead to an epidemic of multiple witch hunts.

And then Gretal tossed the witch in her oven…

Many of the Gimm’s Tales were told by old women to help children cope with a terrible time. Imagine a time where you only saw by a lamp, the printing press was the Facebook of its time, the list was written about the victims burned and their occupations in a book, strange people knocking on doors for food, children working dangerous jobs like mining. These were all things that inspired the Brothers Grimm that happened.

Snow White is based on Maria Sophia von Erthal a daughter of a Baron who lived in Bavaria who feared a stepmother with a mirror that, “Allways told the truth” and fled to the mining town of Bieber where miners for copper were of small stature and wore bright hoods much like many depictions of them including Disney’s version which nailed that the dwarfs were actual child laborers who mined copper, not diamonds. Copper was also a metal common in the Great Lakes States because of a geological phenomenon on the west side of Michigan where lighting melts sand and rock into the vein of copper. Walt Disney chose the story of Snow White out of familiarity with the story after seeing a Silent film from 1916, Snow Whites' coffin is also a reference to the German film Metropolis by Fritz Lang along with the magic position room and poison apple. Not only did Walt borrow from German Expressionism and Sturm und Dram theater but his rivals Warner Brothers and Fleischer Studios (whose Swing You Sinners inspired an indie game called Cuphead) not only learned from the art but brought over German immigrants, migrants, and refugees to help create and elevate Animation into the Golden Age

However, if it weren't for one man we would never have the innovations made by a man starving and drawing alone inside what is now a grocery store we would not have the influence and impact the Golden Age created for artists who challenged the old guard, hired a gay man, and explored other styles, techniques, and art styles. Ub Iwerks created Mickey Mouse in sheer poverty and was mad when a young boy said, “Mister Disney draw Mickey Mouse!”. No matter what he made Walt twisted and took credit for and did the same to the Fletchers who were struggling finatualy and moved to California to escape union protest and go to war with Disney. Warner Brothers did something radical, they unionized their workers, fought the Hays Code, moved them out of Termite Terrace, and many people who worked for Iwerks became directors and even staunch members of the Union Movement. One of them was draftsman Chuck Jones who built a working guillotine to a Disney Union Protest in the 1940s which after the war revealed Walt’s true Techicolors. Walt put animators he called family on a blacklist, joined people like McCarthy, funded anti-Semitic groups, and was friends with the filmmaker of Triumph of the Will considered the greatest piece of propaganda in the ranks of Birth of a Nation, and Gone With the Wind.

The story of Walt Disney is about how companies craft stories only for us like Dorthy to look behind the curtain and see a crooked man. This is something a new school of German sociologists called the Frankfurt am Main school of sociology was warning so many people of so that fascism and fascist imagery would not happen again. Yet many tropes in media borrow heavily from the propaganda that is harmful not only to Jewish and Muslim communities but to German Americans too. Recently on Jon Stewart's show, he commented during the events of author J.K.Rowling’s transphobic tweets on how the Goblins running the bank Gringotts are akin to Nazi cartoons and essays such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Frankenmuth may craft a narrative of Michigan's Little Bavaria when the town’s name means Fraconian Strong. The food of both Germans and German Americans is a tale of survival, conflict, tradition, and for those traditions and customs to be protected both nationally and worldwide. Volksmusik is still called Polka Music, Jodeln, Landler, Gzstanzl, and Schueplattler, are still not a Unesco protected and archived custom or form of singing according to music textbooks and sites and towns like Gasen, Zillertal, and others that have the largest influence on the genre that are the foundation of Dutchman, Early Jazz, Swing, Pop, and Country Music are still not considered protected by Unesco because of their place in music history.

Bavarian Inn where I had so many birthdays as a child stands strong because of two women Linda Lee an IPA Hall of Famer and Dorthy Zehnder who is now 100 years old. Too many leaders in both the Music and Restaurant fields have been dominated by men and yet their families have fought back large retailers and corporations including Polka Music itself. So many people in kitchens across Michigan can’t replicate what makes the chicken good. The skin crunches like a butter cookie, it melts like a cracker, when fresh the meat is lightly moist and white including the dark meat and it’s never oily or greasy. The secret is seasoned butter that is coated onto the chicken, then coated with flour and crumbles of ground breadcrumbs, then is put into a vat of vegetable oil that is light and on high with a good eye.

The Frankenmuth vats are no longer a secret and each piece has a special holder for an easy drain instead of a greasy basket. For my favorite part the drumstick they do not plop into the fryer they clamp and stick their foot first with a careful eye on the color. This style of frying involves color is the indication of when it is ready, compared to Southern cooking where it is larded, heavily flowered, crumbly, and put into a pot of oil and fat watching time and pressure.

So much of German food has a frying process because like beir frying, fermenting, and boiling was how you got rid of foodborne illness and diseases like Coleria, Ecoli, and was the easiest way to get rid of an animal with an illness or massive spreaders like smallpox which is why we have so many kinds of Sausage or Wurst. Some German Americans would mix worse and wurst together to make a play on word of a common German expression, “Ist Alle wurst” meaning “I don’t know”. Another is the slang for psychologist head-shrink coming from Koffschranker meaning you are organizing your thoughts in your head closet.

Even food we hold dear to as Americans are part of German cuisine. The hot dog is most likely a pork or beef Frankfurt or Veienawurst, Henry Heinz chose Tomato Ketchup because of German's palate for Currywurst sauce a mix of tomato paste and curry that they missed at home, So many of our deserts feature a sour apple mixed with Allspices, sugar, and caramelized in an oven, and Milton Hershy modeled his famous chocolate bar off of the German fudge making process which can be seen at Murdick's at the River Place. Also, it is German taboo not to serve or have bread in the house which is why so many restaurants regardless of nationality have some kind of bread even in Asian restaurants. Not having bread of some kind meant poverty and famine which is why in the Grimm’s Hansel and Gretal the mother and father send them off with their last loaf of bread because the bread was not only food but a piece of wealth after the Thirty Years War.

Dairy and cheese are also treated as a natural blessing and a gift which is why in spring and summer cows are dressed with flowers and crowns like circus elephants and are even blessed by a town priest. Volks and Jodelleids have many themes surrounding farming. One example is the Volksleid Da Grossvatersaat (The Old Man Seed) which was popularized by the German Elvis Bugzi. In which the seeds are a metaphor for age groups of people and their lifespan.

“Stars shine forever in heaven above the circle of life is the circle of love”

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Christina Bishop

Christina Bishop

Tuba player, creator of Struwwelkinder and The Flying Circus Orchestra