What do you feed a visiting Bavarian in Texas? (Hint: NOT sauerkraut!)

NOTE: I’m several weeks late in publishing this. Josef is currently staying with friends that live a one-hour train ride from Chicago, where he’ll soon catch his flight to Germany. Since he left our home, he’s hitchhiked to the Grand Canyon and the Ozarks, and is now awaiting his return home. Hitchhiking on Easter Sunday was “not good.”
We’ve kept in contact almost every day, via modern technology. The other day, he said, “Interesting – in the US, you say ‘Be careful and be safe.’ In Germany, we say, ‘Have fun and enjoy.’ “
Interesting, indeed.

Since I wrote about our German friend Josef who stayed with us for about a week in this column, week before last, I’ve had a number of people inquire about his visit and his travels.

Did I make sauerbraten for him while he stayed with us? No, I did not. I asked him if he liked sauerbraten, and like a good German, of course he does. He wife makes it often. I didn’t want to attempt German food for him when he eats German food all the time. I also didn’t make him eat my homemade sauerkraut. His wife makes that back home in Germany as well.

What did I cook for him? I cooked our regular Texas homestyle meals, and he seemed to really enjoy them. Steaks on the grill on a beautiful Fort Davis afternoon were terrific. A roasted chicken one night when the weather was a little dreary was just perfect. I made steak tacos for dinner one night, loaded with homemade guacamole, salsa, lettuce, onions and tomatoes. Between happy eating sounds, he said, “Das gut. This is NOT like Taco Bell.” I took that as a high compliment, for sure.

One day, I asked him if he’d prefer beef stew or Terlingua Chili – he knows Terlingua well – and he opted for chili. I have to say, it was the best pot of chili I’ve ever made. Even my husband said so. I followed the exact recipe that I’ve shared here before, and cooked it slow and low on the stovetop. I added one secret ingredient that I’m sure is added at every chili-fest… a splash or two of beer. No one had indigestion, and we ate the leftovers the next morning with eggs and tortillas.

For breakfast most mornings, I made breakfast sandwiches with eggs fried over-medium, melted cheese and crisp bacon, drizzled with salsa and held inside a toasted English muffin. Josef liked our “American sandwiches” very much. He was not a fan of oatmeal, so I didn’t force it on him.

On his last night with us, we went to Harry’s Tinaja in Alpine. Watching old friends Harry and Josef light up when they saw each other was heartwarming, to say the least. Their animated conversation in their native dialect and hearty laughter could put a smile on anyone onlooker’s face.

Josef and Harry, old friends catching up at Harry's Tinaja.IMG_4275 (Edited)

We ate dinner at La Calavera after leaving Harry’s. The guys had red enchiladas with chicken, topped with a fried egg. I had guacamole tostadas. It was all so delicious. Hours at La Calavera on Historic Murphy Street in Alpine have changed to dinner only, from 5-10 p.m.

IMG_4280(2)

Thanks to modern technology, I am able to follow our German friend on his smart phone and know his almost-exact location at any given time. We have been in contact every day, and I find myself thinking with a German accent now and then.

When the cat sneezed and I said, “Gesundheit!” to her, she looked at me like I was crazy. When my husband asks me a question that requires a yes-answer, I find myself saying, “Ja,” and “Das gut” when something is good. It’s kind of funny.

As of press time, our Bavarian is in Flagstaff, Arizona, soaking up as much of the Grand Canyon and South Rim as he can. The North Rim is much too cold right now. He’s meeting friends there, and heading to Las Vegas for a while. From Vegas, they are road-tripping to North Carolina.

We told him that if he came back through Texas this trip, he always has a place to stay in Fort Davis. He told us he fully expects us to come to his home in Munich next year. I think that’s a wundebar idea.

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Homemade Sauerkraut

 1 medium head of cabbage
1-3 T. sea salt

Caraway seeds, whole garlic cloves (smashed), if desired.

Chop or shred cabbage. Sprinkle with salt.

In a large bowl, knead the cabbage with clean hands, or pound with a potato masher for about 10 minutes, until there is enough liquid to cover.

Stuff the cabbage into a quart jar, pressing the cabbage underneath the liquid. If necessary, add a bit of water to completely cover cabbage.

Cover the jar with a tight lid, airlock lid, or coffee filter secured with a rubber band.

Culture at room temperature (60-70°F is preferred) for at least 2 weeks, or until desired flavor and texture are achieved. If using a tight lid, burp daily to release excess pressure.

Once the sauerkraut is finished, put a tight lid on the jar and move to cold storage. The sauerkraut’s flavor will continue to develop as it ages.

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