Verenika & Other Yummy-ness

While home for Christmas this year, I realized something. I completely took the culture of my heritage and the region I grew up in for granted. As it was with peppernuts, it wasn't until I moved away that I even realized that there was something special going on around me. It even took a trip to Las Vegas and dining in a German restaurant to help me see how much the food I grew up around wasn't just from a place, but really defined the heritage of my family.

In Vegas, we stepped into the dining room as the German band broke out into a rendition of Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire — it's really hard to get away from Nashville! We opened our menus and, aside from the potato soup, nothing looked familiar to me. Granted it was a Bavarian restaurant which I'm led to believe is different than just general German, but still, nothing.

That got me thinking. Perhaps I'm less German and more German-Mennonite. One one side of my family, my Great-great-grandparents came the the States with a Mennonite colony that is still in South Dakota. In fact, my Grandmother is buried there. The community share work, cooking, eating and worship, but each family has their own house.

They are a very progressive colony as the women are permitted to wear pleated skirts. We visited with my entire extended family (my grandfather has 8 brothers and sisters, so when I say entire extended family, I'm talking about all of siblings, their kids, and their kid's kids. There's a lot of us!) one summer when I was 10 or 12. It was very interesting, but I am glad that Grandpa & Grandma decided to leave the colony!

I grew up around Verenika, Zweibach, Borscht, Bierock, Sauerkraut,  and New Year's Cookies, amongst other delicacies — only I've never made  any of them! Verenika, the dough pocket stuffed with cheese curds, with ham gravy is pictured above. Definitely one of the first things I'm going to master!! I may have had too many at the weekly all-you-can eat German buffet while visiting home. . . twice.

We went the day after we got into town, and then, because it was SO good, we went again the next week! So I've sort of made a personal quest for myself. I'm going to try my hand at making these and other dishes that I grew up around. Not only because they are SO YUMMY, but because I want to make sure my girls know about these dishes. I don't want this part of my heritage to end with me.

So! Do any of you Kansas readers, or others who may have German or Mennonite roots have recipes for me?? I have an ample supple of recipes in random cookbooks, but I want tried-and-true recipes! Give me the good stuff! Seriously. ;) I'm also interesting in exploring similar recipes. In the tiny bit of research I've done I've seen that there are more general German, Russian and Ukrainian versions of many of these items, but there are characteristics that definitely make them Mennonite. I'd love to try the other versions as well to compare if you recipes to send me! I think I'm doing this in part because of the whole heritage thing, and in part because I really, really like to eat.

xoxo Lori Danelle