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Comfort Food and Books for Comfort

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Christina Stock Photo German farmer's summer stew — nutricious with anti-oxygens and vitamins. A delicious way to boost one's immunesystem. German farmers' stews vary depending on the season.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

German farmers stew and Carlsbad native author M.E. Smith

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

How far can you think back? First memories — if you are lucky to have a good memory — may show glimpses, or rather snapshots of one’s early childhood. Today, I would like to share some of those with you and a fitting recipe.

I remember the large, shiny military boots of my father and getting into trouble because I accidentally scuffed them up trying to walk in them. I was about 5 years old when my father and mother were stationed in Bergkamen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. My father had been a medic helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War and after his year of duty, he got to choose where he would be stationed.

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Having married a German, my mom, and loving the country as well, he decided to return to Germany, but his only choice was said Bergkamen, not my grandmother’s lovely Wiesbaden in the state of Hess. Let me tell you, Bergkamen in 1970 was not pretty. The state is flat and the slimy smog from factories and old-fashioned coal mines was unbearable.

The only relief we had was thanks to a friend my father made when he joined a private flight school to learn how to become a glider pilot. His friend was salt-of-the-Earth — a true German farmer. His family had been living on the same farm since medieval times.

His name was Hermann and his wife was Agnes. They had three children who were much older than me, Maria, Gabriele and Hermann Jr. In the two years we stayed there, I grew up playing between the Army helicopters on base and the gliders and planes on the private airport.

The biggest treat, however, was on the few weekends when we were invited to the farm, even though you had to get used to being in the farmhouse because of the smell of the animals. While having been renovated, it was a traditional farmhouse, meaning that the house and the stall for the cows and pigs were attached, separated by a door, to keep the animals warm in the winter.

It took several hours for my nostrils to stop burning because of the smell. Everything that went on the table was homemade: The butter, bread, pudding, caramel candy, vegetables and meals. They even made their own sugar out of sugar beets. Sugar beets and the beets they would feed the pigs looked, in my eyes, the same. The farmer’s kids fooled me once or twice biting into the wrong one during harvest.

I learned that it was frowned upon to go grocery shopping. It was like you failed and your neighbors would gossip — not behind your back — but fairly loud after church in your face. That area had been Lutheran since the 30-year War in the 17th century. We stayed friends with the family for decades, even after my parents were divorced, my mom and I would return to see them in the summer.

Agnes was a great cook who, during harvest time, cooked for 50 men and women. She always had a big pot of stew cooking on the stove with seasonal vegetables.

Here is a recipe that comes very close to her summer stew.

German Bauerntopf (farmer’s stew)

Serves four

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp oil

1 lb ground beef

2 large carrots, peeled and diced

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced

1 large onion, diced

2 bell peppers, either red or orange

2 garlic cloves

1 can stewed tomatoes

1 small can tomato paste

6 cups chicken broth

1 Tbsp paprika powder

1 bay leaf

pepper and salt if needed

Preparation:

Heat the oil in a deep pan and fry the ground beef until it is light brown. Add the onions and garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and broth, then stir. Add the potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, bay leaf and paprika. Cook on medium heat about 40 minutes.

Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.

Serve with a thick slice of bread. If you like, you can add just a little heavy cream before serving to make the stew richer.

If you have children, don’t forget to remove the bay leaf. The leaf itself softens, but the stem can hurt soft tissue in the mouth. Bay leaves are known to be antiseptic, contain antioxidants, help with digestion and are even thought to have anti-cancer properties. Their use goes back to the old Romans and Greeks who thought that carrying and using bay leaves in their dishes promoted wisdom.

Books for comfort:

Submitted Photo
Carlsbad native author M.E. Smith focuses on counterfeit Native American Art in her book, “Deception Man.”

Born a little south of us, in Carlsbad, M.E. Smith has worked as a newspaper reporter and also lived in Arizona, California and Texas. She writes in her email that she is drawn to indigenous cultures, the diversity of the Western wilderness, and the people and places of the region, especially small towns that have retained their identity and sense of history.

Smith is part of the New Mexico Author Co-op and her book “Deception Man” is a New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards 2018 finalist for ebook fiction.

“Deception Man” is a can’t-put-it-down tale of fraud poisoning New Mexico’s trade in iconic Native American silver and turquoise jewelry,” Smith writes about the book. The introduction reads, “Albuquerque reporter Cait Zapata gets drawn into a family crisis. Her jeweler father and her cousin on the Zuni Pueblo discover someone is pirating their distinctive work and hallmarks, and selling the imitations in Santa Fe. Cait starts investigating the prevalence of phony products sold in New Mexico’s tourist hotspots as authentic Indian jewelry, unaware of the danger she is stirring up.”

The ebook is available at all online bookstores, including Amazon.

 

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