Who has visited the world famous Oktoberfest knows of the significance pork plays for the German cuisine. One of the most popular forms of preparing pork is the Schweinebraten (roast pork). It is most often prepared with parts of the back or the neck of the animal and is eaten in all parts of the country.
Pigs were one of the first animals to be domesticated. Humans were already keeping them nine thousands years ago for the production of meat and leather. While its meat is not considered kosher or halal in Islam and Judaism respectively, pork is still one of the most consumed meats in huge parts of the world.
In the area which today is Germany pigs were mainly kept as sacrifice animals in antiquity. On the beginning of winter, the Julfest on December 21, Germany and Celts sacrificed a pig and friends and family were invited to dine on roast pork. From this time the notion of a pig as a symbol of luck still survives. Also in the Greek and Roman culture pigs were considered sacrifice animals and important food suppliers. In the Roman Empire the consumption of pork spread to regions were it was not domesticated earlier or other meat was more popular. On the hispanic peninsular the number of slaughtered pigs per year doubled shortly after the roman conquest. In the parts of Germany occupied by the Roman Empire the natives were confronted with advanced ways to breed animals and pigs became a more commonly used food source.
With the spread of Christianity the exalted position of pigs in the pagan religions was transferred to the newly predominant religion. Even today the saint Anthony the Great is attributed with a pig and on his feast day, at least in early christianity and the early Middle Ages, pork was eaten. During the entire middle ages pork and meat in general were reserved for the upper classes and nobility. When the poor had the possibility to eat meat it was beef. Nevertheless pork kept an imported role and was often eaten on special occasions. The slaughtering days were usually used to hold local feasts. In some regions of the German Empire it became a custom to steal the head of a freshly slaughtered pig and then prepare it for neighbours, family and friends. This procedure is called Sautanz (Dance of/for the pig) and is still practiced in some rural areas, mainly in the south of Germany.
Schweinebraten could be found on any table in the upper society during the Middle Ages, but it was only in the 19th century that pork became affordable for the masses. Since then it became one of the most popular dishes in Germany. Almost every federal state has its own variation of the Schweinebraten and is (sometimes) considerably proud of it. Popular versions are for example the Schweinshaxe or Eisbein which both use parts of the leg. In 2010 the average German consumed more than 50 kilogram of pork. Not all of these were prepared in the form of a Schweinebraten, but it surely is a significant part. At the Oktoberfest alone 78.000 servings of Schweinebraten are eaten every year.
Image 1: http://www.wikiart.org/en/pieter-bruegel-the-elder/peasant-wedding-1568, accessed July 25, 7.17 p.m.
Image 2: (http://images.bigoven.com/image/upload/v1419113529/roast-pork-loin-with-bacon-and-brow.jpg, accessed July 25 7.25 p.m.)