Friday night Mr. Mockingbird and I were up until about midnight in Oregon making Spaetzle, a German egg pasta. It was part of meal that included roast pork, gravy, and a green salad with a simple vinaigrette. I had never made Spaetzle before; it was moderately successful and would have been very easy had I been cooking for a small group rather than 30 Sohns.
About 2 weeks ago our Grandpa Sohn passed away. He escaped Nazi Germany when he was 21 and made his way via England to Houston, Texas where he met my grandmother. Her family also came from German immigrants albeit many a couple generations earlier. After some years in Houston and Iowa, my grandparents ended up in Oregon.
It was here that my brother and I spent many summer weeks and spring breaks often eating a simple yet delicious meal such as the one I prepared over the weekend. Every meal at the Narrows, except for breakfast, came with this simple green salad. The vinaigrette always mixed in the bowl with balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, mayonnaise, and some oil. The greens were then tossed with the dressing. The roast meat was usually beef or lamb from the ranch. Gravy was also common at dinner.
Spaetzle was not as common but it was made often enough. There were a number of these hard to pronounce recipes that we grew up with. From cookies to bread to pastries to cakes. Many of them involve yeast (which is a general deal breaker for me in a recipe) and multi-step cooking processes, but the Spaetzle requires no special ovens, equipment, or ingredients. Just eggs, milk, flour and boiling water.
While there have been many tributes made to my grandpa over the past few weeks I struggled with how to pay him homage. He was a complicated man with a fascinating life who loved his family but was not always a loving person. When I got to Oregon this year I sat and made a list of food memories from the time spent with my grandparents, who were married for 70 years when he passed. Me being me, I am not always good at words or expressing my memories or feelings, so the best I could do was this meal. If he had been there we would have dissected the many faults/ways to improve what I cooked, but as I’ve gotten older, I now know that was his way of engaging and ultimately expressing his interest.
There was much talk of legacy this weekend of which my grandfather has many. For me I will carry the simple memory of sitting around the table talking about food and wine and politics and the environment while eating spoonfuls of whipped cream, perfectly cooked meat, and small slivers of pie to even it up.