by Sharon Collins
As a child of two European immigrants I was fortunate to enjoy many European meals in my own home growing up. From my father’s Dutch heritage we enjoyed meatball soup and rolladin regularly. My father’s pockets always contained my favourite treat – double salted liquorice. This treat is definitely an acquired taste that most of my friends don’t understand. Some of my favourites from my mother’s German ancestry were sauerkraut and sausage as well as plum perogies with whipped cream.
As a young child I loved visiting the Yukon Meat and Sausage Deli where my mom would purchase special treats like double salted liquorice and German ginger cookies along with sausage for her sauerkraut. I still love the smell of that deli when you walk in and all the European treats greet you. I find it stunning how the smell of sauerkraut or the taste of salted liquorice can immediate transport me to childhood memories.
Several years ago I was diagnosed with leukemia and was required to stay in a quarantined hospital room in Vancouver for 30 days. Thirty days of isolation with hospital food can make one’s mouth water for just about anything. After that time I was allowed to fly home for the weekend before returning to Vancouver for the remainder of my treatment. When my mother found out I was allowed to return home for the weekend she asked me what I would like for a special meal on my return, the answer was easy, sauerkraut and sausage. I didn’t care about what the chemo had done to my stomach or taste buds I just knew that mom’s sauerkraut sounded like a little piece of heaven.
As the days led up to my release it was all I could think about. When I returned home I was greeted by the smell of cabbage and sausage. In my mind there was no better smell. My blessed mother had cooked up the biggest feast of sauerkraut I could imagine. With no thought as to how my stomach would handle it I immediately dived in to my full plate and savoured every mouthful. Sadly, because of the chemo treatments, I suffered a bit of a stomachache after, though it was worth every ounce of pain.
I have not been fortunate enough to find many local restaurants that serve good European fare. I long for a day when I can stroll through the streets of a small European town and find their delicacies on every corner and in many of their restaurants, accompanied by the beautiful spirit of the European culture I grew up with. I believe European food would certainly taste even better with the atmosphere and ambiance to accompany it, though I’d be hard pressed to find a sauerkraut that tastes better than my mom’s.