Jeff Tiedeman: Border cookingAlsatian fare: A culinary blend of Germany, France.
One of my favorite pastimes is to look through cookbooks. Between the ones sitting on my desk at work and those on shelves at home, our collection totals close to 200.
We have several from area churches and others from well-known authors such as Jeff Smith (“The Frugal Gourmet”) and Marion Cunningham (“Fannie Farmer,” the revised version) and food aficionados (the late Dom DeLuise’s “Eat This … It’ll Make You Feel Better” and Al Roker’s “Hassle-Free Holiday Cookbook”).
And then, there are the old standbys — the vintage ones from Better Homes and Gardens and Betty Crocker, and lest I forget, the all-encompassing “White House” cookbook, which was my Mom’s and bills itself as “a comprehensive cyclopedia of information for the home containing cooking.”
Every once in while, a cookbook will come to my attention that I just must have. The latest object of my cookbook hunger is titled “Gastronomy of Alsace — 75 Simple Recipes,” by Marguerite Doerflinger. It was one of several cookbooks that Therese (Tyraise) Wald, Grand Forks, brought up to the Herald recently.
Therese, who’s a descendant of Germans from Russia (her father was from Alsace, Strasbourg to be exact, and her mother’s family from Mannheim), has a vast collection of cookbooks, including “German Food and Folkways — Heirloom Memories from Europe, South Russia and the Great Plains,” “From Amish and Mennonite kitchens” and the “New York Times Cookbook, which she shared with me.
But it was the “Gastronomy of Alsace” that really aroused my appetite. Alsace, for those of you who don’t know, is the easternmost region of France. It is flanked on the west by the hazy Vosges Mountains and the mighty Rhine River on the east. It’s belonged to France since the reign of Louis XIV (1648) but was annexed twice by Germany in modern times (1870 to 1918 and 1940 to 1945). It’s also is the home of the famous musician, doctor, theologian and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer.
Because Alsace has changed hands so many times, it is a bastion of border cooking. Recipes in the cookbook are listed three ways — in English, French and German, which may be where Therese got the idea to create a lexicon of words in English, formal German (hochdeutsch) and her ancestor’s dialect that she hopes to have published.
This, from the inside cover of the book, best describes the contents:
“This richly illustrated booklet takes us, by means of a collection of traditional recipes, on a little journey around Alsace. It presents a variety of easy-to-prepare country dishes which have been handed down from generation to generation. These dishes were conditioned by the way to life of our forefathers, the produce of their lands, their hunting and their fishing. They have withstood the test of time firstly in families eager to preserve a gastronomic heritage and, secondly, on the menus of our restaurants and “kachele” where people flock today to try to recapture the flavour of the dishes of days gone by.”
There are two dishes that I am looking forward to trying, one for Sauerkraut à l’alsaciennne (Choucroute à l’alsacienne or Sürkrüt) and Flambéed Tart (Tarte Flambée and Flammekueche). The first is sauerkraut made with a mixture of smoked, cured and fresh pork products, including ham, pork loin and chops, sausages and bacon, while the latter is pastry filled with cream, onions, cheese and bacon.
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my own German-French background.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at email@example.com.