Polka is one of those things most people won’t cop to liking. At least they didn’t when I was a kid. It was the music of geeks- played on the accordion with a blank smile, glasses taped up in the middled and your pants pulled up to your sternum. And then came Weird Al Yankovic and polka still wasn’t cool, but at least people knew what it was.
When my sister’s nanny, a lovely young woman from Uruguay, was married to a wealthy Polish businessman, my parents learned to dance the polka for the wedding. Even now, when my parents are out and someone strikes up a polka they will hit the floor. It’s a graceful dance- and yet to me it always seems like an overly energetic waltz performed by caffeinated squirrels.
A recent trip to Max Blob’s Bavarian Biergarten in Jessup reminded me why people end up coming back to polka every time. Max Blob’s is a famly joint set up like the local community center lined with picnic tables and a bar lining one whole corner. The room is dominated by a dance floor with a stage that will give you junior high flashbacks, especially when they crank up the disco ball.
On a Sunday evening there were families piled around the tables. At one point 3 generations got up to pose for a photo in front of The Rheinlanders, the house band. Yup, it’s a family joint. The dances ranged from the Chicken Dance, a perennial fave attended by women of all ages, a few elderly men, and several toddlers who drew adoring “oohs” and “ahs” from the crowd. I had to sit down after that- I hate competition.
Another thing about the polka ethos is the food. It’s delicious and very very bad for you. Next time you see a polka band in action, notice that all the members are very round and also very happy.
Why? Well, German food is delicious.
Sauerbraten, for example, is a miracle of meat- brisket in vinegar. Sounds vile, tastes decadent. And of course sauerkraut is the best thing to happen to cabbage since hotdogs… or something. And don’t get me started on jager schnitzel. I’ve decided it’s someone’s way of laughing at the carb challenged. Veal with cream sauce. Who’d a thunk it was so yummy?
And the beer. Or rather, the “bier”. Oh my. My grandmother came to Ellis Island, NY from Deutschland with her family when she was 11 years old. She gave me 2 things: her name and an affinity for bier. (Can’t prove the latter conclusively, but I’ve been told it’s a German thing, so why not?) I didn’t really like beer until my father started brewing his own- he made the best ambers and in college everyone was drinking light beers, which don’t exactly fit the bill tastewise. I love a good amber microbrew and Dunkel fits the bill perfectly. They claim to have 70 different biers in stock, which means I have to go back as I’ve only tried two of them.
But in the end, when you are stuffed to the gills with dumplings and meat, and flaccid looking greenbeans (sorry folks, but green veggies are not great here) the best part is the polka.
Couples of all ages- or at least the ones between 50 and 80-something- wheeling along the floor, laughing and smiling. Men and women gazing into each others eyes adoringly, “Remember when we first did this?” “Do I! You were the more beautiful girl on the floor. Still are.” And twirl and prance in that delicate way that people have when care is gone.
That’s polka, and I like it.
Note: Max Blob’s closes and opens with frightening regularity. Google before you go.