9. Juli 2006

traditions, memories, changing habits and a recipe

angelika from the flying apple had a nice quote on her page yesterday: "the united states and great britain are two countries seperated by the same language".

one thing i was always strangely proud of was my dialect (you can probably compare it to the thick southern accent of some americans which not everyone who knows english is able to understand). i grew up in rural austria, in the north of the country in a region known as the "böhmerwald" (bohemian forest). i think i mentioned my strong bohemian influence in the kitchen before. there's a sarcastic comment used a lot in our region: "standard german is the first foreign language you need to learn". i always found this was actually true. nothing is as hard as being eight years old and having to answer questions by word of mouth in proper german. our teachers really had to drill us back then in the 80s ... today this is practically irrelevant because kids grow up with both standard german and dialect and most of them are not shy at all to switch to standard german. i was always pretty embarassed if i had to lose my dialect because i simply was unexercised - there was never really a need to speak standard german until senior grades. i had to communicating a paper to the class every once in a while but i never really had to do the talking part in standard german.

i was entering a whole new world when i finally moved to the bigger cities of upper austria after school. and three years ago i moved to the provincial capital of upper austria, linz. ever since i have settled here things have changed a lot and i was rather oblivious to that. i still talk mostly dialect, but now that i am taking my vocational baccalaureat diploma in arts my friends come from all parts of austria and germany as well. and i have to adjust my talking a little. sometimes a lot, and sometimes i have to really speak propper german in cheerful talks or private conversations if i want fellow students from the ukraine, serbia, or even vorarlberg to understand me. vorarlberg is a federal state of austria whose dialect is pretty much schwyzerdütsch (swiss german). i often whip out my best german and this fellow student from vorarlberg only notices his relapse into his dialect by the questionmarks floating over my head.

i hadn't really noticed that the same thing happens from time to time when i am with my folks back home. my articulation really has changed and my folks unconsciously call intention to the fact that i modified my vernacular. they raise their eyebrows when i use "sprechen" instead of "redn". and only that reaction makes me notice that i have shunt another dialect word from my vocabulary. of course, give me one afternoon and i fall back into my dialect as though nothing had happened.

one thing i painfully realized lately is that i substitute the beloved word "erdapfel" (earth apple) with the standard german "kartoffel" a lot. erdäpfel are a staple food cultivated by virtually every household in the smaller villages of the bohemian forest. my grandfather still stores his potatoes in an "erdkeller", a cellar near the house excavated around 1900. it is located on a hillside and has a stone-vault and a time-worn wooden door. this cellar always was a magical place for me, my siblings and cousins. we would always sit on top of the hill with the cellar underneath us pretending that gnomes and dwarfs where living behind the wooden door of the cellar ...

der erdkeller beim haus meiner großeltern
der erdkeller beim haus meiner großeltern
(thank you for taking the pictures, karin)

my grandfather wants to give up this earth cellar as it is getting too difficult for him to store his potatoes and wine far away from the house. i think this is pretty sad as there are so many childhood memories connected with this magical spot. i hope he just leaves the cellar empty instead of really flatten the area in one go and also destroy the nearby meadow arranged as a garden by my late grandmother.

every member of the family currently is using up the big pile of potatoes in the earth cellar from the last harvest. and now we actually get to the point of my rampant post. i have an easy savoury potato spread for you that has a long tradition, especially in rural areas of austria. we mostly eat it as a snack with bread, a "jause", which is a light meal taken in the afternoon. today the spread is very popular for barbecues or parties: it's the famous "erdäpfelkås"

(about 20 servings)
1 kg potatoes
250 g sour cream (i use cremefin instead)
250 g onions
salt, pepper, parsley, chives

01 cook potatoes and let cool down
02 peel cold potatoes and mash roughly (using a fork)
03 chop onions very finely and combine with potatoes in a bowl
04 add sour cream / cremefin, add herbs and season to taste


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Tea hat gesagt…

Oh, I love this post! I don't have the same experience with my native language, but I lived in the mountains in Japan and the Japanese I learned was the local dialect. When I went to Tokyo people thought it was very strange to have this American girl speaking a rural dialect. They called me a country bumpkin.

I hope your grandfather keeps the erdkeller, what a wonderful piece of tradition. You are lucky to have such experiences and memories from your childhood. No matter where you go or how your vocabulary changes, I am sure you will remember your roots and history.

And I had never heard the word erdapfel. I only ever learned kartoffel. Earth apple is so much cuter:-).

Thank you for sharing this story. I think you must have had a wonderful experience growing up in such a place. The pictures are lovely.

angelika hat gesagt…

Gerda, what a wonderful post you have written !! Thank you for quoting "my" quote, in my eyes that's one of (uncountable) joys blogging offers : taking up ideas and inspiration from one blog to the other... Good idea : Erdapfelkas ! By the way, I personally do not like the Viennese dialect, it has hardly been used in my family, but of course there is the special melody in my speaking as well. But there are two Austrian dialects I simply adore and am always pleased to hear: the Upper Austrian and the Carinthian. Have a good day !

tschoerda hat gesagt…

thank you girls, i am really flattered!

i am always a bit shy when it comes to write longer posts, instead i am trying to keep it all visual and make pretty pictures :) maybe i'll give you more stories in the future ...

i enjoy reading long posts in other foodblogs though, this is a beloved daily routine! and, yes angelika, it's an endless source of inspiration to read foodblogs! it makes you try out new things and remember how special and unique your own recipes are ... though you might think yourself that they are pretty boring at times ...

cavacavien hat gesagt…

Hello tschoerda !
I really enjoyed reading this lovely stories about"erath apples"
Unfortunately we have no beautiful stories like this in Japan!
( this is my first comment...oh, to tell you truth,I bookmarked your blog about a month ago!)

johanna hat gesagt…

shame on you! kartoffeln! unheard of! although i have to say that i also say tomatoes instead of paradeiser and call my strawberries erdbeeren rather than pineapples, as my gran used to. have you come across that as well?
btw, i'll be back in Linz at the beginning of August - are you keen to meet up?