Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Sauerbraten and sauerkraut in Morristown November 15, 2010

Diners gathered in the fellowship hall at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Morristown for a German meal served by the Cannon Valley Lutheran High School German Club following a German Fest of Thanks & Praise.

THE LAST TIME I ATE an authentic German meal, I was in high school. The German Club, of which I was a member, was on a Christmas trip to New Ulm, that most Deutsch of all Minnesota cities.

After visiting Domeier’s German Store, a quaint import shop, and Christmas shopping downtown, we gathered at Eibner’s, a German restaurant. Of our ethnic meal there, I remember only the main dish, sauerbraten.

Fast forward nearly four decades to yesterday and a German meal served by the Cannon Valley Lutheran High School German Club at a fundraising dinner in Morristown. The group is traveling to Germany in February. The main dish sauerbraten, beef served atop spaetzle, tasted tangy and vinegary, exactly as I remembered. But then so did several of the other foods like the German potato salad and the purple cabbage, which my friend Mike claimed was transformed from green to purple in a sort of scientific experiment.

The plated portion of the meal included German potato salad, cabbage, brats with sauerkraut, sauerbraten served atop spaetzle (a German dumpling) and bread (rye may have been a more authentic choice).

Magic or not, the meal turned out by the kitchen crew (primarily German students’ parents and CVLHS board members) was worthy of any good German restaurant. I give it five stars.

That said, I honestly could not eat this food on a regular basis. Too much starch. Too heavy. Too all-one-boring blah white, except for that colorful dash of purple cabbage. I fear a steady diet of this would clog my arteries and cause me to gain weight more rapidly than I already am at my slowing metabolism mid-50s age.

In all fairness to the Germans, I’m certain they don’t eat this much or these types of foods daily just like I don’t eat pizza and potatoes every day. In fact, CVLHS language teacher Sabine Bill, who recently moved to Morristown from Germany, told me the German meal served on Sunday is representative of the food eaten in the Bavarian region of southern Germany, not the entire country.

Now I’m unsure where my German ancestors lived, but I know they liked their sauerkraut. My dad was the king of sauerkraut makers, a tradition carried on by my sister Lanae. We got sauerkraut on Sunday served with slices of brats.

Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly eat another bite of anything, I was handed a bowl of bread pudding laced with raisins and immersed in a decadent, over-sweet buttery sauce. My husband complained that his piece was smaller than mine and I offered to share. But I didn’t, not one single bite. I could have. I should have…

The decadent bread pudding...

Typically I don't drink coffee. But it was decaff, went well with the bread pudding and pfeffernusse and was served in the prettiest, sturdiest cups.

Diane, a CVLHS board member, made more than 1,000 pfeffernusse, tiny hard cookies which include black pepper, black coffee and several spices. Each diner got five cookies, served in festive cupcake liners.

On the way out of the Bethlehem Lutheran Church fellowship hall, where the German meal was served, I told my friend Mike that his group had started something. They would have to host this German Fest of Thanks & Praise and the German meal annually.

I could eat this ethnic food once a year. To my several-generations-removed-from-Deutschland taste buds, this homemade meal rated as authentically delicious.

Programs from the pre-dinner German Fest of Thanks & Praise lie on a pew inside Bethlehem Lutheran Church. The fest included prayers, songs and Scripture readings in German.

Between meal sittings, musicians entertained waiting diners inside the Bethlehem Lutheran Church sanctuary.

On my way to the church balcony, I found this CVLHS sign on a bulletin board.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling