How Culinary Traditions affecting our Daily Eating Habits

How Culinary Traditions affecting our Daily Eating Habits

Culinary traditions are the essential focus point in many cultures. In fact many families celebrate and enjoy them year after year. Very often they are being taught by the elders to their children in hope they will continue them. I guess one of the biggest Culinary Traditions are the Holidays, such as Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years Eve, Easter and many more, just to name a few. The point is families have a particular ritual to cook and present their food, which makes it so interesting. Obviously religions play a vital part of traditions, too.

Culinary Traditions in the Caribbean with Curry Goat

Culinary Traditions in the Caribbean with Curry Goat

Interestingly every nationality celebrates their Holidays differently from others. Whether it’s potato latkes and apple sauce for the Jewish Holidays or a roasted duck with orange juniper berries and braised red cabbage on many Christmas menus. A Caribbean Holiday tradition is to serve curry goat with green beans as well as the famous honey glazed ham we have here in the states as well.

But what is yours?

Do you have a culinary tradition that your family continues? I would be thrilled to hear what your specialty is for the Holidays. Don’t be afraid to leave a comment below. Thanks – You know I love comments.

A Culinary Tradition is to make Holiday Cookies

A Culinary Tradition is to make Holiday Cookies

Culinary Traditions bring forward memories and rituals from our ancestors. How powerful is that? If you are in the fortunate position to ask your grand parents why and how they prepared and cooked their traditional foods, whether its for a Birthday or a holiday, you might get some answers you wouldn’t have expected.  Before I came to America I only knew about German traditions. However, I can honestly say that America is a hot spot of culinary traditions and a melting pot of fantastic multicultural cookery.  That being said; these traditions don’t always have to happen over the Holidays.

Culinary Traditions like coffe and cake

Germans Culinary Traditions is to serve coffee and cake in the afternoon

 

Daily Eating Habits as a Result From Culinary Traditions – It’s Tea Time!

England and Germany have one tradition in common. Tea Time – which is around 4pm in the afternoon. Although, Germans serve more coffee than tea, the ritual is very similar. Tea time in England is also called High Tea, which is served with an abundance of finger-sandwiches, scones and sometimes petis-fours like pastries. In Germany we would serve Danishes and cakes with our coffee.

 

Plum Cake - a German tradition

Plum Cake – a German tradition

 

Kaffeeklatsch

In fact when ever I visit Germany I can’t get away from looking at the fancy pastry shops and bakeries. The first is called Konditorei and the latter is Backerei. A Konditorei offers very fancy cakes, petit fours and usually hosts a Cafe on the same premises. Many of the elderly come here and meet with friends to enjoy coffee and cake also called “Kaffeeklatsch”. That’s the time when women of age come together and chat, chat and chat :-).

Belegter Boden - Fruit Tart

Belegter Boden – Fruit Tart – A simple but satisfying cake

The tradition continues as coffee and cake is served in many households as it is in ours, too. It is a beautiful thing to bring the family together around 4 or 5pm, usually after work. As everyone talks about the day’s events accompanied by a good cup of coffee with a delicious piece of cake is certainly a highlight. It’s a tradition even my sons and my wife enjoy here in the States.

Caffe Machiatto

Coffee Machiato

Bakeries and pastry shops alike play a vital role in Germany as they offer a staple food in German tradition. Many bakeries now offer a few tables and a simple lunch menu with sandwiches etc. The beauty is – everyone knows everyone.  Who ever comes in says “Malzeit”, which is translated as “it’s time to eat”

If you like fancy cakes and you have the chance to visit Germany than check out a Konditorei. You’ll be glad you did.

