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Comfort food and books for comfort

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Christina Stock Photo Serving suggestion for German "Frikadellen."

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

The ancestor of the American hamburger and author Vicky Ramakka novel ‘The Cactus Plot’

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

It has been hot in New Mexico. With temperatures in the 100s we crave light food, possibly with as little oven-time as possible. Looking back to my childhood in Germany, I am channeling recipes that my Oma (German for grandmother) used to make in summer. On Saturday morning, she would be in the kitchen preparing Frikadellen. Frikadellen is one of the slang words for German hamburger patties, which also are known as Fleischpflanzerl in Bavaria and Bulette in Berlin and East Germany. The origin of the meatball has many legends. It’s popularity came to be in the 17th century, allegedly Huguenots fleeing Catholic prosecution in France brought the meatball recipe to Berlin, calling them boulette, which means little ball in French. Other sources say the tasty meatball became popular with the troops of Napoleon Bonaparte in early 19th century, who brought them to conquered kingdoms of Germany, Austria and Italy. No matter how, chances are it is indeed a French invention, even the word Frikadelle is based on a French word, “frikandeau” and describes a certain cut of veal.

After reaching the seafaring town of Hamburg, the meatball “swam” over the big pond to become the icon of American fast food.

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The United States with its vast cattle industry turned the meatball into a flat patty of pure ground beef.

However, in Europe, and beef being expensive, the original meatball remained a fast snack warm or cold for those who could not afford pure beef. The German meatball was made out of old white bread, onions, raw eggs, milk and typical spices of the time. Similar to meatloaf. A typical German fast food booth, “Imbiss Bude,” offers hot sausages and cold Frikadellen with crunchy fresh buns and mustard. The cold Frikadelle was perfect to take on a picnic as well. Hence, my Oma preparing the Frikadellen on Saturday to take to our Sunday picnic outside of town. Before enjoying the picnic, you had to earn it by going on a hike, “wandern.” Germans love to hike and there are trails throughout forests, fields and farm country. Americans have their road songs, Germans had their “hiking songs.” It didn’t matter that nobody in our family could hold a tune, besides my grandfather. We would sing old songs while exploring the hiking paths and nature.

Here is the recipe for my Oma Else’s Frikadellen:

Frikadelle

Serves 4-6

1 pd mixed ground beef and pork

3.5 oz stale white bread (preferably French baguette or sourdough)

1/2 cup milk

1 onion, chopped fine

1 Tbsp butter

2 eggs

2 tsp mustard

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp marjoram

½ tsp nutmeg

3 tbsp olive oil

Soak bread in milk. In a heavy frying pan sauté onions with butter until glassy.

Place the ground meat into a bowl and mix in eggs, soaked bread and mustard.

Fold in onions and add all other spices to taste. Form 8-10 patties.

Fry the patties at medium temperature in olive oil for about 15 minutes, flipping them a few times.

You can serve them warm with German potato salad or mashed potatoes and vegetables of your choice. Or you can refrigerate them and enjoy with Düsseldorf mustard with a fresh bun cold.

Books for Comfort:

Vicky Ramakka’s “The Cactus Plot”

Vicky Ramakka’s book “The Cactus Plot” just won first place in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards in the category cozy mystery. One made-up cactus and one creative mind are the main ingredients of the mystery novel that highlights endangered species. Ramakka writes environmental mysteries and her recent novel “The Cactus Plot” has a heroine that discovers an unrecorded plot of San Juan Cactus. Millie Whitehall is a botanist hired by the Bureau of Land Management to survey endangered plants in northwest New Mexico. She encounters treacherous roads, rattlesnakes and then gets entangled in a story of two men who turned up dead in the remote backcountry.

“She experiences the friction of working for the BLM through the characters she meets — a secretive cowboy, friendly oil and gas hand, out-spoken environmentalist, foreign tourist, and Navajo biologist. Some of these become allies, one ends up threatening her life. ‘The Cactus Plot’ is timely and thought-provoking.

“Author Vicky Ramakka explains her motive for writing ‘The Cactus Plot.’ ‘As an avid reader of books about real places, I located my story where I where I live. Northwest New Mexico is perhaps the least visited part of the state, but has some of the most interesting people and geography.’

“Another observation by the author is the majority mysteries set in this region often have law enforcement officers as heroes or heroines as their main characters. This novel breaks that tradition with a modern-day botanist. From the East Coast, the lead character experiences New Mexico’s unique culture and landscape with new eyes. At first she sees only a harsh landscape. As she encounters the diverse characters that populate the book, and comes to modify her views toward the people and the land.”

The 265-page soft-cover book from Artemesia Publishing is available at local bookstores and online booksellers. It is also available as an e-book.

For more information, visit artemesiapublishing.com/cactus.html.

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