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Forget caviar — mom's strudel was to die for

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Posted: Monday, January 9, 2006 10:00 pm

When John Kennedy was president, he said there were 10 million Americans who went to bed hungry every night.

I was one of those Americans, and if FDR would have made the same observation in the 1930s, I would have been included then as well. My mom used to say, "Robert was born hungry and he never got over it."

If it wasn't for the fast metabolism, I would weigh 500 pounds.

Bob Bader

I was never a picky eater, but I did have some food issues. Brussels sprouts didn't appeal to me when I was a brat and when we would have them in a meal, I was usually admonished by a parent who would say, "Eat your sprouts, there are millions of children in Asia that would love to have them for supper."

My response: "Name two."

My other response was (below my voice), "Why do you cook these awful things when you know your children won't eat them without a battle?"

Acquired tastes don't occur in children, you have to gag some nasty stuff down for years before you and your palate realize you are being treated to the ambrosia of the gods.

Food is like an ugly car; if it is expensive enough, for some it suddenly becomes more than desirable. This may surprise you, my first exposure to caviar was not in North Dakota, but rather in the Beverly Hills hotel at the snootiest wedding I have ever attended. The people at the reception were ecstatic over some black fish eggs, which looked and smelled suspiciously like some of the bait we used when we were angling.I found that I could eat the caviar if I put enough real food on the appetizer as well. Well, I still don't like certain expensive ugly cars and I sure as heck don't like caviar, but I do understand how you can catch fish with it, after all, if a fish is dumb enough to commit suicide over a worm, why not over some stinky eggs from the Caspian Sea?

I was lucky enough to have been born into a family in which the mother also happened to be the most talented creator of savory and delicious German food there was. (Another reason I should have weighed 300 pounds even as a high school student.) All my life, I have compared my mom's cooking to that of other people. Take the King Yin cuisine as an example. Their fried noodles were just like mother made, and Mombo's burritos were wrapped in tortillas that tasted like my mother's strudels (not the sweet ones, the main dish ones that have the sautéed onions inside). I have told Sam "Mombo" Hernandez that so many times he just stares straight ahead when it say it.

Recently, "People" magazine dedicated a whole issue to the matter of weight loss, and some of the people they interviewed in a "before and after" weighed over 500 pounds. Paradoxically, on the same day, the "Rotarian" magazine arrived with an issue dedicated to: "The Food Dilemma - Can we End Global Hunger?"

In the Rotarian magazine, there were pictures of people who will never reach 100 pounds in weight and will only live 40 years … 38 of whom will have been in an unending struggle to get enough to eat for themselves and their kids.

I am learning I can't save the world and neither can the USA. What we can do, however, is teach people to do what it takes to feed themselves, even if it means their having to walk to places where foodstuffs can be raised. It may be that the real food dilemma is not directly about food at all, but more about water and the education concerning how to use it to raise food plants in order to feed the people.

This brings us back to North Dakota. Many people in Lodi have ancestors who lived off that land and that land wasn't especially friendly. I have heard stories of how my grandparents only bought staples once or twice a year. They would buy salt, sugar and another spice or two. They would take their own wheat to the local granary to have it milled into flour from which the cooks in the family would make meals that only live in memory these days … I would give a week's pay for another meal of strudels or chicken and dumplings which would taste exactly as that my mom cooked.

Meat was left on the hoof 'til needed in those days and was refrigerated by the weather much of the year. Otherwise, it would be made into sausage or smoked so as to have it last.

Did I tell you my mom's cousins were nuts? One of the things they would do is make sausage, smoke it and invite the neighbors over for a sort of harvest festival which featured the NEIGHBOR'S bratwurst. One particular instance, some of the folks from up the road were invited to a marvelous dinner of stolen bratwurst, homemade bread and garden veggies.

One of the guests said, "If I didn't know better, I would think this wurst came out of my own smokehouse."

My the cousin's eyebrows went up and down so fast they left skid marks on the inside of their eye glasses.

Bob Bader is a Lodi writer and chiropractor. He may be reached at bobbyo@softcom.net.

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