Well, the peppermint sticks were a disaster. They were neither sticks nor pepperminty. Rather, after substituting lemon extract for peppermint, forgoing what was a crystal-stabilizing key ingredient (lemon juice), and having the evening’s dinner of roast chicken reach temperature at exactly the same time as the sugar mixture, my helpers (Herr R and our friend Enno,) and I had quite the little scurry around the kitchen before our candy turned into one big chalky lump. A hard pile of lemon dust, it was, which would have been pretty perfect for bashing into bits to mix with ice cream or other holiday confectionery except for the lemon part. It tasted like chalky furniture polish.
The good news is that no one burned anything, except for Enno burning his tongue and my God man I warned you about that like a billion times.
The failed candy-making wasn’t a huge surprise, and I’ll try another batch today after a trip to the serious, farther-than-walking-distance grocery store, and the kitchen is already cleaned up with no sticky spots anywhere, so let’s move on to more fun types of surprises.
We went to visit Herr R’s parents last weekend, and on the first morning I woke up and went to the kitchen. There I found Herr R’s mum getting breakfast ready while munching on a nice cold bowl of sauerkraut. She apologized, and I laughed and asked if I could have some. I love sauerkraut, but had never eaten it cold and it had certainly never occured to me to eat it first thing in the morning. Hers was very fresh, so the cabbage was still crispy, and was the perfect balance of zingy and crunchy and sweet. She gets it from the same local farmer who she buys her sausage from (the farmer raises the food for the pigs, raises the pigs, and makes from them beautiful dry, smoked sausages that are everything a dry, smoked sausage should be.) She keeps it in a pot in the fridge and refills the pot when she goes to the sausage maker. This fresh sauerkraut is just cabbage and salt, with no caraway or bay or onion added. Her Polish housekeeper suggested adding whole coriander seeds to the fresh kraut if it were going to be eaten cold because coriander is good for the digestion. Stroke of genius: the seeds soften a bit after a day in the sauerkraut, and are fresh, herby, and still a little crunchy. Dynamite.
You know how every once in a while you eat a carrot or some squash or a beet and it tastes surprisingly good and feels like it’s zooming through you right to your cells? Like it’s going to light you up and make you more colorful than you were before you ate it? Like you must have been deficient in every vitamin it contains, and now you’re back, baby, and ready to remember to eat it more often in the future? Cold, coriander-spiked sauerkraut for breakfast was like that for me last week. Even though I felt fine before I ate it, it cured what ailed me and I’ve been feeling superfine since then.
Besides the yumminess and the positive health effects of the sauerkraut surprise, I love that eating it in the kitchen before anyone else wakes up is exactly the kind of food wierdness that I expect from my family. Adding coriander to the mix reminds me of Doris, the woman who took care of us and our meals when we lived in Peru in the 1980’s. She told Dad not to eat fish when he had a scraped knee (or any other open wound,) and whoa she was right.
I know that the pregnancy hormones are kicking in, and I’m a little stuck on food as it is, but damned if some cold sauerkraut with my mother in law in the morning doesn’t make Germany feel a lot more like home.