What a soggy start to this morning, with thunder boomers and torrential rain and more of that ugly weather looming large. Sigh. Well at least the weather is not as bad as other parts of the country where they have alot of snow, tornadoes and tropical storms, so we are grateful for just rain.
This post hearkens back to my German heritage. I am Canadian but my father was German and my mother Canadian. My grandfather hailed from Quebec so there is a little French-Canadian blood coursing through my veins as well.
I don’t understand, speak or write German, but I can turn my German heritage on like a toggle button, just like any other ethnic-related holiday. I am American for your Thanksgiving, munching away on a slice of turkey breast and dressing with a spoonful of cranberry sauce. On St. Paddy’s Day I enjoy my version of corned beef and cabbage, albeit two slices of rye bread piled high with lean corned beef and a side dish of coleslaw, followed by lime green Jell-O for dessert. I’m not Irish, but I am for this holiday. I fix myself a plate of spicy Mexican food to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Oktoberfest will be no different. Today, I will celebrate this festive event, which occurs between September 21st and October 6th this year, with a bratwurst sitting on a bed of sauerkraut and a side dish of green beans and spaetzle. I will forego the apple strudel and have some apple-cinnamon yogurt instead (don’t tell anyone it is Greek yogurt though.)
I am no stranger to German fare. After marrying my father, my mother perfected her German cooking through the years and became a quasi-frau whipping up such favorites as wiener schnitzel, sauerbraten and potato dumplings. She made a sinful Black Forest Cherry Torte. Our family frequented Ray’s Prime Meats, a butcher shop that carried Dimpflmeier hearty German bread and every type of German sausage, or “wurst”, available. My father would make potato pancakes several times each Summer. He was relegated to the backyard to cook them, otherwise the smell of Crisco and frying potatoes permeated the entire house for weeks. My mother would peel a huge sack of potatoes while my father sat patiently hand-grating them (and skinning many a knuckle) for hours, then the patties were dropped into the hot grease in an electric skillet. We had to eat in stages as the hot, crispy, grease-laden potato pancakes were stacked onto a platter and taken quickly into the house to enjoy with a generous dollop of applesauce, while more potato pancakes were sizzling on the skillet outside. It was the only time growing up I can remember eating food with my fingers because I was brought up with the European dining method, i.e. only eating with knife and fork, not matter whether it was finger food or not.
When I was younger, I accompanied my parents to the Germania Club where Germans gathered and talked about the old country while they drank beer, ate alot of fattening food and watched a band where men pranced around in lederhosen and Tyrolean hats and women swung their hips in Alpine-style dirndl skirts with-crisscrossed bodices, puffy-sleeved blouses and had rosy cheeks and braided coiffures. This was the German way … alot of “oom-pah” music and dancing and accordion playing. My mom and I spoke no German and it was not much fun since everyone spoke German at the Club. Oh, sometimes they would speak to us in English when we first arrived, but as the evening wore on, and the beer flowed more freely, English was abandoned and the partygoers reverted to their native German tongue. Alas, there was always the food to try and enjoy.
If you’ve got a hearty appetite then you will enjoy delicious German food. When my parents and I visited my great Aunt and Uncle in Germany in 1979 we tried different German specialties every day for two weeks; there was good eating all around because Uncle Karl’s occupation had been as a chef on a train and he was eager to please and impress us with his culinary skills. He was a wonderful cook and loved making desserts for us from fruit trees he grew in his garden – plum kuchens, pear strudels … all topped with fresh pure whipping cream. We travelled through Austria with them and they wanted to have a large meal at mid-day and at night as well. They laughed at my mom and I who ate a large mid-day meal but opted to split a “wurstplatte” every night for dinner at each restaurant in every venue where we stopped. The platter was laden with at least a whole loaf’s worth of bread and no less than three dozen samples of different sliced sausages. Plenty to feed a family of four!! Germans like their food, their beer with friends in a biergarten and their music. It is the Teutonic way of life … this is probably why, when my parents discussed their only child learning to play an instrument, my father insisted I take accordion lessons. This photo above is me with my first, full-sized accordion, circa 1964. Such an ungainly musical instrument for such a little girl and I wonder if I was playing a German polka in this picture? Most likely I was playing “Lady of Spain”, a song in every accordion player’s repertoire. When we moved to the States there were no music conservatories offering accordion lessons so my studies were tabled and I haven’t played in years, so I’m likely not hooking up with any German bands anytime soon.