In Memory of my German Opapa

Or: How to make a child eat spinach

When I was little, we lived in a small house on my Grandfathers land – their house was at the front of the property on street level and ours a little bit set back.

The huge (or so it seemed to me then) kitchen had a very large window from where one could see most of the garden. And as my mother told me, substantiated by bouts of memory flashes on my part, this window was a major attraction to me and at times the source of great frustration to her. Like most children I too welcomed just anything to distract my mind and gave me good enough reasons for not doing my school home-work.

And why? Opa (german for ‘grandfather’) kept a few cages of beautiful rabbits (Kaninchen), white, black and so very soft and cuddly. Their antics amused me far more than boring homework – who cannot understand this. Mutti did not, Opapa did, typical.

In the middle of the lawn stood this enormous walnut tree – its branches weight down with an abundance of nuts, year after year and a welcomed food paradise for those little red furry creatures – our beloved squirrels. (Where today can you see actually red ones – not in our garden in England nor in the beautiful parks of London).

The third major attraction (or should I write ‘distraction’?) for me was the Bee-Hives. Opapa even had a little outfit made for me specially, so that I could ‘help’ him with his bees, gathering honey etc. I was never ever scared then, but, today… I see bees and I run a mile!

The rest of the garden had flowers, shrubs, fruit-trees, potatoes, vegetable patches especially spinach (everybody said ‘the child needs to eat plenty of iron’), the lot.

But needless to say, again like most children, I did not particularly enjoy a plate of spinach, however it was prepared until the day my grandmother decided to mix finely crushed wall-nuts to the spinach. That apparently was the day which made me love, yes love, this vegetable for the rest of my life.

I had more or less forgotten about this until a few days ago, when I received a telephone call from my favourite ‘Ashis-Supermercato’ informing me of the arrival of my wall-nuts which I had especially ordered for some Christmas baking. And because I had just bought a bunch of “Pallak” (like spinach) I wanted to make use of those items.

I just went ahead from memory and made some modifications. I suggest you just go ahead and use your cooking experience and eye-measurements this time. I too sometimes just use “a bit of this and a bit of that”– I hope you will like it. But what do I call this? OK – why not…….

                            Opapa’s nutty sauce

A big handful of Spinach, well washed and hand-shredded

Some Olive Oil (depends how liquid you like your sauce)

3 Garlic cloves, peeled

A big handful of shelled walnut pieces

2 or more Tbsp of Lemon juice

A splash or more of Tabasco Sauce

A pinch of nutmeg

Salt to taste

Some grated Cheddar- or Romano cheese

Put everything into your Mixi and pulse the ingredients a few times. You want your Sauce nice and smooth in the end. If this appears too thick for your taste, just add a few drops of hot water at a time.

Of course in my Grandmother’s kitchen we did not have pasta then. But here in our home I tried various different pasta shapes and in the end I found the simple spaghetti best for our liking.

Guten Appetit, Carina

6 thoughts on “In Memory of my German Opapa

  1. Your memories are really lovely. My mother was born in the US with both parents “off-the-boat” from Germany, so I too have recollections of German dishes and traditions with “Nana and Opa”. Nana particularly was so enthusiastic for holidays, food, decorations. I was unfortunately too young when she passed away to have had more time with her. Nowadays, I love traveling thru Germany, especially when you are lucky enough to come across untouched places. The people in general are quite welcoming and festive, and the food is delicious!

    Have a great weekend!

    • Guten Morgen, Andree, what a nice note for a sunday, thank you. Yes, Germany is a very beautiful country and so different between South and North and West and East (like India, in a way). We wish we could travel even more and especially see Germany as it is now, but….. Come again and visit soon.

  2. Opapa sounds so much like Apapa which is what my grand children call their grandfather. Your memories of your childhood are so vivid and beautiful ! I’ve never made palak with walnuts – and I’m going to very soon !

  3. What lovely memories of your childhood. I lived in Germany very briefly (6 most when I was 7 yrs old) but I remember very little of that time. My dad worked as a coal miner there and when my mom, my brother and I came to stay with him my mom learned a number of German dishes that she made when we moved to Canada. My own German cooking repertoire is limited but I’d love to do more.

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