Culinary Heritage Holds Clues

Spaetzle, A Culinary Heritage Clue

Not long ago I had lunch at Karl's Sausage Kitchen, a small German specialty store and eatery. Karl's makes their own sausages, sauerbraten and schnitzel, and imports all kinds of German foods, from noodles to mustard to marzipan. I went for the spaetzle, a small, buttery egg pasta that is part of my culinary heritage.

My great grandmother, Frieda, made her own spaetzle from scratch and served them almost every Sunday.  She taught my grandmother how to make them, and my grandmother taught my mother.  My father's second cousin from Germany brought a spaetzle maker as a gift when she visited my family years ago.

A plate of spaetzle with mushrooms (1)

Family food traditions can be more than savory memories, or treats to look forward to on special occasions.  They can hold clues to where your ancestors lived.  Spaetzle are a Swabian specialty.  My great grandfather, Karl, was born and raised in a Swabian village in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, and my great grandmother, Frieda, worked in the Swabian city of Stuttgart before her marriage.  Karl and Frieda lived together in Stuttgart for eleven years, from their marriage until their departure for America in 1923. Both their children were born in Stuttgart.  If I knew nothing about their past, the place that spaetzle occupied on their Sunday dinner menu could have served as a culinary clue to their heritage.

Photo of Karl and Frieda
Karl and Frieda on a return visit to Germany.

Many small regions of the world have their own special dishes.  If you are stumped about your ancestors' origins, consider what you may know about their cherished family recipes.  Chances are those special foods may point you to the place they grew up, or at least to a place where they lived for a time.

(1) Photo of spaetzle and mushrooms.