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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

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.


Sarah said...

While I'm anxiously awaiting the word on pottying I had to let you know what happen on Sunday during the Our Father. It was weirder than holding hands. Father asked us to all extend our hands, palms up while we prayed. I was weirded out. So I folded my hands and closed my eyes. I was not a huge fan of holding hands (sweaty palms) but it was ok. Is this some new Our Father fad which will be sweeping the nation?

Anonymous said...

Sarah, When they improvise, I'm always tempted to add my own improv as well. Like standing on one foot (except I don't think I could make it through the Our Father like that) or flapping my elbows or something. My favorite fantasy is where they improvise the words, and I improvise the responses and throw them off so they don't remember what comes next. If they get to improvise, why don't I? :)

Anonymous said...

The soup looks fabulous, and once again you DIDN'T POST THE RECIPE!!! I'm just going to have to find myself a good cooking blog to read. Does Sr. Nicholas know of any?

Anonymous said...

Sister, don't be cruel...give us the soup recipe!

Sister Mary Martha said...

Haven't you people heard of the Google?

Anonymous said...

mea culpa, Sister! I actually thought of it, but didn't see the name of the soup when I scanned my eyeballs over the post. Sorry to have put you to extra work.

Kim said...

That's quite the friend and quite the story! :)

Gretchen said...

Just coming on for the recipe and you beat me to it. Thank you--this looks great.

God bless!

Sister Mary Martha said...

Not to worry, I'll offer it up.

Denise said...

Sister...we are in the throes of potty training, so I'll be anxiously awaiting tomorrow's post.

Have a lovely evening-

Anonymous said...

Wait until Sr. Nicholas makes liver dumpling soup for you! It sounds disgusting, but it is absolutely delicious, and I'm not fond of liver otherwise. The base of the soup is an ordinary beef soup. Don't be afraid to try it. My mom can't make it anymore, and I am not talented enough to make it, so I don't get it anymore.

Anonymous said...

We love spaetzle! Please share Sr. N's recipe. Spaetzle is also a favorite of Pope Benedict XVI. Can you get his recipe, too?

Katie L. said...

Sounds like a soup for pregnant women, lol. She sure sounds like a pretty cool old lady, I'd love to try all the interesting food she makes, YUM!

Unknown said...

LOL, SMM, another great post! Sure, I've heard of google...even used it to google pickle soup recipe and got 1,610,000 responses in .25 seconds! (Wish we had gotten stock...)
Is the link you posted like the soup you had? Being Polish and all, I am eager to give it a shot. Blessings and thanks for keeping us informed.

Anonymous said...

Sarah, the parishes I've lived in or visited (western states) almost always have people hold hands (if they wish) during the Our Father. If you don't, no big deal; just fold your hands and no one will think about it twice. I like to close my eyes, hold my neighbor's hand, and imagine that all the people I love are standing with us, holding hands. It's a nice way to pray really hard for the people I miss--especially that oldest kid who I just know isn't going to Mass when he's not home!

PraiseDivineMercy said...

Monica: Check this out. http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/orans_posture.htm

Anonymous said...

We are in potty training mode as well. I finished training one and I am on the other now. Can't wait for the post!!

Anonymous said...

Wow, that soup sounds great--I've got to try that! (Must the dills be Polish? Can they be kosher dills? Is there a recognizable taste difference in the two? I'm not sure I've ever even eaten a Polish dill pickle, but I keep the kosher ones around more or less constantly.)

Mirabilis said...

Hey! Here's a variant that's very good, from an Israeli friend:

1 quart yoghurt
5 large dill pickles (Polish?)
large handful of walnut pieces
chunk of onion
salt and pepper to taste

Throw in the blender. Poof! It's done.

Glad to know "pickle soup" is Polish! (Probably came to my Israeli friend through Ashkenazy Jews.)

Mirabilis said...

Did previous recipe go through? It seems to have disappeared.

In any case, I should add that this variant is a cold, summer soup! (Easy to make!)

Anonymous said...

You are thinking of cucumbers in brine when you say pickle,aren't you? And not in vinegar? Good good. Just wanted to make sure that was clear :-)