Comfort food and books for comfort
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The ancestor of the American burger and author Vicky Ramakka novel ‘The Cactus Plot’
By Christina Stock
It’s hot in New Mexico. With temperatures in the order of 100, we crave light foods, possibly with as little time as possible in the oven. Thinking back to my childhood in Germany, I refer to the recipes that my Oma (in German for grandmother) prepared in the summer. On Saturday morning she would be in the kitchen making Frikadellen. Frikadellen is one of the slang words for German hamburger patties, also known as Fleischpflanzerl in Bavaria and Bulette in Berlin and East Germany. The origin of the meatball has many legends. Its popularity arose in the 17th century, when Huguenots fleeing Catholic pursuits in France reportedly brought the recipe for meatballs to Berlin, calling them boulette, which means small ball in French. Other sources say the tasty meatball became popular with Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops in the early 19th century, who brought them to the conquered kingdoms of Germany, Austria and Italy. No matter how, there is a good chance that it is indeed a French invention, even the word Frikadelle is based on a French word, “frikandeau” and describes a certain cut of veal.
After reaching the maritime city of Hamburg, the meatball ‘swam’ over the large pond to become the icon of American fast food.
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The United States, with its vast beef industry, turned the meatball into a flat patty of pure ground beef.
However, in Europe, and beef being expensive, the original meatball was still a hot or cold quick snack for those who couldn’t afford pure beef. The German meatball was made from old white bread, onions, raw eggs, milk and spices typical of the time. Similar to meatloaf. A typical German fast food stand, “Imbiss Bude”, offers hot sausages and cold Frikadellen with crunchy fresh rolls and mustard. The cold Frikadelle was also perfect for a picnic. Therefore, my Oma prepares the Frikadellen Saturdays to take away for our Sunday picnic out of town. Before enjoying the picnic, you had to win it by hiking, “wandern”. Germans love to hike and there are trails through forests, fields and farms. The Americans have their road songs, the Germans have their “hiking songs”. It didn’t matter that no one in our family could hold a tune except my grandfather. We sang old songs while exploring the hiking trails and nature.
Here is the recipe for my Oma Else Frikadellen:
For 4-6 people
1 pd of mixed ground beef and pork
3.5 oz stale white bread (preferably French or sourdough baguette)
1/2 cup of milk
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of butter
2 teaspoons of mustard
1 teaspoon of salt
½ tsp of pepper
½ teaspoon of paprika
½ teaspoon of marjoram
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Dip the bread in milk. In a heavy-bottomed pan, brown the onions in the butter until they are glazed.
Place the minced meat in a bowl and mix the eggs, soaked bread and mustard.
Stir in the onions and add any other spices to taste. Form 8-10 patties.
Fry the patties at medium temperature in olive oil for about 15 minutes, turning them several times.
You can serve them lukewarm with a German potato salad or mashed potatoes and your choice of vegetables. Or you can refrigerate them and enjoy with Düsseldorf mustard with a cold fresh bun.
Books for comfort:
“The intrigue of the cactus” by Vicky Ramakka
Vicky Ramakka’s book “The Cactus Plot” just won first place at the New Mexico / Arizona Book Awards in the cozy mystery category. A make-up cactus and a creative mind are the main ingredients of the detective story that highlights endangered species. Ramakka writes environmental mysteries and his recent novel “The Cactus Plot” has a heroine who discovers an unregistered San Juan Cactus plot. Millie Whitehall is a botanist hired by the Bureau of Land Management to study endangered plants in northwestern New Mexico. She encounters dangerous roads, rattlesnakes, then finds herself embroiled in the story of two men found dead in the remote hinterland.
“She experiences the friction of working for the BLM through the characters she meets – a secret cowboy, a friendly oil and gas worker, an outspoken environmentalist, a foreign tourist and a Navajo biologist. Some become allies, one ends up threatening his life. “The Cactus Plot” is timely and thought-provoking.
“Author Vicky Ramakka explains why she wrote ‘The Cactus Plot’. “As an avid reader of books about real places, I have located my story where I live. Northwestern New Mexico may be the least visited part of the state, but it has some of the most interesting people and geography.
“Another observation by the author is that the majority of mysteries unfolding in this region often have law enforcement officers as heroes or heroines as the main characters. This novel breaks that tradition with a modern day botanist. From the East Coast, the main character sees New Mexico’s unique culture and landscape from a new perspective. At first, she only sees a harsh landscape. As she meets the various characters who inhabit the book, and changes her perspective on people and the land.
Artemesia Publishing’s 265-page softcover book is available at local bookstores and online bookstores. It is also available as an eBook.
For more information, visit artemesiapublishing.com/cactus.html.