Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Here Come Santa Claus
I always think of St. Nicholas as a German saint from Germany. Of course, this is ridiculous. He was from Turkey and the Eastern Orthodox Church is all over him like Murphy's Oil Soap on a church pew.
But the German's did get their hands on him and made him into Santa Claus. Germans on TV and in the movies always fall somewhere between dour and Nazi, but my own experience with Germans is that they are a jolly bunch, full of good humor. Not as raucously fun as the Poles, but not anything close to stiff and sour. Think "beer garden".
Sister Nicholas is a little German person. She's not from Germany, just from German stock. (I'm a "Heinz 57" myself, Irish, Welsh, English, German.) She has all the earmarks, too. She saves everything. She unbelievably tidy. She is tireless, relentless.
And the things she cooks...she's not the best cook in the world. She's no Sister St. Aloysius. But her little specialties are quite....special. Although they are often scary looking in the making. I've never watched anyone make spaeztel before. It's disturbing. And putting vinegar in just about everything. What's up with that?
One day she made a wilted lettuce salad. She wilted the lettuce on purpose using bacon grease and vinegar. Merciful heaven. She added hard boiled egg (those Germans love their hard boiled eggs) and bacon bits.
It was delicious!
So when she was making soup the other day I just looked the other way until it was done. Even after it was done it didn't look very appetizing. It was a sickly yellow color. Jaundice Soup. It had some hunks of something really dark green in there and some hunks of potato. Scary.
"I should call this Sister Nicholas soup!" she chirped, in that chihuahua voice of hers.
"Is it your own recipe?" I asked.
"Oh, no! It's my grandmother's recipe. When she made it, she would tell us the story of St. Nicholas."
(Maybe your should call it Saint Nicholas soup, in that case.)
"Which one?" There are many stories of St. Nicholas. He was supposedly at the Council of Nicea where pretty much everything about being Catholic was resolved: the Nicene Creed, which books would be in the Bible and which wouldn't, how we figure out the date for Easter, the doctrine of the Trinity, that type of thing. Really big deal stuff.
I think he stopped a storm at sea once.
He gave those girls their dowries by chucking sacks of gold in their windows. That's a really famous one because it accounts for some of his Santa activities.
I was still combing my brain for anything that St. Nicholas had to do with soup.
"The Pickle Barrel story, " she tweeted.
I had a sinking feeling about the dark green hunks in the soup.
Some evil inn keeper killed some children (I forget why) and stuffed their bodies in the pickle barrel to hide his crime. St. Nicholas, world traveler that he was, showed up and unmasked the villain, found the children in the pickle barrel and (another piece of the Santa puzzle) brought them back to life.
Pickle Soup. Hunks of dill pickle. In soup.
You know what? It was utterly delicious. Like potato leek soup with dill, except the dill wasn't in minuscule blades. I'll be craving it for weeks to come.
It turns out it's a Polish recipe, by the way.
Tomorrow: the patron saint of potty training.