Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Theme for Christmas of 2013

Every year, my mother-in-law wishes to do a theme for Christmas.  A few years ago, it was a Mexican theme and one year it was just a rainbow theme.  We always try to do something different to help break the monotony of the boring Christmas ham, yadda, yadda, yadda.  This year, while mulling around a few ideas, we turned down the Medieval themed meal for comfort food.   

It is a good idea, all in all.  Turn a meal, that traditionally has one person becoming a slave to the kitchen and making everything, into a meal that everyone makes their favorite items and brings them in.  This is exactly what Andrew Zimmern uses as the theme for his show.  You can learn so much about someone by sharing their favorite food or their favorite meals.  Some of the things we have to look forward to are Macaroni and Cheese, Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches and Ice Cream.  What did I pick?  Let me tell you a little story...

Long ago, my grandma used to cook a lot.  She was your regular, St. Louis style, German American woman.  She was born in 1923 in St. Louis, and even talked to me about when she was young, she worked at the Old Shoe Factory, down on Washington, before there were any stores, shops or even restaurants down there.  It is hard to think of how St. Louis actually was, almost 90 years ago, but it is true that a lot has changed in this time.  So, my grandma, whom had parents that had a farm, and then sold the farm to work in factories and manual labor, to provide food and education for their children, still taught the good values of their culture.  My grandma, since she was a woman, was required to learn to cook, so she could be in charge of feeding a family one day.

As far as 3 generations ago, including my grandparents, the ascendants were still born in Missouri.  Missouri was still Missouri, in the 1800's, and places like Rock Creek, Mattis and St. Ann still exist today, but have been consumed by the County.  In fact, some of my family, settled down on a nice piece of farmland, in Mattis, Missouri.  Mattis, is now only the name of a road, off of Tesson Ferry, near St. Anthony's Hospital.  My family, had the large farm with a small road to get to it.  The name of that road, is now Bauer Rd.  Anyway, with my family being in St. Louis, since the mid 1800's, you would figure that they would completely become American and lose all hopes and sense of identity: but this was not the case.  I think the best way to keep a culture or a history, is actually through food.  In this case, my grandmother continued to make German and Austrian style foods and meals, for our whole family.

My generation, has little or no idea of what my grandmother's generation went through.  My Generation X, has no culture, that we are fearing could be lost if we don't tell someone about it.  Moreover, in particular, my comfort food meal is Sauerbraten and Kartoffelkloesse.  I don't have a cool meal or food item that I can one day pass the recipe off to my kids and say, this is a piece of your heritage, because when my grandma wasn't cooking German food, my family was eating regular, cheap, unhealthy, American style, fast food.

Anyways..., when I was young, my grandma would only cook German food once a year.  She didn't cook much, normally because she only lived with my Grandfather and neither one of them would eat that much food.  A cool thing that my grandma did, was allow every one of her 3 children, to name a meal of their choice, and then when it was their birthday, she would create it and everyone would come over.  I don't know nor remember what my uncle and aunt had as their meals of choice.  I can tell you, that my father, had Sauerbraten and Kartoffelkloesse with Sweet and Sour Green Beans (I can't find the German name for this).  Everyone would sit at the dining room table, with my Grandfather at the head of the table and my Grandmother at his side corner.  The kids, myself included, would sit at the end, sharing the piano bench as an extra seat.  Now, every year, I would watch all of the grown ups, eat the fantastic food and the kids, like myself and my brothers, as we were the first grandchildren, would eat a scaled down version of normal pot roast and canned green beans.

Around 10 or so, I remembered that I thought it was time to try what the adults were raving about.  I told my dad that I didn't want the kid stuff, as I watched my older brother take each bite in utter delight.  I had myself a small piece of Sauerbraten, two large Kartoffelkloesse, smothered in gravy, and a large dinner roll.  I had the plate back in front of me, and reached into the dark colored meat with my fork, eager to try it.  It was delicious.  There was this tart, sour and bitter flavor that is so remarkable and goes well with the savory umami of beef that everything went together almost like a machine.  I well-oiled German machine. Well combined with the Kartoffelkloesse, which are basically large baseball sized potato dumplings, every bite reminds me of eating roast beef with some salt and vinegar potato chips.  You have such a unique and delicious flavor that both compliment each other so well.

So, what are you doing for Christmas?          

No comments:

Post a Comment