Here is an essay I wrote about my husband's love of pork and sauerkraut. Me? I'm kind of ambivalent about pork and sauerkraut, but I do love my husband!
Happy New Year, Everyone!
I like pork and sauerkraut. I don’t love it. I love the notion that eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day will bring you good luck for the whole year. I want all the good luck that’s out there to be had. If the pork’s moist, the sauerkraut not too sweet, not too tart and if it’s just once a year, I can like it just fine.
My husband, on the other hand, loves pork and sauerkraut. Any time of year. Any day of the week. Every day of the week. Loves, loves, loves it. He’ll pass on the potatoes, but has to have hot dogs.
I didn’t really know about this love affair he had with pigs and cabbage before we got married. It was slow to reveal itself.
There were a few clues here and there, but I was blind to them. I vividly recall one evening when he picked me up from work and announced, “Name your favorite restaurant and we’ll go.” He had to be kidding: Here we were in our business suits, all office bedraggled (at least I was) and not really ready for a night out. But he was serious. No special occasion; he just wanted to treat me to something he knew I’d enjoy. After a brush of the hair and a swipe of lipstick, I directed, “Take me to the Hyeholde!”
And off we drove about an hour outside the city to the Tudor mansion of stone, dark wood and stained glass that was home to my favorite restaurant. I beamed as soon as we walked through the arched entry.
We had no reservations, but it was a weeknight so there was no problem. We were escorted through a warren of cozy rooms and were seated at a table for two near a wood burning fireplace. The room was lit overhead by crystal chandeliers and dark-shaded lamps at each table. The music was classical, the conversations quiet but not hushed. You could smell romance.
Gary surveyed the wine list; I, the hefty menu. It didn’t take me long: the rack of lamb had to be mine. They called it “Persille,” which I know now means parslied, but it sounded, oh, so elegant to me then. Gary suggested I order an appetizer to share. The pate arrived with sturdy slices of warm, pumpernickel bread. The creamy spread melted in my mouth. I recall he remarked, “Liver, huh?”
When my lamb arrived, Gary took a sip of wine and watched me revel in my first bite. Heaven! Garlic-laced breading, a little Dijon mustard and wine; perfectly tender meat, juicy, just a little pink. The bite I offered was pronounced merely good.
As our relationship matured and we were merging possessions, Gary hoisted a heavy box and asked, “What’s in here? Bricks?"
"Books," I answered.
“Books! I’ve never seen anybody who had so many books! Look at this! There must be a dozen cookbooks!”
“Oh, there’s a lot more than a dozen,” I said. “Try ninety-two.”
“My mother has one cookbook.” Another clue.
Those cookbooks helped me create many a great dinner in that not-so-well-equipped apartment. He’d often brag, “She cooks better meals for us at home than you’d get in any restaurant!”
Once he asked me if I’d make pork and sauerkraut. I demurred, logically observing that it was the middle of summer, not New Year’s Day. He didn’t care; he liked it. So I made it. He loved it. Three helpings worth.
Often while grocery shopping, he’d look at the meat counter and comment, “Pork’s on sale.” Or “Got sauerkraut in the pantry?” I’d get the hint. But the cook in me couldn’t resist adding apple, onion, or caraway, or something. Unacceptable. “Why mess with a good thing?” he’d say.
When he’d ask what was for dinner, and I told him, oh, something like chicken piccata or cannelloni, my biggest fan and best critic would say, “Mmmm. Sounds good.” But now and again I’d hear, “Haven’t had pork and sauerkraut in a while.”
“Now just exactly how often would you like pork and sauerkraut,” I wanted to know.
“Once a week,” he answered.
“How about once a month?”
The deal was struck. I would make pork and sauerkraut once a month. And he’d enjoy, uncomplainingly, my experimenting with new dishes, new foods and flavors. Paella. Saltimbocca. Cioppinno. Moussaka. All well-received.
I make our ritual pork and sauerkraut the same way every time now, once a month. Simple seasonings rubbed on the outside of the pork, a little stove-top searing. Pieces of kielbasa and hot dogs nestle on top and slightly sweetened sauerkraut top the whole mess and the slow cooker does its work for 8, ten, twelve hours. The longer, the better: “You gotta cut it with a fork.”
During the day, he’d smell the simmering pork and sauerkraut and say aloud, “Mmmm. That’s going to be good!”
Later, as he sat down to dinner, a smile spread across his face. His eyes closed as he took his first bite, just like I did with my lamb at the restaurant way back when, and declared, “Oh, hon, this is so-o-o-o good.”
Now what’s not to love about that?