A Bread Basket in Germany…

Another Culinary Tradition that can’t be ignored. German bread. The variety of breads offered in most Bakeries are astonishing. From the rustic sourdough, six grain, whole wheat, almond white to organic multi grain bread. There is something for everyone. The majority of breads are crispy on the outside, yet soft and moist inside. Most people here do not toast their bread unless it’s white bread. I truly love a great breadbasket with a variety of breads and rolls for breakfast. Most German breads are made from a good amount of whole grains and include a lot of fibers. Although there is an increase in outlets of large commercial bakeries throughout Germany, the quality of bread and rolls offered is superb.

Bread Basket

 

 

What’s your thoughts on this?

What is your favorite family tradition and what do you cook?

Do you celebrate Culinary Traditions?

Have you heard of Coffee and Cake before?

 

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Matjes with Dill Sour Cream & Bratkartoffeln

Matjes with Dill Sour Cream & Bratkartoffeln

During my trip through Germany I had the pleasure of eating all my favorite foods again. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I always have a field trip when I visit my homeland. I guess it’s with everyone else the same, too.  Visiting my family made it even better, since everyone wanted to cook for me. (Lucky me) From vanilla rice pudding, Salmon baked in foil to Matjes with Bratkartoffeln (sautéed potatoes) and not to forget – plum cake with whipped cream – I was the lucky son. And my mother was the happiest of all of them. Since she get to see me only every 2 or 3 years it’s kind of tough for her and my dad. Nonetheless, in the first week we visited the Oktoberfest Kirmes. That fair was a lot of fun and you can see this post by following the link.

Matjes with Dill Sour Cream & Bratkartoffeln

Matjes with Dill Sour Cream & Bratkartoffeln

A New Culinary Trend

However what I really wanted to do in my hometown was to eat true German cuisine. Guess what, these type of restaurants are slowly dying out and being replaced by American or Italian themed chain restaurants. It’s kind of sad, but what can I do? So I cooked my own German food, as simple as this. The old rustic pub with well-known German cuisine is hard to find in its own country. Because young generations are being influenced by guess what? By American food culture. I’m not saying I don’t like American food culture, it’s just new to me to see that kind of change in Germany. To be quite honest I think American food trends are the most versatile and amazing ones in the world since we have the most cultures living and eating together. I guess that’s what happening in Germany, too.

Matjes Filets

Matjes Filets

Matjes or Herring?

In this post I featured matjes filets and I can truly say it’s one of my favorite German recipes. The difference between matjes and herring is; the first is the younger and more delicate fish that has not yet spammed. Herring is the older fish, but just as tasty. Both are very popular in Germany as they are here in the USA. Although they are fished mainly around May they are eaten all year round. Matjes or herring are preserved in a number of different ways, ranging from pickled, baked to smoked. Matjes is also called soused herring, which comes from the Netherlands and is brinned in a mild vinegar solution. The famous roll mops is a rolled up herring and pickled in an oil, vinegar, onion brine. It’s the right food before or after a beer (s).

Matjes with Dill Sour Cream

Matjes with Dill Sour Cream

How to make Bratkartoffeln (Sauteed Potatoes)

The matjes recipe below is featured with Bratkartoffeln, which are sautéed potatoes. Bratkartoffeln are very famous in Germany and very often served at any time of the day. If you don’t like your matjes with Bratkartoffeln (sautéed potatoes) it can be served with a variety of potato dishes. However, the most famous potato side dish is the boiled potato with parsley & butter. Matjes can also be served with bread.

Bratkartoffeln (Sauteed potatoes)

Bratkartoffeln (Sauteed potatoes)

Many cooks “dump” their potatoes in a fryer. That’s the easy way out. However, sautéed potatoes will always taste better. So take the time and saute them. See recipe for instructions

Matjes salad with bratkartoffeln (herring stip)

Matjes salad with bratkartoffeln (herring stip)

 

 

