November 1, 2011

when it was good

I can smell it right now… I can taste it, too. Schnitzel.

My eyes are closed and I’m 8 years old again. My dark hair is straight and bowl cut shaped. I have no watermelon boobs and I’m wearing my favorite multi-colored striped sweater as I kneel on the bench at the cold aluminum kitchen table. My blond, long-haired cousin is kneeling next to me and we’re giggling while we each take a piece of meat (pork pounded thin) and dress it accordingly (dredging through the egg, then the flour, then the breadcrumbs), piling the finished pieces on top of the other. Oma is looking over us, smiling. The kitchen is warm. Her smile is warmer. Her blue eyes sparkle with wetness. There is German polka music coming from the radio behind us.

Around the corner is the bright dining room with two tables joined together to make one long one. It’s covered with table clothes and the tableware sits at one end, waiting for us to put everything out: small bowl on top of plate; knife, fork, spoon on top of napkin to the right of plate; glass above plate.

In the room next to the dining room, in the front of the house, is the large living room. Its brown and black carpeting is thin and the wooden floors are so golden underneath. While waiting for dinner, we play with Barbies or marbles and jacks. We play cards and dominos. My brother and sister sometimes join us. Sometimes my cousin’s little brother, too. He was the youngest and looked like Nicholas from Eight is Enough.

Ota’s tall frame enters the room and his voice sounds like thunder as he tells us, in German, that it is time to eat. Everyone gathers around the dining room table. Kids giggling, parents unfolding napkins onto their laps. Once everyone is seated, we can finally dig in… finally stab a piece Schnitzel to call our own. Mashed potatoes, coleslaw, carrot slaw would accompany the Schnitzel. Heaven on a plate. Clanking of silverware. And occasionally, “mmmm” and “tastes so good” in German would interrupt the clanking. Rarely was anything left.

Soon we’d slide down from our chairs and go under the table. Giggling ensued as we looked at everyone’s legs and shoes, untying my brother’s. After a couple minutes under the table, we’d make our way into the cold stairwell that led to Ur-Oma’s house. Immediately we’d go to the cabinet in her dining room and grab the Keebler fudge striped cookies and make our way into the living room to lie down on the floor in front of the big black and white tube. With cookies on our fingers, we’d watch the Disney movie on ABC until we heard clanking on the radiator pipes in the dining room- our signal from upstairs to return.

It’s a Sunday afternoon in the late 1970s and life is sooo good and the Schnitzel makes it even better.

This week, we’ve asked you to share with us a special recipe. But, we’ve asked you to do more than just list out ingredients.

We challenged you to take us back…to take us into your memory, in 500 words or less.


  1. Wow. I'm blown away. That was so beautifully written and I never even knew that schnitzel could be so emotional! Thanks for taking me back with you.

  2. oh thank you so much for you kind comment! my Ota has since passed and Oma isn't well so writing this- going back to this time- was hard. but good. sooo good. :)

  3. Amazing how food can stir up such a great post! Well done.

  4. Such fun memories! You're making me wish I had cousins! And Schnitzel. And Keeber fudge stripe cookies. Always such great food at your grandmother's house, no?

  5. I love it.You made me so hungry, but not just for the food, for the beautiful times that were family, growing up.
    Thanks for sharing!


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