Foods for Thoughts

American and European Customs and Cooking Flavored

               with Autobiographical Anecdotes                  

by Carolesweb

 

                                                                                

                                                                               

                                                                                                       

 

The size of my kitchen never played a role in the quality
of the food I cooked.


Even now in our 19th century farmhouse in Germany
where we have lived for the past 30 years the kitchen
is an all purpose room where cooking is only one of many activities.
But Lothar is a sculptor and a tool expert
and has made sure that our kitchen utensils are only the best.
So we have an array of very sharp Japanese Santoku knives,
which he regularly sharpens on a special stone.
A Japanese friend of mine who travels a lot
said she never goes anywhere without her knives.
I laughed at first, and then took care not to anger her
just to be sure that the knives were meant only for cooking,
until I tried them.
Now we also don’t go anywhere without them.
German pots and pans, American Kitchen Aid mixer,
Italian pasta fixings, French Le Creuset and soufflé and quiche ceramics.
They mirror the extent of our travels and our international tastes.


But I grew up in America, and every food product had some
kind of advertisement glued to it,
praising its worth above all others.
My dear brother David, as I think I already said,
could really bug me sometimes.
And could be very persistent.
I was sitting alone in our kitchen in Massapequa
one evening, reading.
That was a big kitchen, and I liked being alone.
David did not like being alone and now I was his prey.
One cupboard at a time was opened and he presented me
with with the epitome of the adverts for Campbell soup,
Bumblebee tuna, Smuckers jam, and Buotoni tomato sauce.
He was 15 and only at the beginning of the flexing of his
funny muscles.
A few years later he did a summer job as a bartender
and collected tips for his jokes like Bill Cosby.
But before that he created some of his own characters.
There were a bunch, but I can only remember Halfmouth and
Larry the Heckler. Larry commented everything with „O yeah“.
My first trip outside the US was with my parents and David and my sister
Elisa to Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago.
Mmm, Barbados rum with Caribbean fruits.
My father was a terrible traveler and made everybody
around him unhappy.
My mother loved traveling.
We kids were just bored.
To pass time Sam found a guide to show us around the Island
and Sam as always was giving the guide more information than receiving it.
And this poor guy commented each of Sam’s remarks with „O yeah“
and David and I dissolved into laughter each time.
The wonderful American idiom for it is, we cracked up.
Later in life his joking got less.
He became an well respected almost famous thoracic surgeon
at Brompton Hospital in London.
Not an easy job as he said,
since his personal skills determined life or death.
I was very proud of him.


Often enough I flew over from Germany to share time and
various meals together.
My first Indian food was an incredible taste experience.
Pub food and English beer, fish and chips
Once we had English bagels which are a wreck,
small hard wrinkled somethings.
And David’s offer of „ do you want Manchester bagels or Liverpool bagels“
didn’t make them, except for a laugh, any better.
Ah, bagels.


Yeasted bread dumplings cooked shortly in water and baked.
My grandfather Bernie said the only way to eat them is
to cover them thickly (2cm) with cream cheese,
Nova Lox, and thinly sliced raw red onions.
And if that is not enough,
white fish, pickled herrings, scrambled eggs on the side.
Living in Germany I realized that pretzels are actually bagels
with a knot instead of a hole, with the addition of Baker’s lye
to the cooking water instead of honey.
My baker friend Manuel who comes from Nigeria
and bakes a fantastic wholegrain bread and still has a wonderful laugh
and loves speaking English with me instead of German,
won’t bake pretzels because of the lye.
So you can replace it with baking soda.
They don’t get as brown- otherwise delectable.
David’s favorite. He ate them pure.
Here they are served best thickly spread with butter
and dry smoked ham (Schinken)
Make your favorite bread or pizza dough.
There are two very important things ensuring success.
Let the dough rise for at least an hour, shape and let rise for another 30 minutes.


And my latest discovery is this- -
After shaping, place them on individual squares of baking paper.
This facilitates slipping them later into boiling water
without touching them, avoiding collapse and disappointment.
For years I ate them anyway.
Cook the bagels or pretzels in boiling water
with a tablespoon of honey or baking soda for 30 seconds on each side.
Put them back onto the baking paper squares, swipe with egg, sesame,
poppy seed, or course salt to taste
and bake for 15-20 minutes at 200’.

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Amazing! I never knew how bagels were actually made - really interesting! And never heard of baker's lye, either. Welcome back from Norway, Carole, and keep your wonderful stories and recipes coming! So enjoyable!

Sharon

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One of my favourite Sunday breakfasts!

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Next time we meet we should do it together

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Love this recollection...witty, poignant; I want one of those mouth watering pretzels. Another item that seems to be ubiquitous around here, but not the right taste.

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