Matjes with Dill Sourcream & Bratkartoffeln

Recipe Type: entrée, Seafood, Salad
Cuisine: German
Author: Kraemer’s Culinary Blog
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 8 Matjes / herring filets, cut in 1 inch pieces
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced in half rings
  • 1 large Granny Smith Apple, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped dill pickles
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped dill
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped chives
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 0.5 cup mayonnaise
  • 2-3 tbsp brine from the dill pickles
  • 1 tsp horseradish
  • 8-10 potatoes, boiled with skin on
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 0.5 cup vegetable oil (such as peanut oil for frying)
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
Instructions
  1. Mix yogurt, sour cream, mayonnaise, horseradish and the brine.
  2. Add all other ingredients and let marinate for an hour.
  3. Peel potatoes ones they are cooled out. Quarter each potato and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. If potatoes are small cut them in half.
  4. In a large frying pan heat oil on high heat.
  5. When oil is just before its smoke point add the potatoes.
  6. Do not overfill the pan or potatoes will not brown and stick to pan. Stir potatoes every once in a while.
  7. When potatoes begin to brown add onions. Do not burn onions.
  8. Potatoes are ready when all sides have a golden color.
  9. Potatoes need to be stirred frequently after they start to take on color. Avoid burning.
  10. Add chopped parsley at the end.
  11. Serve immediately with matjes salad.
Notes

Tip: It is very important that the oil is very hot to sauté the potatoes, otherwise the potatoes will stick to the pan.

It is essential that the potatoes are boiled with the skin on before being sautéed.
That in turn will seal in the flavor as well as the starch for density.

Use an oil that can take a lot of heat and your potatoes will taste better. I prefer peanut butter oil, which is great for high temperatures, doesn’t over power the food, yet actually compliments it.

 

What are your thoughts on this?

Have you had matjes yet?

Did you know Bratkartoffeln is an art in Germany? Let me know if you had your experience with them?

What’s your Favorite German dish?

What’s happening when you visit your homeland? Do you enjoy it?

 

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Kirmes & Oktoberfest – A German Fair

Kirmes & Oktoberfest – A German Fair

Being in Germany is so much fun again. Fond childhood memories remind me of a beautiful time many years ago. Today we went to the Kirmes, which could be translated as carnival or fair. That combined with the Oktoberfest and you have a fun place to be with friends or family. As a young boy I went here with my friends and “five cents” taken from my piggy bank, and rode every carousel I could get on.

Riesenrad on the Oktoberfest

Riesenrad on the Oktoberfest

Gingerbread Hearts

I ate sweet popcorn (yes popcorn in Germany is sweet!), gebrannte nüsse, which is caramelized almonds or Hazelnuts with a hint of vanilla. Just the smell alone of these nuts are addicting.  Zucker Äpfel as we call them are toffee apples. I couldn’t get enough of these red and green sugar glazed apples topped with almonds or coconut flakes.  All these sweet candied foods appeared as if they were magic to me. There was something that attracted me to them. Of course vendors were eager to sell them to me until my stomach would ache. Best of all are the Lebkuchen Herzen or Gingerbread Hearts. These eatable hearts have beautiful sayings on it and hang on red ribbons. They are perfect to give to a friend or your Mom as a sign of love.

Candy Store at the Oktoberfest

Candy Store at the Oktoberfest

German Bier at the Kirmes

Nowadays, I don’t go for the sweets anymore, but for something more famous – German Beer – in moderation of course!! There are so many different beers in Germany from all corners of this nation. Whether you prefer Dark, Pils, Hefeweizen or Radler you’ll find the right one for you. Beside that all beers are made according to the German Reinheitsgebot (German Bier Purity Law). A law that came into effect in 1516 in Bavaria that calls for only three ingredients a bier could be made off: hops, barley, yeast and water of course. Sugar was not part of this recipe and not allowed according to the old law. The law has been slightly modified, however most breweries still adhere to the old German Bier Purity Law. Young adults are allowed to drink Bier from the age of 17, which makes their American friends very jealous.

