Please note: I have held off on publishing this full-length until I knew our friend was well on his way, especially since I tend to be the Queen of Oversharing… plus I’m limited by a wordcount in the newspaper 🙂
My husband and I have recently been hosting an old friend visiting the United States from Bavaria. Munich, to be more precise. It has been wunderbar (that means “wonderful” in German).
We knew that Josef was headed to the U.S. sometime this month for his two-month American “walkabout” of sorts that he’s taken regularly for about 40 years. That’s how my husband became friends with him, many years ago… when he was traveling and mutual friends introduced them in Fredericksburg, Texas.
When we got an email that Josef was in Fort Stockton and heading towards Alpine, we were surprised – we knew he was flying into Chicago and then traveling down south, but hadn’t heard anything in a couple weeks.
“We have to go look for him!” my husband said. Josef only had cell service when he had a wifi-connection, and we hadn’t been able to get in touch with him. We hopped in the truck and started driving from Fort Davis to Fort Stockton, the back way through Alpine and Marathon. Fortunately, the weather was pretty nice.
We tried to convince him to take Amtrak to Alpine, to no avail. You see, his preferred method of travel is walking and hitchhiking. His travels slowed just a bit when he lost an arm to cancer, but that hasn’t stopped the robust Bavarian from doing what he loves – seeing the country in a way most of us miss when we’re speeding along in a car.
Josef says walking on the road becomes meditative. Back home, he tends to drive on the Autobahn, which is two miles from his home, “no faster than 100.” I never thought to ask if he meant miles per hour or kilometers per hour… there’s a big difference.
We had no idea if we’d find him, or if he’d caught a ride with someone, and no way to get in touch with his wife in Munich to find out where he might be.
We were looking for a needle in a haystack.
Every yucca and tree on the roadside caught our eye from a distance. When we turned from Marathon towards Fort Stockton, we remarked how desolate the stretch of 385 was for someone on foot, and hoped he’d gotten a ride.
After about 20 miles on 385, we found him. In the giant haystack of Far West Texas, we found our needle walking along the highway.
Listening to Josef speak brings back such wonderful memories of my grandmother and her siblings, with thick German accents that weren’t lost when the family grew in America after helping settle Texas. Thankfully, many of my granny’s recipes have been passed down through the family.
Having lived in the German-settled Texas Hill Country for nearly two decades, a heaping plate of Jägerschnitzel or Sauerbraten was never too far away if the hankering for German food struck. There were several options in Boerne, and we could drive 40 minutes to dine at one of the German favorites in Fredericksburg. Out here in far West Texas, it’s a little harder to come by.
I’ve learned that once upon a time, there was a German restaurant at the Holland Hotel, owned by Harry Mois of Harry’s Tinaja-fame. We will be taking our friend Josef to visit Harry while he is with us – they have known each other for many years.
Spaetzle is the traditional German egg noodle, similar in size to a rotini pasta noodle. I love Sauerbraten, which is Bavarian-style marinated beef in a sweet-sour sauce, and when served with red cabbage, I am one happy gal.
In Far West Texas, you don’t have to travel to Boerne or Fredericksburg or Germany to enjoy a good German meal, you can create a Bavarian feast at home, especially when inspired by a Bavarian houseguest. Guten Appetit!
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3 pounds beef rump roast
2 large onions, chopped
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
10 whole cloves, or more to taste
2 bay leaves, or more to taste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¾ cup crumbled gingersnap cookies
Place beef rump roast, onions, vinegar, water, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon black pepper, sugar, cloves, Worcestershire sauce, ginger and bay leaves in a large pot. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days, turning meat daily. Remove meat from marinade and pat dry with paper towels, reserving marinade.
Add salt and pepper to taste to flour in a large bowl. Sprinkle flour mixture over beef.
Heat vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat; cook beef until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Pour reserved marinade over beef, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until beef is tender, about 3-1/2 to 4 hours. Remove beef to a platter and slice.
Strain solids from remaining liquid and continue cooking over medium heat. Add gingersnap cookies and simmer until gravy is thickened, about 10 minutes. Serve gravy over sliced beef.
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup 2% milk
2 teaspoons salt
8 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
In a large bowl, stir the flour, eggs, milk and salt until smooth (dough will be sticky). In a large saucepan over high heat, bring water to a boil. You can either load up a potato ricer with dough to make your little dumplings or pour dough into a colander or spaetzle maker coated with cooking spray; place over boiling water. With a wooden spoon, press dough until small pieces drop into boiling water. Cook for 2 minutes or until dumplings are tender and float. Remove with a slotted spoon; toss with butter. This should take about 15 minutes, start to finish.
Granny’s Red Cabbage
3 slices of bacon
½ cup white vinegar
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons chopped onion
3 cups shredded red cabbage
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Dice bacon and brown. Add everything to skillet. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until it’s all tender.
Printed with permission of the Alpine Avalanche