America is called the great melting pot and should you look at my own family tree, you’d find the pot bubbling away with good French wine, a German goulash, Irish soda biscuits, English cheddar and a bit of Scottish Drambuie.
My family has lived in the New World for ages – like ever since my grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents. I have been raised an American with no particular link to any European heritage despite the fond years that I spent in the UK. I think of baseball as the national sport, find cricket confusing, and lack the precision of the French kitchen. I thrive on the music of Patsy Cline and Michelle Shocked and Bruce. Verzeih mir!
I suppose that I had to be an adult to recognize it. Here I am in Deutschland. I’m admiring the neatly manicured flower beds and thinking little of the fact that I can name each one; alyssum, begonia, calendula, periwinkle, rose, labilia, fuchsia, geranium. I sit in the warm moist evening air and think, “shouldn’t there be fire flies?” It smells of freshly cut alfalfa and on the outskirts of town there are bales of hay.
I watch my own children as the German locals approach them neglecting to recognize in that second before they speak that they are from a distant land. Our German language skills are abhorrent. The boys giggle at each exit sign “Ausfahrt” and wonder who knew their father was coming. He retaliates by taking them to “Bad Gasse”. The thrill of the autobahn permeates their senses.
The accordion player in the biergarten pumps out a polka just like the ones that stream across the airways in the Kansas heartland where my grandparents grew up. The sparkling yellow lager or pils or dunkel has often played a part in our family relaxation times. Pretzels, yeah, well, not so much.
The meals are robust, reminiscent of a great grandmother’s Sunday dinner served at noon. There must be potatoes, dumplings, noodles, stewed meat, pickles and bread. I remember my grandma’s kitchen teaming with tiny cucumbers and Mason jars. The afternoon cakes are not too sweet and full of fruit like rhubarb. Kolhrabi is present in every garden. The precision handwork displayed in crafts like doilies beneath the dishes is all too familiar.
Suddenly I’m connecting dots across time and an ocean and realizing that so many of these incidentals are in fact, connections to a heritage that I’ve not appreciated. Admittedly, I may draw similar conclusions if I visit other lands. Denn jetzt werde ich Suppe!
Vegan Zucchini Soup
adapted from Tandy Sinclair
- several medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into chunks
- freshly ground black pepper to season
- handful of fresh thyme stalks
- several cloves of green garlic, peeled and sliced
- olive oil
- 5 cups of your favorite stock
- crushed red peppers
- Parmesan cheese for garnishing (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350. Scatter zucchini chunks, garlic cloves, and thyme on a cookie sheet and drizzle with good olive oil. Salt and pepper.
Roast for 30 minutes or until soft and remove from oven. Remove thyme stems and place in a large pot. Add stock and crushed red pepper. Heat through and then begin to blend either in a food processor or with an immersion blender.
Top with parmesan cheese if desired. Garnish with something bright and contrasting.
Have you ever had an “aha” moment connecting you to your heritage?