Day 3 - Cooking

December 12, 2014

(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th year. Each day I will find a gift the day brings, write about it and illustrate it.)

Tonight for dinner—sauerbraten from Romans Place in Baltimore sends out a peculiar vinegar aroma that immediately takes me back to my childhood. My mother was a good cook who loved to please her family with her skills, and she knew how much my father, whose family immigrated to the U.S. from Germany, liked sour beef. I did too.

To make this dish, beef is slow cooked in vinegar and spices and the juices are thickened with ginger snaps. It is always served with potato dumplings. At a time when I used to cook, I asked my mother how to make potato dumplings. She advised me to combine leftover mashed potatoes with flour and make a ball wrapped around a small square piece of toast.  (She cooked more by intuition than exact amounts.)  She said that I should drop these balls into boiling water and when they rise to the top, they are done. I followed her instructions but the dumplings never rose to the top. They disintegrated, resulting in a boiling pot filled with a cloudy mess. Of course, I called her immediately and learned that I needed to use more flour. Lesson learned.

Perhaps a  metaphorical lesson too—always add enough flour so everything will stock together and rise to the top.

My mother did not eat sauerbraten and I don’t remember if my sisters liked it, but I do remember how much my father and I relished this meal. Our family always sat around the table together to eat and talk at dinnertime. It was a special time of the day and the love of sauerbraten with potato dumplings was a special connection with my father.

I’ve read that smells trigger parts of the brain, the amygdala for emotions and the hippocampus for memory, and that usually pleasant memories are stirred up and rise to the present. It happened today.

The smell of sour beef is today’s gift that arouses memories of family and love.

> DAY 4 Sleep

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