Wednesday, September 2, 2009

White Trash Motherlode: Sauerkraut Salad

My sister's best friend in North Dakota was a girl named Lisa. I liked Lisa--she didn't care if I followed her and my sister around like a hungry dog. This was a bigger deal than you'd think, because I had no friends of my own. Thus, she pretty much had to tolerate me all of the time. Because, much to my sister's disgust, mama insisted that we were a package deal.

"But I'm 3 years olllllllder than her," my sister would protest. "I don't see why I have to drag that baby around when I play with MY friends."

Looking back, my sister sort of had a point, but Mama was too busy and too smart to relent. She knew that if left to entertain myself, I'd hurl myself to the floor, threatening to die of boredom, within 5 minutes. So Tagalong I was.

Sometimes we ended up at Lisa's house, which I found thrilling. Lisa had two much older brothers, and spying on them (without detection) was one of my favorite pastimes. I studied them voraciously, not altogether unlike Goodall and her apes. They talked on the phone to girls and had pimples and listened to music other than The Osmond Brothers. Quite exotic, I tell you.

Lisa's mother, Barb, always wore perfume and lipstick and was the only woman I've known who actually smoked cigarettes in those long holders, like Cruella DeVille. She was perpetually on a diet and dressed provocatively. I remember eyeing her breasts with suspicion, wondering when those globes were going to go AWOL from her clingy shirts. To my disappointment, I never witnessed it.

My mother tried to be friends with her, but Barb was, in the end, just too racy for mama. I think the clincher was one fateful trip to the movies, when my mother discovered, to her horror, that the film Barb had chosen was X-rated. Mama didn't say a word, but I'd have given a million dollars to have been a fly on that wall.

Barb wasn't much of a cook, but she was generous with invitations to dinner, which was nice. Except. Barb followed a strict weight loss plan and once a week, that plan advocated eating liver for dinner. Now this would have been okay if there was one night--say Wednesday--that was Liver Night. Then, no problem. I could be permanently busy on Wednesday. But Barb wasn't that organized. Liver Night was frighteningly fluid in that household, and mama told me it was bad manners to ask what was for dinner if invited. I do beleive the threat "beat you until you can't sit anymore" had been uttered regarding that breach of etiquitte.

But it also wasn't polite to always refuse an invitation to dinner, so I spent a few nights in flat-out terror, eyes glued to the stove, wondering what menace was lurking in the pot.

Luckily, I never got liver, and luckier still, my problem got solved for me. Not long after my 4th birthday, I got bronchitis. My nasty, phlegm-soaked ass was stuck in bed. Quite gleefully, my sister set out for Lisa's house on a rare solo venture.

When she came back, I was huddled in a blanket, on the kitchen floor, watching my mother cook dinner, fuming at my sister the traitor.

The Traitor poured herself a glass of Hi-C and said casually to my mother, "Mom, what does screw mean?"

There was a long pause. Then my mother continued peeling potatoes. "You mean like when you screw in a nail?" my mother said.

"Nooooo, I mean screw like what Barbie does with Ken," my sister said, rolling her eyes in disdain.

We learned two lessons that day. One of them was a vocabulary term. The second: do not play Barbies with Lisa's older brothers in the room.

Lisa spent most playdates at OUR house from then on. Liver Night Problem solved.

This recipe for revolting (I assume) Sauerkraut Salad came from Lisa's grandmother. Suffice it to say that I know now why Barb wasn't much of a cook.

Sauerkraut Salad

1 green pepper
1 small onion
3 stalks celery
1 can (1 lb.) sauerkraut
1 cup chili sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Chop green pepper, onions and celery fine. Then mix with sauerkraut and all remaining ingredients. This is very good with cold cuts.**

**Her endorsement, not mine!!


  1. This entry cracked me up! Sounds a lot like my own childhood and around the same point in time, sounds like. I love sauerkraut, but not sure i'd like that one. I may try it if I get brave, though!

  2. I thought sauerkraut was raised solely for hot dogs. Did you eat this? This recipe literally made me gag.

    The story, on the other hand, was perfection. I wish we lived close. Not just so I could crash your dinner parties, but because I could listen to your stories all day long.

  3. As usual a lovely witty story! Made me smile! I love how you tell it - you should write a book - I know a guy here in the UK who has written a sort of chick-lit novel that is interspersed with recipes. You could do one about your family with recipes like you write your blog - it would be amazing -I'd buy it! :) Thanks for the cheery message by the way - I liked it xxx

  4. What a great story! Your description of Barb cracked me up. Oh, and this recipe made me gag at the mere thought!

  5. You have such a way with words...I was right there with you circa 1980-something waiting to find out how you were going to avoid liver!! And I think I'll pass on that *lovely* sauerkraut.

  6. This kind of recipes makes me so nostalgic. When we went through my grandmother's things before moving her into assisted living, I became the proud owner of her cookbook. It's filled with recipes like this one and all sorts of molds and aspics. Things I would never make, but am happy to sit in front of the fire reading about. Thanks for bringing back the memories!

  7. LMAO...oh my woman, you are just so fun to listen to :D Not sure about this recipe, but I'd try anything once ;)

  8. HAHA - oh my goodness. I was totally the oldest sister with two younger kids in mother was also a big fan of the "package deal." Hysterical story. Kind of makes me wish I had a best friend with a racy mama. Sans the fondness for liver, of course.

  9. There was something wrong with the person who made this and liked it.

  10. Ck, Sam, Fae, Girlichef, Apples, Tsquared, CC, Phoo_D and LJ, y'all are welcome to come over any day for stories and MotherLode food. Alas, I think the latter kills the deal for all of you.

    Plus, this chick is WAY better on paper (virtual or not) than in real life, so maybe I'll just send you some super-yum (not) Sauerkraut Salad in the mail. Expect your odiferous package soon :)

  11. PS: Ck, if you ever wanna come West and leave The Dark Side, I would be so excited. I'd spoil you rotten. Although I encourage you to sleep in, because hubs thinks it's perfectly acceptable to fart at the breakfast table. Not.

    And Phoo-D, I am researching NYC restaurants for next year when we go...and I am paralyzed by the choices. I'm on board for Babbo, definitely...unless Gwyneth is in the room and then I'll have to send her an order of duck fat, just to see her clanky ass squirm :}

  12. I have to say I don't think I'd make that recipe, but your story was priceless! I can just imagine your mom's eyes bugging out when you sister asked about "screw". Too funny!

  13. My mother used to eat liver and onions with a big glass of buttermilk once in a while and I swear she did it just to gross us out!

    I loved this post! Awesome! :0)

  14. Popped in from the UnGourmet to say hi!

  15. gross. i have never said gross to a recipe before, even that pirate casserole or whatever it was. but gross.

    the story is freaking hilarious though, and a good distraction from my boring workday

  16. You made me laugh out loud--and boy did I need that today! I had the same sort of experience going over to the neighbor's, who used to make pea soup. What kind of little kid eats pea soup. It was only once--and I remember actually gagging--but every time I went over there, my five-year-old brain thought, Oh shit, that better not be pea soup in that cup.

  17. Ew, I don't think I'd like that salad.

    My husband might though.

  18. Unconfidentialcook: dear god, woman, you must have read my mind? Upcoming is a story about pea soup, a cross eyed kid named Edmund Penn, and a boyfriend who slurped pickle juice up his nose...Oh, so many shameful things to share...

    Whispering: Shamefully, my dad loved Sauerkraut Salad. But he also ate braunschweiger...cringe.

  19. whoops! my mistake. I am on my daughter's computer and it doesn't have spell check