German Kitchen Stories: Annemarie Makes Mushroom Soup /Leberkäse mit Ei
The wonder of the Internet is that it allows us to connect with friends that we ordinarily might never have met. Recently I’ve gotten to know Nadia, the author or Spoonfuls of Germany. It’s easy to imagine the two of us enjoying a coffee together and talking about life and family, even though we live on opposites sides of the country. She and I share the love for German food and the belief that that food and personal memories are inseparable and intricately tied together. Family history becomes tangible when we use our mother’s apron and our grandmother’s recipes. Even when the German Kitchen is in America.
This has led us to the idea of German Kitchen Stories, a virtual kitchen table where we want to share your stories. If your Oma’s Schweinebraten or Mama’s Apfelkuchen triggers memories for you, and you would like to be featured on German Kitchen Stories, please drop us a line. Your story can be emotional or funny, it can take place in Germany, the US, or anywhere else for that matter, as long as your story is linked to a German Kitchen, German dish or recipe. We would love to share your story, bringing the foods and recipes you love to life. (I promise, to identify you only by your first name, and, if you like, your state, your city, and a photo of you.)
Annemarie’s Story, told by Karen
In Hollywood, there is a concept called a “meet-cute” which basically is the story of how two people met. In my world, the meet-cute story is that of my mother, Monika, and my Tante Annemarie.
You see, when my parents moved to California from Germany, they really didn’t know anyone. Dad worked all day, and mom stayed home in the apartment. Since they only had one car, she didn’t get out much. She spent the day taking care of their home, studying English, and on weekends they would go on drives to explore their new world. Still it must have been a bit lonely. One day the apartment manager told my father about a German woman who lived upstairs. Dad took my mom by the hand and led her off to meet the neighbor who shared their language. That’s how my parents met Annemarie and her husband Arnie. It was the beginning of a friendship that has lasted almost 50 years; through holiday gatherings, joint vacations, kids and grandkids.
For our first German Kitchen Story, I spoke with my Tante Annemarie.
Annemarie is my Godmother, she is not a blood-relative, but in true German style, she was always referred to as “Tante”. I grew up with Annemarie’s kids, and often spent time in her home, and at her table, eating German and American foods. Her household wasn’t quite the same as mine, since Annemarie is married to an American. This slightly different perspective is why we chose to start here. She is someone who grew up in a German household, with German food, then came to America and experienced the different culture and lifestyle, while keeping many of the cooking flavors from home.
What was the reaction of family and friends when you married an American and moved to the US in the late 1960s?
We married in 1965, just six months after I had left Germany. My parents were devastated; they were hoping I would not stay in this far-away country. But we made up for it by spending many summers with them. My children were very close to their German grandparents.
How difficult was it to maintain your language, and to teach your children German while living in the US? Especially since their father spoke very limited German?
It was not that difficult to maintain my German because I still had close and regular contact with my German family, and the many German friends we made here. To teach the children German we took them to “German School” on Saturdays, but that was not enough to make them fluent in the language. Our long extended summer trips to Germany helped them catch on to the language.
However, we also had a hurdle to overcome: All my family speaks Bavarian dialect. The kids and my husband understand it, but they don’t speak it. However my husband liked to call me “Schnuckiputzilein”, abbreviated it was “Schnuck”. Not the easiest German word to pronounce!
What was the biggest adjustment you had to make when moving to America?
I had an English degree from a language school in Germany and was quite proficient in English both spoken and written. That was a blessing. It immediately got me a fantastic job; I was the secretary to the president of an electronics company. I had no negative experiences in America. Everyone seemed to accept a girl from Germany with a welcoming attitude.
I loved the new culture. I had known quite a bit about America through listening to AFN (American Forces Network Radio), especially all the Rock ’n’ Roll stuff, Chubby Checker, Elvis… Even Country and Western songs (before we realized they were country songs… ha, ha). We also had American movies and I loved it. I loved the easy lifestyle.
American food was a new adventure. It all seemed easier and less complicated than the sometimes tedious German meal preparation, and it was easy to adjust.
You were lucky enough to go back to Germany often with the kids. I remember being a little jealous… and also, missing your family when you were away for the summer (and being astonished by the ten suitcases!). What was it like spending months in your old hometown for most of the summer? Was it easy to reconnect? Or did you feel like an outsider?
We went back to visit every other year or so, and still do, lately without the kids and their family. My husband was a teacher, he had summers off, and we could stay six to eight weeks if we wanted to. We also had a house to live in, my parents kept the old house for us when they bought a new one. It is still available to us whenever we want to come.
To this day I have kept the friendships alive with my friends and classmates from my small hometown of about 10,000 inhabitants. Nowadays we can skype and e-mail, and are still very close. Whenever I am in Germany, we hold a “Klassentreffen” (class reunion) with our graduating class of 12 (classes where much smaller back then).
One of my fondest childhood memories was how we spent Christmases together for many years, so you and my mother traded off cooking a goose. What German dish holds a strong memory for you? Is there a family dish that you really love?
Leberkäse mit Ei takes the top spot. My children and grandchildren love it, even my American son-in-law. My mother often made the obligatory Pork Roast Bavarian Style with lots of onions, and Cream of Mushroom Soup with the wild mushrooms they found in the forest on their walks.
Do you have a story to share about fulfilling your craving for German foods in America?
My nephew from Munich was visiting us here in California with his future wife, and knowing I love Obatzda, the pungent Bavarian camembert spread, he had several packages of it in his suitcase for me. California was not their first stop, and by the time they got to California, about five days later, you can imagine what this cheese and his suitcase, and everything in it, smelled like! It took lots of cleaning and days of airing out…
Annemarie’s Bavarian Cream of Mushroom Soup
German Meatloaf with Fried Egg (Leberkäse mit Spiegelei)
Leberkäse mit Ei
In Annemarie’s German Kitchen you will only find German lunchmeats. She has always lived near a German deli or butcher where she finds anything she needs. “We still love our German meals and treats,” she says, “and German sausages and Leberkäse are so quick and easy to fix. Now that the kids are out of the house and it is just the two of us, quick and easy is good.”
Leberkäse topped with an egg sunny side-up is not really a recipe: thick slices of Leberkäse are fried in a little bit of oil and topped with a fried egg sunny side up. That’s all. Classic Bavarian fast food at its best!
More Recipes for YOUR German Kitchen
German Meals at Oma’s: Traditional Dishes for the Home CookClassic German Baking: The Very Best Recipes for Traditional Favorites, from Pfeffernüsse to StreuselkuchenThe Wurst!: The Very Best of German Food