The baton has been passed

This is all that's left from 3 large cookie sheets.

This is all that’s left from 3 large cookie sheets.

There is a new torch-bearer — someone who is worthy of protecting the Holy Grail.

What is the Holy Grail you ask? My mother’s strudel recipe!

My mother was a great cook. She came from a line of women who could make anything out of nothing. They could make a tasty meal out of turnips and a carrot. That may be a slight exaggeration, but very slight. They lived in hard times and adjusted well.

She had certain recipes that are tradition. You don’t screw with tradition. Some of us have been preserving those traditions for generations coming up but things weren’t looking good.

Younger folks have no interest in the old style of cooking. They prefer quick fixes that you can get at the grocery store. Short cuts! Meals in 30 minutes!

I am not judging here. I love a rotisserie chicken too but there is no potato salad as good as my mother’s with the hot bacon dressing. No way, no how!

There are a few dishes that you just can’t buy. Really good strudel made with hand stretched dough is one of them.

Yes, there is always frozen phyllo sheets at the supermarket but it’s not the same. The recipe for our strudel dough is different although both end up as thin flaky coverings over wonderful fillings. We make our strudel with savory ingredients like cabbage, potatoes or cottage cheese. You can use apple or cherry or other fruit but we don’t.

Since my mother died, I have been the only one in our family that makes it. It’s not hard to make, just tedious and time-consuming. You prep the fillings earlier, maybe even the day before so it’s a two-day affair. Then there is the cleanup. Flour and stuff seems to go everywhere.

Here is my enterprising grandniece!

Here is my enterprising grandniece!

I was sure the tradition would end with me but this week my grandniece Jenn asked to come over to learn the trade.

This is great news for several reasons. First, the pressure will be off of me to make it for every family occasion. Yay!

Second I know my mother would be pleased that this tradition which came over from Germany with my grandmother will continue.

We spent yesterday with flour on our clothes and our hands full of cabbage and potatoes. That first taste from the oven made it all worthwhile.

Aside from the cooking, it was great to spend time with my grandniece. I also learned that my mother’s AP cut out cookie recipe was going on at another relative. Yum!

I once again feel connected to family and once again, I didn’t take any memory making pictures. Maybe I need photo therapy. Good thing she brought some chocolate cupcakes so I can forget my shortcomings.

32 thoughts on “The baton has been passed

  1. This is wonderful, Kate. I agree with you entirely that the younger generation primarily seems very comfortable with kitchen short cuts, but they also appreciate tradition and stories tied to family foods. How wonderful for your grandniece to be so interested in learning how to make your mother’s strudel. It must be a very nice feeling to know that this would undoubtedly make your mom very happy, too. It’s sometimes these special foods that continue to carry our loved ones forward with us. ox

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  2. How wonderful that you got to experience the continuance of the tradition, together with your grandniece. One of the things my sisters and I bring up now and again is that we’ve lost some of our grandmother’s recipes (fruit-filled kolaches, and her delicious pecan cookies). We’ve all tried to duplicate the recipes at one time or another, without success, and lament that we didn’t take the time to learn them before she was gone. We still have one older Aunt that might carry the secret clues, but as of today, none of us has shown up in her kitchen, begging for the recipe. Even thinking about those warm and bubby kolaches, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar … well, the thought of it makes me smile. I do miss my granny, and her delicious kitchen. Yep.

    It must be very satisfying to be able to make pans and pans of strudel, and especially, now , to share that experience with your grandniece. Bet your kitchen smelled awesome, and I’ll bet the tasting part of the equation was delicious!

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    • The kitchen smelled of cabbage which depending on your fondness for cabbage was good smelling or not! I remember the cookies and pastries my mother and her sisters would make for Christmas and I miss having a taste of them too.

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  3. All my married life i have been hearing about Bill’s Vienese Mom’s apple streudle! And how she stretched the dough clear across the kitchen table. And here you come – the keeper of the “recipe.” I have never learned to make it. I need some of those chocolate cupcakes to compensate for my shortcomings, but there is no assuaging guilt.

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    • Chocolate cupcakes work for many things. We have a local Musikfest here in August and there is a strudel stand. They only sell apple and cherry but it is as good as any I have tasted probably similar to Bill’s mother’s. It’s the ones with vegetable fillings that you can’t find.

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  4. I’m so glad that you’re passing the strudel baton on to an interested grand niece. My mom kept a number of food traditions alive at the holidays ~ Plum Pudding, Dundee Cake, Stollen Bread, Scones, Shortbread. And I have never made any of these things. My sister took up the torch instead.

    If YOU bake it . . . I will eat it. 😉

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  5. You’re so right that there are fewer and fewer made-from-scratch cooks out there. I rarely do anything difficult anymore, yet I was raised by foodies. Kudos to your grandniece for taking on the baking challenge.

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  6. Before I left for College my Mom taught me how to make her meatloaf and a homemade applepie. We both made the food and it was so much fun. My sister and I last Christmas decided we were going to do Mom’s Stuffd Cabbage for dinner in our slow cookers…we did our Mother proud for sure!

    Great story and I hope that you can pass on more family recipes.

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    • My mother would be so proud of you! My Mom taught me a lot but our teaching sessions were never smooth. My mother was a cooking perfectionist! I don’t think I could chop onions the right way for her. Stuffed cabbage….hmmmm….there is only one person in my family who makes them (my nephew’s wife) and she hasn’t made them in years. Next time invite me!

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  7. Super wonderful. My grandmother had special treats she only made at Christmas…never written down – and my mother, not a cook, wasn’t interested. Wish I had been able to learn those, but I was little and got shooed out of the way.
    This is very very nice indeed!

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  8. My mom, who I could have killed, was one of those old fashioned. no longer, kinda cooks. Her tomato sauce, stuffing, roasted chicken stuffed with lemon and rosemary, mushrooms caps filled with parsley and walnuts. I can, believe it or not, cook like that, but alas…have no one to cook for. To do it for myself just feels wrong and a little depressing. Your strudel sounds amazing. Her big dessert was angel food cake with orange and whipped cream frosting…oh my…she died in 1999…have not had it since or any dessert even close. However, your strudel sounds like a worthy contender 🙂

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