German Beer

German Beer at the Kirmes

Famous Bier Pavilion

The Bierzelt or Bier Pavilion are so inviting at the Kirmes / Oktoberfest that we just had to visit it. With German music and “das Fräulein”  and everything is good. If you ever have the chance to visit the Oktoberfest or Kirmes, do so, it is a lot of fun and you don’t have to drink till you drop. Just enjoy the moment and the happiness.

Beer Pavilion at the Kirmes

Beer Pavilion at the Kirmes

Bier Pavilion in Germany

Bier Pavilion in Germany

Kirmes Food

After a good German Bier a spiessbraten or bratwurst with pommes (French Fries) is the right thing to eat. I know its fast food but special situations call for special foods. Spiessbraten is charcoal grilled pork loin, deliciously marinated and seasoned. Most often served with caramelized onions and mushrooms. The “old curry bratwurst” is an all time favorite not only of mine but of many others, too.  It is made of a very tasty bratwurst served with a ketchup curry sauce and pommes.

Curry Bratwurst at the Kirmes

Curry Bratwurst at the Kirmes

However, I’m here for a reason and that is my mom and dad. My mom is a breast-cancer survivor and  was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It is the least I can do to visit her as often as I can from New York to spend some quality time. She is and always will be the best Mom I could wish for. She is still in an acceptable condition, but only God knows for how long.  So I spend as much time with her as I possibly can.

Mom & Dad at the Kirmes

Mom & Dad at the Kirmes

More about German food and  traditions…to be continued…

 

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The Caribbean Dream

The Caribbean Dream

The Caribbean Dream or Is It Just An Illusion?

Living on a Caribbean Island is obviously different from vacationing. I love the Caribbean and I think it is the closest thing to paradise. By that I mean not only the landscape or the ocean views, but the friendly people, their cultures and their mentality. That said there are many things you will never see when vacationing on an island. However, you’ll see everything when you work on an Island like I did on Antigua. I’m not saying that to brag about it, but to send a message of a life style that is very different from most of us. Needles to say that most Caribbean Islands are still considered third world countries, even if they don’t consider themselves that. We take that for granted or don’t want to witness that. Our perception is – what we want to see.

The Caribbean Dream?

Living The Caribbean Dream?

You Won’t Believe That – The Furthest Thing Away From The Caribbean Dream

The views from the hotel room can certainly make a huge impression on us. On the other hand, there are other views never seen. – I remember one of my waitresses that worked at one of my restaurants. She always had a smile on her face, was hardworking and every day wore a fresh uniform. Yes, a fresh uniform – which is completely normal to us as well as expected – if you have running water in your house…! Yes, running water! When she told me, that she had to walk 500 yards to the nearest water pump to bring two buckets of water back to her home, my jaw dropped. “You do this every day?” I ask her dumbfounded. “Yes, Thank God I have water.” She answered. I agreed with her. Envision yourself logging your entire water supply by feet to wash your dishes and clothe is something I was never exposed to. And, if I tell you that she was immaculate and neat with a smile so contagious, you would never imaging her circumstances.

For us it is incomprehensible, yet it is not an issue for her or her fellow neighbors.  In contrast to many of us who draw satisfaction from monetary indulgence, she draws satisfaction from her faith and from being a helpful, respectable and generous person of society.   No balcony overlooking the ocean or a car is making her feel happier. Although she would probably like it, she doesn’t waste her thoughts on frivolous things like that. I can honestly say that I admire her attitude and wish more people including myself would see the good in being just happy to do a good deed for someone else instead of constantly self promoting oneself.

Bananas on the treeOnce you have finish reading this jump over to my first Caribbean post (if you haven’t read it yet) and take a look at the menu cover, and you’ll get a glimpse of what Island living is all about.

Caribbean House

Caribbean House

Why is it the Caribbean Dream?

