In case you missed the sauerkraut making adventure, I will note for you that I am of German descent. Thanks to my dad’s military service in Germany, my mother and he lived there for several years, and my oldest brother was born there. Dad’s eyes still dance when he talks about seeing Mom step off the plane in her sassy green dress to meet him. What Mom talks about is the gin and tonic she ordered on the plane so that she could tolerate the very vocal Baptist preacher’s wife seated next to her. Apparently, “That shut her up.” Mom also talks about being young and scared in her stopover hotel room, listening to the race riots in Philadelphia going on outside.
While I can’t say that I speak German, a few phrase in the language weren’t uncommon in our home. Mom and Dad still refer to each other as “Schatzi”, which is a German term for “sweetheart” or, technically, “little treasure”. (Yeah, I know. I want one.)
One of my fondest memories is hearing my grandmother pray in a language in which I could only pick out bits and pieces. Of course, she also thought it was funny to call me thick in German. She was of a transitional generation – grandparents who spoke only German and grandchildren who spoke only English.
We didn’t eat a ton of German food at home when I was growing up, but a few dishes will always standout. Schnitzel and noodles will always be a favorite of mine. It was until I wasn’t considerably older that I learned to appreciate cabbage-based dishes. I wouldn’t touch homemade sauerkraut for years, but my oldest brother and cousin used to take jars back to their college dorm to supplement cafeteria fare and “prevent scurvy.” It took some time for me to acquire a taste for Mom’s slaw as well, probably because, in general, I wasn’t nearly as big of fan of vegetables as I now am.
I’ve never been served German-style slaw by anyone outside my extended family. I recently did an internet search which turned up a few similar recipes. I’ve learned to love it. Zesty and less heavy than cole-slaw, its vinegar and oil dressing make it much more cookout and picnic friendly. No mayo in sight. I love it on barbecue. It lasts about two weeks in the fridge. Mom says the original recipe called it freezer-friendly, and, although we never freeze it, my aunt does on a regular basis.
A good, sharp chef’s knife will quickly take care of shredding the cabbage and chopping the vegetables, but if you are making a particularly large batch, some type of electric slicer/shredder is handy. I don’t recommend pre-cut slaw mixes as most are too fine to hold up to the dressing and not nearly as fresh. You can easily adjust the mix to suit your tastes and for what you have on hand. The recipe below is for a lightly-dressed slaw. Just increase the ingredients, keeping the proportions the same, if you prefer more dressing.
1 head of cabbage, shredded (about 1.5 lbs or 12 cups)
1 carrot, grated or cut into fine strips
1/2 small green bell pepper, cut into fine strips
1/4 medium onion, finely sliced
1/2 cup cooking oil (something with little flavor, like canola)
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Celery seed, salt, and pepper to taste
Combine oil, vinegar, and sugar and heat until sugar dissolves. Allow to cool to lukewarm. Combine vegetable in a large bowl. Pour dressing over vegetables and add seasonings. Stir well. Let stand at room temp for a few hours or refrigerate until ready to serve. Stir well before serving.