[Sca-cooks] Meanderings on family histories and foods

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Sun May 20 07:00:13 PDT 2007

On May 20, 2007, at 4:19 AM, Huette von Ahrens wrote:

> Well, my mother, whose parents were German immigrants and good  
> Lutherans to boot, would
> make creamed eggs on toast after Easter using up all the hard  
> boiled Easter eggs she had
> made for us kids.  Mom never used paprika on this dish, but it did  
> have black pepper in it,
> so that it wasn't just a bland egg/cream sauce dish.

You know, it's kind of funny: there are people who'd just assume  
adding pepper, and/or even paprika (which is, of course, a capsicum  
"pepper") wouldn't even come close to de-blandifying cream sauce, and  
I'm more like, "cream sauce is bland??? you must be doing something  
wrong..." As I get older (yeah, like I'm 6000 in this bunch) I find  
myself becoming more interested in essential flavors. More  
simplicity, more focus, more power. But I remember my first exposure  
to some northern German cookery, from actual Germans who had  
immigrated post WWII, and finding it un-be-_LIEV_-ab-ly bland. Yes,  
this pea soup is spicy. It has ham in it. ;-) That was ~ 25 years  
ago, and today I might even entertain the concept as a valid basis  
for argument, and not merely meaningless sounds that might have some  
accidental resemblance to words in English.

But thinking back, we often added black pepper to foods at the table  
(salt, not so much, because we were taught it was considered kind of  
an insult to the cook, and because my mom -- also generally the cook  
-- would rake us over the coals and quote obscure health statistics  
for six hours). Paprika wasn't added at the table, but it might show  
up as a garnish on the comparatively few baked-casserole-type dishes  
we were served.

>   I can still remember the taste of
> this with the soft and creamy eggs on a toasted and buttered piece  
> of white bread.  Sigh.
> My mother and grandmother would use hard-boiled eggs in their  
> potato salad, but they didn't
> do a creamed egg and potato hot dish.

When we say "hot dish", is this a casserole, or just a dish that was  
hot? We had our potatoes on the side...

>   For the potato salad, they would make a
> mayonnaise/cream/mustard/sweet pickle relish emulsion to bind the  
> potatoes and eggs together.
> And on hot summer days, they would also add cubed ham and cubed  
> cheese to make a cool, one
> dish meal.
> Huette

Yeah, that sounds right. My Aunt Ruth was the official potato-salad  
guru of the family, and the unfortunate reality was that while she  
lived, it was generally considered unnecessary for anyone else to  
know how to make good German potato salad. Of course, she passed away  
with no proper passing of the torch, so I've had to reconstruct some  
missing data. [I live in fear that when I am gone, no one in my  
family will be able to make good mashed potatoes.] I'm happy to  
report that after years of expensive culinary school and even more  
years of brutally ruthless interrogation of little old ladies in  
places like Wilkes-Barre, PA, I can honestly say my potato salad  
isn't too bad, and may some day be almost right. Which reminds me, I  
need some more cellophane and a new bucket...

My aunt was of the "sour cream and mayo" school; most of my contacts  
do the "add-vinegar-while-potatoes-are-still-hot" thing, then mayo,  
mayo and sour cream, or, I suppose, mayo-and-sweet-cream, on the  
rationale that the added vinegar would probably make them largely  
indistinguishable anyway. Occasionally egg would be added, but not  
ham. I'm wondering if maybe this was a transplanted regional  
tradition, and perhaps the natural inclination would be to add  
herring, thus terrifying the children, and consequently, no protein  
garnish other than egg. But that's pure speculation on my part...

I've suddenly been struck, as if by a sort of culinary thunderbolt,  
that we never even thought of a "boiled dressing" in this context,  
and that I have no idea if this concept is known anywhere in Europe.  
It actually would make a lot of sense in, for example, food-rationed  
post-WWII England...


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