Sauerkraut not optional

My kids, all 3, totally snarfed their sauerkraut today, along with their Smoking Goose Kitchen Sink sausages. Yeah, those are made from pork, pork fat, pork liver, pork heart, pork rinds, bacon, some herbs and spices, and that’s it. I think they may be what sausages are supposed to taste like. They’re very meaty, and not at all like all those homogeneous hot dogs that you can get at every single supermarket in the US.

Anyway, the important thing here is the sauerkraut. My baby girl (5), loves her some kraut. She has her own special jar. It’s pink. The kraut is pink, not the jar. It’s made of red cabbage, green cabbage, granny smith apples, and caraway. She doesn’t really dig the caraway, but she digs the pink and the apples. She eats her kraut plain, as a side dish, which I find hilariously endearing.

My meaty 8-year-old will eat kraut occasionally, but likes it plain. He takes tiny bites with his scrambled eggs.

The eldest, 10, likes the spicy kraut I make for their dad. Green cabbage, jalapeños, red onion, cilantro, and chipotle powder. But he doesn’t like it enough to want it, really. He’ll eat it if I put it on top of his eggs. Especially if the eggs are fried, not scrambled, and if he’s really hungry.

But today, I served them lunch without any discussion of who wants how much or which kind of kraut. We all had pink kraut with sausages, cucumbers, red peppers, and grapes. The sausages turned out to be a little spicy, so I made sure the kids knew the trick to eating them was to take bites with both sausage and kraut at the same time. Little sandwich makers that they are, they piled mounds of kraut on their sausage slices and chomped away. Each one asked for more sauerkraut, and I swear, they each ate about 1/2 cup of it, at least.

And nobody complained.


Please sir, can I have some more?

My favorite thing in the world is when we’re sitting at the dining table, having whatever meal, and one of my kids asks for more vegetables. That’s what they say, “May I have some more vegetables?” Or greens. Or salad. Today, we had corned beef that I shredded and cooked in some tallow, with homemade sauerkraut as the vegetable. My oldest, 10, thought it was a joke, this big pile of kraut. I sometimes have to give some historical perspective before they really jump on, so after my story about how salted meat and fermented vegetables have been around for millenia, and that it’s what people ate all the time before refrigeration was invented (and they didn’t have a nice, cool ice cave to stash their goods in), he decided to eat it. It’s not that he doesn’t like kraut, but he had had a mess of hot kraut yesterday, on his 2 fried eggs, and this was just plain cabbage kraut.

Corned beef is OK. I had one terrible, very memorable experience with canned corned beef in the Philippines. I had stayed overnight in a friend’s house, and the evening before, had tried balut for the first time. It’s kinda weird and tough, like a tire. And salty. Anyway, the next morning, we got up and someone made corned beef hash with canned meat, potatoes, carrots, maybe some onions, probably cooked in coconut oil. Sounds OK, but I had never had corned beef before, and was put off by it being from a can. I ate it. Then we went on a 2 1/2 hour ride on the semi-paved and dirt roads of central Luzon in a jeepney.

Jeepneys are awesome. I wish I had one. But you have to sit sideways, unless you’re next to the driver or on top. We (the girls) weren’t allowed on top. So I had to ride in there, crammed with 20 other people, sideways for 2 1/2 hours. I was feeling pretty crappy by the time we arrived, and ran into the bathroom and booted my breakfast. It was still little pieces of carrot and potato and meat. Plus, the bonus was that the toilets didn’t actually have water, just a bucket you fill and dump into the pot to make it drain. So my corned beef hash went in, and sprayed right back out, thanks to the nice round bowl. All over the floor, my dress, into my shoes, all of it. I used the handy bucket to dump water on the floor towards the drain, cleaned myself up, and went out to my meeting. It was awful, yes indeed.

I got over my aversion to corned beef just in the last couple of years. Our local market corns their own brisket and sells it for St. Patrick’s day, and it’s pretty good. This year, I got a Trader Joe’s corned beef, and it was not nearly as good as the other one, but it was so much cheaper. Next year, I’ll know better.

But back to today. My kids, all 3, ate their corned beef and sauerkraut. When the middle one, 7, asked for more sauerkraut even before he was done with the meat, I was a little surprised. My little girl, 5, loves sauerkraut, so it’s not such a big deal when she wants more, but the 7 year old usually only wants a bite or two of kraut. He’s been eating it therapeutically for his digestion, but I guess he has progressed to genuinely liking it. This is cause for rejoicing, even though it means I have to step up the production.

I made a gallon of hot kraut (cabbage, jalapeños, red onion, cilantro, chipotle powder) last week, and it’s a beast to chop that much cabbage. This will be a Dad-only kraut, since I used 2 pints of jalapeños to 3 medium cabbages, so I guess I’ll have to get on a new batch of regular. My husband eats about a pint of kraut every two weeks, because I make such awesome kraut.

Chicken feet

I had chicken feet for the first time in the Philippines in 1997. There, the little footsies are poked on a skewer and grilled over a fire. You can dip them in “barbecue” sauce, which was something like 3/4 cane vinegar, 1/4 soy sauce, and hot chilies in there for good measure. So you get your chicken foot, dip it in the sauce, and gnaw away. There’s not much there, really.

Last week, I was boiling up a pot of chicken broth, with the chicken backs and feet that I’d procured at the farmer’s market. I had let it boil for about 2 hours and went in to check its progress. My 5 year old daughter followed me, in her attempt to assist, and begged to know what was in the pot. I explained about the broth, and offered her a chicken foot. She squeaked, “OK.” She’s pretty intrepid about trying new things, but she didn’t get the jesting in my voice, so I decided to roll with it. I told her to go get a plate. She did.

When she came back, she held the plate up as I plucked the foot out of the steaming pot. By this time, it had practically dissolved and was barely holding together. My funny girl was daunted by the squishy sight, but she still bravely took it to the table. The skin was falling off, and the little claws were peeled back. Seriously, it looked disgusting. She sat down and got ready, but didn’t know how to proceed. I told her to just pick it up and chew.

In the end, I let her off the hook. She would have done it, but it just didn’t seem fair to keep it going when I wouldn’t eat the slimy thing myself. I think she was relieved, but it didn’t stop her from enjoying a mug of hot broth.