The generosity, honesty, simplicity and friendliness of the locals carries over to everyone else living on the Island. This is what truly makes living on an Island the Caribbean Dream. I’m not saying I would like to live in a house without running water, but it is the Caribbean life style that intrigues me. A life WITHOUT greed and the constant competition of who drives the better car or who has the bigger house is what I’m LOOKING for in the Caribbean. Observing the natural beauty of white sandy beaches and palm trees married with Caribbean music, accompanied by my wife is the CARIBBEAN DREAM.

The Caribbean Dream?

The Caribbean Dream? View of St. John's Beaches, USVI

My next Caribbean post will be about local cuisine, a love hate relation ship at first turned to pure fascination and respect.

Let me know what you think. I would really like to know!

Have you made any experiences in other countries that have open your eyes? Leave a comment

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Have you ever tried bitter melon?

Have you ever tried bitter melon?

As part of my recent trip to the Caribbean I would like feature “Bitter Melon” also called corilla, bitter gourd or karela among many other names. Bitter melon grows throughout the Caribbean, South America and Asia and is an important food source to the locals. In this recipe I refer to this vegetable as either bitter melon or corilla. As the name reveals it is very bitter, yet packed with powerful medicinal properties. Corilla has been studied all over the world for its beneficial health properties, yet it has not gotten the respect in the western world the way broccoli is looked at. I think this vegetable deserves much more attention and respect.

In fact bitter melon is so powerful, that people in the Caribbean and Asia  using it as a folk remedy to treat and prevent chicken pox, measles, malaria and HIV. Studies have confirmed that corilla has anti malaria properties; however studies of humans have not been released. Studies conducted by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have shown that bitter melon could be used to treat certain cancers, diabetes, Aids, fever and infections. Although the cancer institute is warning that this vegetable shouldn’t be used as a medical substitute to treat any sickness.

Bitter melon from my garden

Bitter melon from my garden

Bitter Melon – Medicine or Vegetable?

We are learning now what other cultures have discovered many years ago without any laboratories. Bitter melon is a very powerful type of vegetable that indeed needs to be eaten with caution. Pregnant women should not eat bitter melon as this could induce abortion and in the same token it is given to women just before childbirth to ease the pain. How bizarre is that? By the way it is also used to treat painful menstruation. Now I sound like a doctor, who I’m not, but I think it is important to know.  The red seeds (ripe corilla) shouldn’t be feed to children as they “could” be toxic. However when I discussed this topic with my wife; who grew up in the Caribbean, said she and her friends sucked on the red seeds all the time, because they were sweet. Nevertheless, I never use the seeds and discard them whether ripe or green.

Corilla from my garden

Corilla from my garden

Why Corilla?

You probably are saying  why is he featuring this vegetable? Because it helped me in the past to feel good and could probably help anyone who is fighting cancer or diabetes. I was introduced to Corilla 20 years ago in Antigua and since than when I have a chance to eat it I will. That doesn’t mean I eat it every day, but rather once or twice a month. I actually grow bitter melon every summer in my back yard. Maybe I should say my wife is growing it and I reap the benefits :-). It is not the best tasting vegetable, but I feel good eating it.

Cleaning Corilla / Bitter Melon

Cleaning Corilla

Corilla can be cleaned just like melons. The seeds are easily removed with a spoon.

Sliced Bitter Melon

Sliced Bitter Melon

 

Sautéing Bitter Melon

Sautéing Corilla

Whenever I prepare corilla I usually sauté it with onions and garlic and the juice of a lemon. The lemon actually takes away some of the bitterness.

Bitter Melon served with Garlic and Onions

Bitter Melon served with Garlic and Onions

 

Sauteed bitter melon (corilla) with garlic and onions
Recipe Type: Vegetarian, Healthy food, Side Dish, Vegan
Author: Kraemers Culinary Blog
Prep time: 12 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 32 mins
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 small corilla, cleaned & seeded
  • 1 large onion, quartered and sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, quartered and sliced
  • Juice from one lemon
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • ½ of vegetable broth
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Keep a little oil for later.
  2. Sautee onions until almost translucent, then add garlic keep stirring.
  3. Add corilla and lemon juice. Let the vegetables caramelize slightly to give it some color and flavor. Season with salt, pepper and add vegetable broth, cover to give it a little steam. Cook corilla until little more than al dente, I don’t like my corilla it too soft. Towards the end add the remaining olive oil and incorporate gently.

