Food Memories and Traditions
What Does Food Mean to Me
Food has always been very important to me and I have always been very interested in it. Even when I was a little kid I would always be in the kitchen helping my mom. Whether I was pouring flour into cookie dough batter, spraying a cupcake pan with pam, or eating the leftover brownie batter, the different tastes and interesting flavors of food have always intrigued me. I noticed that different tastes and smells would trigger important memories for me. The repetition of certain meals helped me remember important moments in my life, this is why traditional meals have always stood out to me. A traditional meal that is very special to me is my grandpa’s homemade spaetzle,.
A traditional meal that stands out to me the most is my grandpa’s homemade spaetzle. Many people do not know what spaetzle is because it is very foreign. Spaetzle is a soft egg noodle or dumpling found in cuisines of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Hungary. It is a very unique dish because it can be prepared as a savory or a sweet entrée.
I remember the first time I ever laid eyes on it I was a little nervous to even try it. The noodles were a very odd shape and had an odd smell to them. They look like little larva worms with a light brown color to them. Without asking my grandpa would give me a large portion of the noodles and smile at me as I ate and tasted the delicious worm like noodles. The noodle would slowly melt in my mouth as I began to shove more into my mouth. The noodles were surprisingly addicting. I would not bother looking at the other food on my plate until all the noodles on my plate were gone.
I was so intrigued by this oddly named, weird looking, and delicious dish that I had to have more. My two younger sisters and I would ask my grandpa to make his special spaetzle every time we would see him, whether it was an important holiday or a random family gathering, we needed to have it. This is my favorite recipe because it always reminds me of him. My dad agreed with me by saying “If I had to pick one thing that I really loved to cook with him it was spaetzle, essentially a German dumpling. This is one of the reasons why I asked him to teach you, Kara and Grace to make them as well-need to have the tradition carry on.”
This last winter my grandpa grew very ill and we knew he didn’t have much time left with him. We had him come over to our house to have him prepare some of our favorite dishes. I, of course, asked him to show me how to make his homemade spaetzle. I read different versions of the recipe online but his was slightly different. According to my dad “His recipe is not written-down. Like a good chef is comes from practice and taste. This is why he taught us-so we can pass it down.” When he made his dough, he took a lot of time because he wanted to make sure it would be the perfect consistency. He would hand beat a couple eggs in a bowl and then he would slowly add in small amount of another mixture of flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg (his little special touch). The batter was a lot thinner than I expected it to be but this was because he liked to have the dough form a small noodle rather than a chunky dumpling. He would use his ancient strainer and slowly pour the batter in. The droplets of batter would fall into a boiling pot of salty water. The little noodles would float to the surface of the water and begin to cook. Since the noodles were so thin, they did not take very long to cook. He would then scoop the noodles out of the water and throw them into a sauté pan lined with butter and a little bit f garlic. This was my favorite way to eat them because the little doughy noodles would get caramelized by the copious amounts of butter.
My grandpa was very close to my family and not having him around makes the holidays a lot harder. He was a man of very few words, mostly because it was always so hard to understand him. He was fluent in 6 different languages, which gave him a very strange accent. The best way for him to speak was through his cooking. He taught me to appreciate the food that I ate. Food was meant to be simple and made with love. Through him I learned to be patient with food, the best meals take the most time and focus but it was always worth it.
I began to appreciate the time I had left with him. He taught me everything I know about German cooking. My family and I miss him dearly. The best way for me to remember him is by preparing his favorite dish, Spatzel.
Overall, food is very important to me because it has helped me remember the important moments in my life and has also provided me with the sense of community.
Copyright © 2015 Kate Clesle
Clesle, Kate, "Food Memories and Traditions" (2015). Iowa Narratives Project. 79.