Of Taste Buds and Discovery
Since I was little and discovered that I have Pennsylvania German blood on both sides of my family tree, I’ve had a wide range of experience in sampling different kinds of German foods. It was just assumed that I would enjoy the same types of ethnic food that my parents liked, but unfortunately only *some* of my tastes run toward German cuisine.
For instance, bratwurst and sausages; if you’re even just a tiny bit Pennsylvania Dutch (another term for Pennsylvania German) you *have* to love the stuff, right? Not so! Though my ancestors may weep, I don’t make it a habit to eat bratwurst unless it’s the cheddar kind. If you like the flavor of sausages or bratwurst you can, however, cut off the skins. This is what I usually end up doing. It doesn’t ruin the flavor and you don’t have to chew on the hard edges.
I’ll “Meat” You There
Apparently butchering is another option for descendants of Pennsylvania German families, even today. My mother recalls watching the butchering and eating the finished products but, no matter how much European DNA I may have, I can’t fathom the idea of seeing something go into a room alive and coming out carved into little family-sized portions. Sure, I know that everything I find in the grocery store was in that very same predicament, but at least I didn’t have to see the cow/pig/chicken etc. when it was alive. I often joke that, aside from a few favorite dishes, I’d have little trouble giving up meat for good.
Everybody Loves (Shoofly) Pie
In main dishes, my tastes are purely American (think hot dogs, hamburgers, and pizza) but I do have a soft spot in my heart for German desserts. My mother and I used to make Montgomery Pie and Shoofly Pie – I don’t remember the former being anything particularly delicious, but the latter was always divine. There are two kinds of Shoofly Pie for those of you who aren’t familiar with this delectable dessert; dry bottom and wet bottom.
If you love gooey molasses and don’t like dry, cakey desserts, you’ll want the wet bottom. When I bake a Shoofly Pie I make sure to pour in the good old molasses. Shoofly Pie recipes can be found anywhere, but if you happen to know someone with Pennsylvania German blood (even a relative) it would be best to get a time-tested family recipe. The kind you get wrapped up in cellophane never tastes as good as those fresh from the oven, or even fresh from a bakery that still cooks in the old tradition.
Different Dessert Options
There are certainly more German recipes than this. Black Forest Cake is one option, but I never tried it because I absolutely hate cherries. I’m not overly indulgent when it comes to fruit; instead of eating strawberry shortcake, for instance, I’ll eat the shortcake and give somebody else the strawberries. Bavarian creme is rich and thick; consider making some Bavarian creme filling for your baked goods and instantly transforming your recipe into a certifiable German dish.
The Tater is King
Home-fried potatoes? Yum yum! I’m not sure how “German” this is but if you want to make a Pennsylvania German meal I recommend adding fried potatoes to be more authentic. I’m sure my ancestors would agree! Consider mixing the ‘taters with crumbled sausage, bacon, etc., to make a unique and thoroughly hearty dish. You can either create an American meal with German undertones, or do everything completely by the book. Ethnic meals are a great way to get kids (and spouses!) involved in meal preparation.
A Little Side Note
There *is* some difference between “German” food and “Pennsylvania German” food. Obviously after my ancestors came to America in the 1700s, they needed to adapt some of their recipes to American (or English, at the time) ingredients. These “hybrid” recipes probably produced a lot of Pennsylvania German foods. Pure German recipes come straight from the country of origin, with little or no “tampering.” It depends on what you’re hungry for.
Count Calories – And Still Delight Your Appetite
No one ever said these foods were healthy; in fact, German food is probably some of the most fattening in the world! If you’re watching calorie intact or avoiding artery cloggers, see if recipes can be cut in half. There are many little changes you can make in the course of your baking that will help you, such as using skim milk instead of whole and seeing which brand of icing has fewer calories. If you don’t want a whole cake around to tempt you, you can make cupcakes and freeze the ones you don’t eat.