Have you ever had cream noodles?
Well, it is what it says it is, only add potatoes and onions fried up in boiling butter. Then hand-make some thick noodles and add heavy whipping cream and there you have it. Cream. Noodles.
These are the things we eat in January, Lord save us. Carb filled white things with cream and butter, give or take a potato or some chicken, add a side of sausage and save the consequences for later. And if we’re not eating it, we’re planning for the next excuse of a celebration and a reason to cook it up.
I hope we all have dishes like these, little indulgences and reminders of our childhood in our mothers’ or grandmothers’ kitchens. Cream noodles is that for my husband. His mom was raised by her grandmother in the middle of the state who still spoke German in the house and taught her granddaughter the subtle art of adding the milk to the egg so that it measures out properly with the flour. Turns out there’s a fine line between a noodle and a dumpling and I may have never known any of this if I hadn’t started dating her son.
I wouldn’t have known about homemade cream peas either, and how well they go with mashed potatoes and pork chops, and thereby I would have been missing out on another winter meal staple that puts my husband front and center in the kitchen with me following behind as his cheerleader and potato peeler. It would have been a small tragedy.
The important role that food plays in the foundation of our lives is no big revelation here. It’s been studied and milled over, the poetry and music about it has been written. But the fact that one of my mom’s favorite dishes is now my husband’s cream noodles, so much so that he made them for on her birthday, is a sweet little unexpected connection that the two of them share. And my husband, he takes the task seriously. If he gets in a bind or has a question it’s a great excuse to call his own mother. And it’s even more fun for him to call her after a successful meal. I don’t know how many times they’ve gone over the stories attached to these heritage dishes, or the subtle ways they’ve gone wrong or right over the years. I doesn’t matter. It’s a countless point of connection and it’s special.
Last month, before Christmas, my husband took the girls to his parent’s place for a baking day and on the agenda was kuchen, a German heritage custard filled dessert. They made up pans and pans of it to give away and store in the freezer for company or for a special occasion. Last weekend, I took one out of the freezer when our pastor came for a visit and let me tell you, having that dessert on the ready gave me an unjustified sense of ranch wife confidence that I needed in that moment. Now, it’s confidence I didn’t earn, but it helped balance the amount of shame-filled panic power cleaning and I did in preparation for his visit.
Maybe someday this Scandinavian-bred girl will learn the art of making kuchen the way I learned the art of making knoephla, but these days I’m just appreciating the fact that my daughters are interested in being involved in what is going on in the kitchen.
The other night my seven-year-old took a bite of her hot dish and declared, again for the fiftieth time in two days, that she wanted orange chicken for supper tomorrow. Because six months ago we had lunch at a Chinese food restaurant in the mall food court in the big town and she’s been searching for that high ever since.
Now if we lived in that big town this request would be a simple one to fill, but our nearest Chinese food restaurant is 60 miles away and that’s a little far for delivery. So, because she hasn’t let up, my quest to recreate her orange chicken experience starts today. I’m telling you now, I’m not equipped, but I guess that’s what the Internet’s for. I’m aiming for minimal disappointment. I’ll let you know how it goes.
If all else fails, we have a good excuse to make cream noodles.