Let’s talk about surprising combinations and knightly virtues. But first, a pop quiz. Quick, give me one good reason to go to Milwaukee in February. Times up. If you said Mader’s, you’re this week’s winner of the Paul Bunyan rip-saw speed-dial useless trivia contest. Your prize is the coveted magic Oklahoma icicle tiara which, by the time you claim it, will be in a cup. The original Mader’s is one of the world’s truly great restaurants and has been a magnate for lovers of German food for over a century. When I ducked in there a few years ago to get out of a bone cracking February wind, l learned something about surprising combinations.
See, everybody knows there are some things that just naturally go together, like, say, fresh peach pie and ice cream, Brooks and Dunn, high definition and instant replay, Smith &Wesson, Chivas and Regal. I could go on but you see my point.
On the other hand, there are some combinations that you just can’t make work, like Tabasco and watermelon. Then there are surprises like a sprinkle of salt on fresh pineapple.
Well, the waiter at Mader’s, I think his name was Hans or Fritz or something, talked me into a lunch plate of schnitzel, purple sauerkraut, German potatoes and black bread. No problem there. But the beverage he recommended was raspberry and beer. Naturally I balked. But ole Hans or Fritz or whatever promised I’d like it and if I didn’t, he’d bring me something more to my taste--like buttermilk or soda pop or something.
To this day, that lunch at Mader’s is one of the top five dining experiences of my life. Who would guess that raspberry beer could adds such a nice touch to a solid German lunch. Now here’s where knightly virtue comes in.
The walls of Mader’s are lined with suits of armor and plaques that identify the knights who wore them and, in some cases, the ancient battles where they saw action. What a bonus for an overgrown kid who has an antique lithograph of Sir Galahad at the head of his stairs!
The reason all this comes to mind is that yesterday (March 4) is the 816th anniversary of the death of one of the greatest knights who ever lived. He was no myth. He was a real man. He gave up the study of religion to answer the call to battle in the Crusades. He was known throughout the Christian world for his courage, his mercy to the vanquished, his generosity to the poor, his fidelity to his word, his hospitality to his enemies and his piety.
On one occasion, he sent one of his own horses to replace the steed that was killed from under a brave enemy knight. When an enemy king fell ill, he sent his personal physician to assist in the cure. When an infant was stolen from an enemy camp, the distraught mother appealed to him for help. He took pains to locate the child, ransomed it with his own money and reunited it with the tearful mother.
A Muslim fundamentalist group called the Hashshashin (from which we get the word “assassin”) made two attempts on his life. One came so near to success that this great Knight was wounded in the attempt
When he died on March 4, 1193 and his treasury was opened, he had given so much of his wealth to the poor that there wasn’t enough left for his funeral. Kaiser Wilhelm II had a suitable tomb built on which a wreath was placed which read, “A knight without fear or blame who often had to teach his opponents the right way to practice chivalry.” Our knight’s name was Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, Saladin in the west. He was a devout Sunni Muslim born in Tikrit Iraq. In the words of one Christian chronicler, “It is equally true that his generosity, his piety devoid of fanaticism, that flower of liberality and courtesy which had been the model of our old chroniclers, won him no less popularity in Frankish Syria than in the lands of Islam.”
For what it’s worth, I haven’t found another personality, whether Christian or Muslim who was so well regarded by all sides of battles for the Holy Land. Goes to show. You don’t have to be a Christian knight to be a paragon of knightly virtue. Try the raspberry beer.
I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
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Thu, March 5, 2009
by Michael Hinkle