Today’s post is inspired by the fact that this weekend is week two of a hometown tradition in the town my husband grew up in. Every year the local Christian school hosts a fund-raising effort called Schmeckfest. The translation is something like ‘festival of tasting’ so, of course, food is one of the main events. This has been going on for 50 years now and just keeps getting bigger. There are exhibits and booths at which you can sample and buy traditional German-Russian foods most of which I will not attempt to spell. There is sausage, both smoked and regular, you can watch them make it right there. Peppernuts, which are tiny little hard cookies traditionally spiced with anise seed, although you can now get them in many different flavors (my favorite being butter brickle). Then there are rosettes, those delicious greasy deep fried flowers of batter dusted with powdered sugar. And a bake sale table array of various desserts.
After all this tasting you can also sit down to a traditional German meal served at long tables in the high school cafeteria by a team of volunteer servers and cleaners (my husband is a table clearer tonight) who operate with drill-team like precision to serve at least a thousand people a night. There are two types of soup, bean and…something else. Sausage, of course. Stewed beef. Cheese buttons, which sound more interesting than they really are. Pluma moos, which I recommend passing on, and kuchen, of which I recommend eating as much as you possibly can. None of these are traditional foods from my childhood, but for many people they are nostalgia wrapped up in a hefty dose of calories.
This, of course, got me thinking about the traditional foods of my childhood. Shoo-fly pie (seriously, pass, it’s dry and not that good). Trail bologna and Swiss cheese platters at every potluck (bears no resemblance to the bland slices of store-bought bologna nor have I ever found comparable Swiss cheese in any store). Pork and sauerkraut for New Year’s, cooked in the slow cooker with brown sugar and apple slices.
Clearly I don’t remember that many traditional foods. But then there were the family staples. Liver and onions. I’m actually one of the few people I know who actually liked that as a child, although now I don’t think I could begin to eat it, much less prepare it. Beef tongue sandwiches. Again, I liked it as a child, now I’m thinking “I ate a cow’s TONGUE!” Just thinking of the texture now gives me shivers. Chicken livers in gravy. Are you detecting a theme here? I drew the line when my mom served us calf brains. I will go to my grave never knowing what those taste like, and not feeling that I’ve missed out in the least.
When you bring two people with different food traditions together as a couple there are bound to be some missteps and some compromises. One day while I was still a student my husband offered to cook supper. Orange chicken and rice. I, of course, was picturing the Chinese version of this dish and spent the day anticipating it. Imagine my surprise to find that orange chicken in HIS family was rice and chicken baked with a can of tomato soup and a can of cream of mushroom soup. I make it for him on occasion because I love him, but my level of love for this dish is pretty low.
And then there was the time we tried to make his beloved cheese pockets. (Also known as vareniky and some other name I can’t remember.) Cheese pockets are little fried turnovers filled with dry curd cottage cheese and I think some chopped onions, typically served with ham gravy. Different communities in the Midwest have their own variation, some boil and then cook them on a griddle. I will confess I do dearly love their deep fried goodness. At any rate, it is one thing to make them in the Midwest, where stores sell dry curd cottage cheese, another entirely to make them in Virginia where you have to try to drain regular cottage cheese. Partway into our messy, unsuccessful attempt and one of our first marital blow-ups we decided that family harmony was more important than tradition, threw it all in the trash and ordered pizza instead. Now we rely on his mother to make them.
Of course, one of the joys of being an adult faced with the responsibility of feeding a family is the ability to shape your own view of eating and attempt to mold new food traditions. I find myself looking more and more at the health aspects of the foods that we eat, as well as the environmental impact. This is leading me towards less processed foods, growing my own garden, and trying to lean more on a vegetable/whole grain based diet. I’m continually learning new things that have me reevaluating what we eat. Currently I’m reconsidering our consumption of pork (this will be a revelation to my husband). As I look into the WHY of God declaring it an unclean meat I’m stunned by the information I’m coming across regarding pork and health. I’m still struggling with whether or not as a Christian we are supposed to be trying to follow Torah, but the health impact alone is worth a trial run of giving up pork. (Um, so no Schmeckfest sausage this year…)
Of course, the main problem in shaping a family’s food philosophy is convincing the rest of the family that it is for the best. Sometimes you let them make their own decisions (I’m looking at your Diet Coke, my dear). But when those people are your children it’s not so much their decision because left to their own devices they would probably eat nothing but cookies, pizza and chicken nuggets. I used to believe that it was completely within my control as to whether my children would be picky eaters or not. After following the same tactics with two children and getting two different results I have modified my views substantially. Left long enough, Indy will often at least taste a new food on his plate, and will quite frequently like it enough to eat several bites. Gates will not try a new food until he is ready in his own mind to do so. That old saying “They’ll eat if they are hungry?” He would starve first. This week was a good one, he actually tried two new foods, sloppy joe sauce and lasagna. He would not eat the potatoes I oven baked to look like french fries. It’s a growth process.
Now that I’ve rambled on far beyond the definition of ‘quick’ takes, it is time to go do the grocery shopping. One of my least favorite tasks when I have to make several stops as I do today. Made less so because Indy will be along and we all know what shopping with a four year old is like.
For more Quick Takes visit Jen at Conversion Diary!