Imagine a dinner table filled with sausage, currywurst, and cheese spreads, surrounded by a number of students having conversations with one another in their foreign language of study: in this case, German. This is what happens every other Tuesday as German-speaking students gather together for a night of feasting and great conversation in German at “Dienstagsschmaus.” Junior Finnegan Cleary, president of German honorary Delta Phi Alpha, hosts this meal twice a month at his apartment.
“Our goal is to connect older students and professors with younger students who are starting to learn the language or have an interest in majoring or minoring,” Cleary said. “Typically, we’ll have a dinner and speak in German while we eat. This was our first semester with this event. It was my hope to create an event that would bind our honorary together with students and professors.”
According to Cleary, Nina Weiland, an exchange student from Saarland, came up with the name “Dienstagsschmaus.”
“The name ‘Dienstagsschmaus’ is a classic German composite bringing together Dienstag (Tuesday) and Schmaus (Feast),” explained Associate Professor of German Fred Yaniga, faculty advisor to the honorary.
Yaniga said German dinners are not as elaborate as the daytime meals. They typically consist of bread and sandwiches, as well as cheese and vegetables.
“Finn has done a nice job preparing sausages and Spätzele (German noodles) and other typically German meals,” he said.
Yaniga said the meals have provided lots of laughter and another way for German students to speak “Deutsch” with one another. The best part about the meals, he said, is that they have been a way to connect German students of all four classes with each other and the German professors. He said Finn Cleary and other officers in the honorary have done an amazing job of cooking special German food for the events.
“I was amazed by how fresh and light most of our meals were. The standard American conception of German food encompasses the classics: sausage, mustard, large glasses of beer. While those are present in Germany, there is a greater variety to the food and gusto for local specialties,” Cleary said. “Most of the food I had while in the country was prepared fresh, from local ingredients, with minimal nitrates or preservatives. Our honorary wanted to help provide that experience to students here at Hillsdale.”
Dienstagsschmaus even has received private donations.
“The ‘Dienstagsschmaus’ has been made possible by a generous donation from Lucas Wegmann, a great supporter of our college and a friend of the German department,” said Yaniga. He said he hopes that Dienstagsschmaus that will continue to be a tradition for the German department in the future.
German culture has a unique history of food, beyond that with which most Americans are familiar. As in all cultures, food is an important part for individuals to connect with each other. Meals are often ways for people to bond while enjoying good food.
“Food is an effective way to connect Americans with German culture,” he said. “It acts as a medium for transmitting values about the way Germans think about consumption which can be more sensitive than here in the States.”
A unique aspect of German food is its lack of preservatives, which is controlled by laws in Germany, according to Cleary. “The most famous of these kinds of laws would be the Reinheitsgebot, the law concerning what can and cannot be brewed in beer,” he said. “While the law dates back to early 16th century Bavaria, it continues today in a somewhat altered form. The philosophy behind this rests on German celebrations of tradition, efficiency, and modernization.”
Freshman Patrick Farrell visited Dienstagsschmaus and said he especially enjoyed Cleary’s currywurst. “They say the best way to learn a new language is to expose yourself to it as much as possible, and that’s exactly what Dienstagsschmaus does,” he said. “It’s fun to be able to engage yourself in conversation with friends while also sharpening your German skills.”
Freshman German students such as Farrell are able to see firsthand the benefits of being in DPA. “I would say that Dienstagsschmaus made me more interested in the Delta Phi Alpha honorary,” Farrell said. “The honorary does a great job in putting on events like Dienstagsschmaus, so if I were to continue on [with German], I would surely pursue joining Delta Phi Alpha.”