Watery Spaghetti and Hasenpfeffer

My extended family ate some really weirdly-sauced spaghetti when I was growing up.  Heavy on the ground beef and water, light on the canned tomato. When I, a polite and tactful child, told my cousin Andy that his mom's version of spaghetti was gross, he explained that it was German spaghetti, and added that he was proud to be German.  I was shocked by both of these assertions.  I think that Germans would also be shocked to hear that our puddle of meat spaghetti had anything to do with them.

Wherever the blame for German spaghetti belongs, it turns out that I do have German heritage.  My experience was that we didn't talk about being German or do anything that could be explained by being German, other than having a Christmas tree.  But some of the family names on both sides of my family tree, Minneman and Helfrich and Hunsberger, form the outline of a story that I am trying to understand.

Once I found a book lying around my grandparents' house, outlining the appropriate words for religious milestones with facing pages in German and English.  It turned out that it had belonged to my great-grandfather, a bilingual German Lutheran minister.  His daughter, though, wasn't allowed to speak German at home.  She lived through Prohibition, when of course all the beer gardens closed, which spelled the end of many Germantowns.  There was more than one war during her lifetime that made people suspicious of German Americans.  When she was young, her social circle was defined by the Lutheran young people's group.  It seems likely that being Lutheran probably became the last safe place for expression of her heritage, and very likely the last place where she heard any German public figures held up as role models.  She's my grandmother.  It wouldn't surprise me if her experience as a bit of an outsider was what gave her the strength to take an independent stance on occasion (she was the sole non-union teacher at her school), but she doesn't really talk about it.

I've heard people suggest that the complete "assimilation" of massive numbers of German-Americans can be a hopeful example to other countries struggling with immigration issues, including Germany.  But the assimilation of my family was motivated by acute pressures to avoid public Germanness, the kind of pressures that made my great-grandparents believe that their children would have better lives without German accents.

What is a more American experience than being an immigrant or the child of an immigrant under pressure to assimilate?  We, the immigrant people, the new nation, the country with the constant identity crisis?  We are still becoming America.  If we could collectively remember the whole story of immigration, then maybe we would stop perpetuating the ugly parts.

It's probably very American to make a hobby of learning about your cultural roots, making up narratives and links to the past partly because many of the stories of my family are lost to time and intentional forgetfulness.  Whatever it even means to be German-American: all that the German-Americans could agree on right before the world wars was making sure their kids could speak German and preserving their freedom to drink beer.

Given that, maybe it's not so silly to try to begin reconnecting to my heritage through making peppered/pickled rabbit, enjoying a good weihenstephaner, and someday trying to remember how to make Grandma Clamme's laborious thinly sliced egg noodles.  Since I'm as German as German spaghetti.

With apologies to my aunt, who taught me valuable life skills like washing my hands before cooking, and didn't make anything else that tasted bad to me.

This is Mark Bittman's marinade for Civet of Rabbit, or Hasenpfeffer.  See how I thought this recipe turned out.

2 cups of red wine (I chose Pinot Noir)
1/2 cup vinegar, apple cider or red wine
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 rabbit
Salt and pepper

1.  I am being lazy and thawing the rabbit in the marinade.  Eventually you'll want your rabbit in pieces, so if your rabbit is thawed go ahead and cut it into pieces.

2.  Place all the ingredients in a gallon bag or another container that will allow most of the rabbit pieces to be covered by the marinade ingredients.  Marinate in the refrigerator for 8 hours to 3 days, turning occasionally so all the meat gets soaked through.  

Happy New Somewhat Arbitrary Measure of Time

My only resolution for this year is to eat more green leafy things.  Not out of guilt for the amazing fried seafood in Florida, or the comforting pecan caramel rolls in Ohio.  No regrets over vacation.  I came home with a whole bag of kitchen gifts - a bulk supply of saffron and other spices from K&S in Bangkok, and a kitchen scale so I can work on making make my recipes more friendly to non-US readers.  How lucky am I, right?

Last semester we probably had greens once a week.  But, after vacation we needed a ton of groceries to restock the empty fridge.  Nat came with me to the grocery store to help carry things, went down an aisle I usually avoid to grab some frozen spinach, and discovered a wonder of modern food science.  You can also get chopped frozen kale.  A small discovery, but now we have a giant hoard of basically instant greens, and I am eating them almost every day.

I know I'm prone to getting excited about and then sometimes giving up on ambitious projects - last year I resolved to run a half marathon (I did!) and read 52 books (do blog articles count?) and to sort through all of our belongings before our move (I did) and post a certain amount of articles each month on the blog (hit or miss). Generally I like challenges, big ones with concrete goals and deadlines.  Enthusiasm lasts only so long and deadlines help you ride that wave before it is spent.  So yes, this is a phase.  But maybe I can turn the phase into a habit.

Right now I am helping collect recipes and nutrition tips for getfit@mit, which is a really well-designed program that helps members of the MIT community make healthier habits.  That's all I really want out of "more greens."

If I made my normal style of resolutions for this year, I would have mapped out a plan for a superwoman who would get an awesome job, join Crossfit, regularly go rock-climbing, and do yoga, while cooking all our meals from scratch, writing a book, earning a DSLR camera and then getting good at using it, learning Italian, taking adventurous biking and culinary vacations (p.s. I don't bike yet), regularly going out to posh restaurants and parties and concerts in attractive but playful incarnations of "the feminine", and having great totally functional and supportive and delightful relationships with everyone.  But there are variables in the future that I can't control.

A lot of people each year make a resolution to find a better job, and don't succeed.  And I'm going to say it, I don't care that it's angsty:  It was heart-breaking to get to the end of this year and not have reached my main goal.  My somewhat artificial deadlines have caused me grief, along with sometimes motivating me.

With the "more greens" resolution I think I've managed to find a goal and a mindset that is both a good change and a kind change.  A possible change.  Today I can take care of myself.  I can make Collards & Kale soup with Saffron Butter.

No recipe forthcoming.  Sometimes there's no recipe for what you are making.

Good luck on your resolutions, whatever they are!