Have you ever tried Bitter melon? Do you like it? Let me know. I love your comments.

About Island Time & Dining Options on St. Thomas

About Island Time & Dining Options on St. Thomas

I remember I started to write this post while I was in the Virgin islands; to be specific in St. Thomas. I was sitting on my porch enjoying this amazing view over the Caribbean sea, palm trees and beach. Gosh, what a view, I can never get enough of it. This reminds me of my days in Antigua, about 17 years ago where I spend more than half a decade (cooking & jamin) :-).

View from The Elysian Resort

Beautiful St. Thomas Ocean View

The US Virgin Islands consist of three Islands, St. Thomas, St. Croix and St.John. The Islands are just a 30 minute flight away from Puerto Rico. We stayed at Elysian Beach Resort in the east of the Island and conveniently situated right next to the Ritz Carlton resort, which added to the impressive scenery. The resort nestled between beautiful palm trees directly on the water boasting its own very well maintained beach. The Elysian Beach resort offers 2 excellent restaurants on premises and a beach bar, which is located next to the pool. I also have to mention that I used my Wyndham Time Share to stay at this resort, which was one of my best experiences I ever had in a Wyndham resort.

Elysian Beach Resort

View from my balcony at the Elysian Beach Resort

Island Time and Dining Options on St. Thomas

St. Thomas has quite a few dining and entertainment options to choose from. There is literally something for everyone here; whether it’s Italian, Irish, Mexican, American and of course Caribbean cuisine. St. Thomas boasts a lot of Texan BBQ style restaurants as well as an annual parade where you can taste Texas style BBQ food. The following establishments I found worth dining at and was very happy with food and service.

The Caribbean Fish Market – My personal favorite for fine dining

Iggie’s Beach Bar & Grill – Visit Wednesdays for Caribbean Buffet

The Fat Turtle – Fridays after 10pm party time, great burgers

Havana Blue Restaurant – For excellent food, atmosphere and views

Sangria Beach-side Bistro – Try the Mahi-Mahi sandwich

Molly Malone’s – Excellent Breakfast, reasonable prices

Cheese Burger at the Fat Turtle

Cheese Burger at the Fat Turtle

Island Time – There’s No Rush

There are of course an enormous amount of restaurants and pubs to choose from. To make the best out of your stay combine a visit to the mall, beach or Mountain Top with your dining plans, that way you can capture as much as possible of the islands highlights. I highly suggest a rental car although you can use the local taxi service, too.

Though one thing you have to keep in mind when dining, food is not cheap here although there are a few options.  After all it’s an island and almost everything is imported. Talking about Island, everything goes by Island time; meaning there is no rush and that’s great. Even though where ever I dined out I had excellent and relatively quick service. One hopping place here in St. Thomas caught my eyes: The Fat Turtle.

Check this menu cover from the Fat Turtle:

It's all about Island Time

It's all about Island Time

And once you have made up your mind with your menu selection you’ll see the back of the menu cover, which is even more hilarious (shown below). Again it’s all about Island time or is it Turtle time? Regardless we had a great time on St. Thomas and St. John.

Fat Turtle menu Cover

Fat Turtle Menu Cover


Isn’t that funny?

Most of us including my self are rushing through life in the fast lane. This menu cover opened my eyes again that we have to stop once in a while and don’t forget to smell the roses. Are you rushing through Life? Have you had any great experiences in the Caribbean that made you feel well and relaxed? Let me know by leaving a comment.

To be continued… (with more from St. John one of the most beautiful Islands I have ever seen, Fine Dining and Caribbean Recipes)

 

 

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