I’ll be the first to admit I’m naive. Nothing new, pretty sure I’ve always been. Although I have an abundance of cynicism/skepticism/sarcasm (alright, enough about my finer ‘ism’ features) brewing within, I remain clueless on many fronts.
Mom was profoundly proud of her Dutch heritage and spoke of it often with love and respect throughout her life. Both sets of her grandparents immigrated from the Netherlands during the late 1800’s. Dad didn’t talk as much about his ancestors but was pretty proficient in keeping his end of a conversation flowing (in Dutch) with Mom when they didn’t want me to know what (or more likely who) they were talking about.
Since I was raised in a house with a strong Dutch influence I assumed everyone around me was Dutch. It didn’t matter that your dad wore a kilt marching in a parade through downtown Rock Valley while playing the bagpipes. Or that your mother spoke with a quaint Irish lilt which was indecipherable to the other 1,800 Dutchmen in town. You were simply Dutch. Just like me. Besides naive I might have been rather narrow minded. Now’s a great time to realize that. Mind blown.
I know now there were people in my hometown who knew nothing of the unique Dutch phrases my family used everyday to describe things at home. Really, who doesn’t know what a ‘ploujes’ (plue-she) is? You’re just yanking my chain now aren’t you? Well for the 2 un-informed, a ploujes is a piece of lint on your clothing or carpet. It would be years before my misconceptions were realized. There was diversity in my town. Once in a while I still forget. Soon after I’ve written a story, Marlys, a classmate of mine will gently remind me, “hey Neese, Rock Valley had some German families too.” (Sorry Mar).
There were various church affiliations in town but it never occurred to me their Sunday morning services weren’t filled with Dutch folks just like the First Reformed where the Gerritson’s worshipped. How could I be so dumb? The first inkling to topple my world as I knew it occurred when I was in my mid-teens. Our church youth group attended a Jewish worship service in Sioux Falls. It finally dawned on me-not everyone in the world was Dutch. Huh.
So Mom spoke Dutch sometimes, had doilies all over the house, displayed her grandma’s wooden shoes (Mom painted them orange which is very Dutch) and had some nice Blue Delft pieces here and there. I’m not sure if I realized some of the food Mom made were handed down recipes from the Netherlands. Saucijzebroodjes (pigs in the blanket) certainly, pea and bean soup, stroop waffles, oliebollen.
I’ve just started learning something about traditional Dutch food. My FB buddy (Dick the car guy) invited me to join a couple of Dutch groups. They post pictures, recipes and reminisce about the Netherlands or their recent visits. I’m not normally a joiner but I’m enjoying these groups. Especially the different foods. I never heard of croquettes before. (I know-just re-read the first sentence of this post). They look like a dark Twinkie covered with toasty brown crumbs. The insides could be minced veggies, very fine chopped meats, even potatoes and rice mushed up, then deep fried. They’re one of the more popular foods in the Netherlands, with 350 million (kroketten in Dutch) eaten every year! The folks commenting were raving about croquettes on a hamburger bun doused with mustard, although they look like they would fit better on a hotdog bun. I wish my Mom had made them when I was a kid.
Through most of our married life the Hubs and I talk about the foods our mom’s served for supper when we were kids. Salmon patties with fried potatoes, tater tot casserole (not my favorite) Taverns (they’re sloppy Joe’s, except in northwest Iowa), bread-milk pop, (never heard of that but John ate it as a kid), hamburger hot dish and this weird red colored ring bologna. Every couple of years I’d buy a different brand of bologna at the grocery store, but nothing came close in looking or tasting like the red ring bologna we grew up eating.
Then a few years ago (ok we were married 40 years before this old fashioned delicacy was rediscovered) we were in Orange City (about 30 miles from our hometown) and stumbled upon Woudstra’s Meat Market. Not a new meat market, it’s been there for years, but we were not inclined to shop Orange City for anything but Blue Delft. I think we were buying dried beef after the Locker Plant closed in Rock Valley. Hubs noticed a ring bologna in the meat case. Wow that bologna certainly had a familiar ring to it. We bought a couple, froze them and the dried beef at Les and Mary Jane’s house before the long trip back to Michigan.
You know the feeling you get when something from your past (way-way-back) hits you like a ton of bricks? Cooking ring bologna brought back so many memories-even before my first bite. The smell, the water in the pot turning a bit pink. But neither of us could remember what we were supposed to eat with it. I thought it should be mashed potatoes and sauerkraut, but John doesn’t think his family ate sauerkraut with bologna, so I fixed him some spinach (like Popeye the sailor man). For the last 10 years we’ve been unsure if we’re doing red ring bologna justice. Until I joined this nostalgic Dutch group and found Zuurkoolstamppot. My life is now complete.
Someone posted a recipe for Zuurkoolstamppot, (I honestly couldn’t pronounce this to save my soul. And if the recipe’s written in Dutch I’m lost and just move on). They said it should be served with sausage or bologna. The light bulb in my head lit up like the sun. My search is over. This is what I’ve been looking for my whole life! Well at least since we re-discovered Woudstra’s ring bologna.
Zuurkoolstamppot is what’s good and right in the world. What’s not to love? It’s got most of my favorites in one dish! (Ok, no cotton candy, circus peanuts, soft pretzels or popcorn, but do not be dismayed). I cut the recipe in half because it makes a lot, enough for a family, and John’s not crazy about mashed potatoes. Yeah, he has a lot of issues but that’s a story for another day.
I cut a half pound of bacon in small pieces and fried it crisp, then put it on paper towels to drain. Peeled a couple of potatoes and cooked them until they were 5 minutes from being done. Drained a half can of sauerkraut really well, tossed that in the potato pan to cook for the last 5 minutes. Drained the water, then mashed the kraut and potatoes with milk and butter. Folded in the bacon bits and added a titch of salt and pepper. Holy Hanna, who needed the bologna? Now I f a half dozen folks tell me they’ve been eating and enjoying Zuurkoolstamppot forever I’m gonna be devastated. This is a dish I should have known about and would have been eating my entire life. Had I introduced this as normal supper fare when my kids were small, another mostly Dutch generation would be passing Zuurkoolstamppot on to their kids. Seriously doubt if any of them would even try it…