I can’t help but smile when I think of my grandfather.
My grandfather was a tall man who loved airplanes and motorcycles (though an accident in his youth left his leg permanently injured). He owned a small prop plane for years and flew whenever he could. And he was dedicated to work and family.
He grew up in a German-American family in the New York area. My grandfather didn’t always like to speak of his family, but when he did he used to tell me stories about his childhood, his family and where they came from. He would sit on his slate blue couch, which had a scratchy woven fabric that I can best liken to burlap — though I know it wasn’t and he and my grandmother had chosen it specially. I would sit in an armchair near his rotary phone, directly across from him.
I wish I spent more time in that seat when I got older . . .
One story in particular that I remember him telling me late in his life was about how our last name came to be so Americanized. Honestly, you would never know we were German from hearing it. Apparently when my German great-great grandfather went through Ellis Island, the customs people couldn’t understand the heavy German name and simply changed it to a much simpler name. There was a vague relation between the German name that began with a V and the eventual W-name — very vague.
I wish I could remember what the original name was.
It makes me sad to think that there were all these stories that he had to share, but I cannot remember them well enough to pass much along to my own children. I never knew any of his family – his parents, grandparents or his sister – they were all gone long before I came. But I pass along what I can.
It’s all I can do.
My grandfather grew up in a family that ate traditional German food everyday. That remained his favorite variety of foods throughout his life (though he really enjoyed Chinese food and Italian as well). If he was alive today, I think he’d love this cabbage — it was always among his favorites when we’d dine at German restaurants. This was an experimental recipe that just came together perfectly on the first try.
If you make it, do it justice and service it with a hearty meal of the wurst of your choice and some tasty sour kraut — preferably my grandfather’s favorite packaged brand: Silver Floss.
Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage
1/4 cup salted butter
1 1/2 – 2 cups red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the cabbage and cook for about five minutes, until it begins to wilt.
Stir in the honey, apple juice and balsamic vinegar. Stir to coat. Lower the heat to medium-low and cover the pot.
Cook, stirring occasionally for about 40 minutes until the cabbage is tender.
This is equally tasty warm or cool.