Sunday, September 4, 2011
Diversity of Cultures and Food
My grandparents and great grandparents emigrated from Poland to this country and passed through Ellis Island. We are blessed in America to have a nation that is so diverse with respect to food. The cuisines of Germany, Austria and Switzerland are very similar, yet each has its own distinctions. The old world recipes of Poland, Slovakia and Czechoslovakia are similar. However you view it each country celebrates its own style of cooking.
When I was a young adult I met two people who would introduce me to the flavors of German Cuisine. Their names were Walter and Irene Grau. It was their parents who emigrated and they (Irene and Walter) would ultimately end up in Connecticut and open up a German/American style restaurant. The restaurant was originally located in my town of Deep River and was owned by Otto and Maggie Wagner. The Wagner’s relocated the restaurant to the tiny town of Chester, Connecticut and eventually sold it to Walter and Irene Grau. The restaurant was four doors down from my mother and stepfathers Tavern. The Grau’s did not change the name of the restaurant but etched on the glass door to the main front entrance were the words: Otto’s name is Walter.
It was my first experience with regard to the old world recipes of Sauerbraten, Wiener Schnitzel, and German Potato Pancakes. I only knew of “kielbasa” the traditional sausage of the Poles, until I saw on the menu at Otto’s: sausage dinners consisting of Bratwurst and Knockwurst. I did not sample all of the dishes back then, but later on while I owned my own restaurant I actually made Sauerbraten and Wiener Schnitzel. Otto’s had long been sold, both Walter and Irene passed and the restaurant became a French restaurant which is still in existence. Both of the dishes (Sauerbraten and Wiener Schnitzel) received high praise from my patrons. Not only did they taste good but I think they also provided welcomed memories of an earlier time when Otto’s name was Walter.