Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Your Daily Dumpling: A Love Story

Dumplings are part of my heritage and I love them. Sweet apple dumplings, hearty liver dumplings, spicy bacon dumplings, and old-fashioned potato, egg, or butter dumplings. I don't eat them much any more because of the carb content but lately I've been experimenting with nut flour dumplings and I think I may be on to somethiing. But dumplings are one of those foods, like bread, that has a version in virtually ever cuisine known to humans. From Asian pot-stickers to Hungarian pierogi and from Jamaican bean dumplings to Italian gnocchi (possibly the loveliest dumpling of them all, leave it to the Italians!) dumplings are lovely things.

Some dumplings are plain, made from flour and eggs, maybe milk, maybe baking soda, maybe some seasoning, and some dumplings are quite elaborate. Usually dumplings are designed to be dropped into bubbling hot liquid, broths or water, and boiled. But dumplings can also be fried, like pierogi, baked like maultashcen, or deep-fried in oil like fritters. I've been thinking a lot about dumplings lately because I have two works-in-progress that involve dumplings. One is a short story for The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall collection. It is called The Great Dumpling War and Dance Competition and is extremely entertaining to write. The other book is a cookbook I am working on that includes the recipes for food mentioned in my other books. And from Syd's corn fritters in Depraved Heart to Lola's Kartoffelklöße in The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall, there are lots of dumplings in my stories.

When I was writing the first version of Fry Bacon. Add Onions in 1982 my Gram Werner gave me a recipe that she called maultashe. She said her mother made it all the time and that she had never seen a recipe for it anywhere. Basically it is a potato dumpling filled with spiced apples and baked in a custard. I included it in the cookbook but I never heard of it either until a few days ago. I was doing some research for my WIP and I came across a reference to maultaschen, a potato dumpling stuffed with spiced meat or vegetables. The article said it was a specialty dish in the Baden-Württember area of Germany – which is where my great-grandparents were from. The word means “mouth pokets” (which is what Gram said) and they are still very popular there. My friend Michael Belsole, who used to live in Bavaria, said they are very popular there. They are, he said, quite large, two or three is a good meal. I'm so happy to know this. Gram would be so proud!
I recently came across a lovely little cookbook called Favorites from Amelia's Kitchen: Vegetarian Comfort Food for Everyone by Amelia Terhune. In it she includes a recipe for a fruit dumpling. All the fruit dumplings I knew about were crust filled with fruit and baked but Amelia makes a sweet, dough dumpling that is simmered in stewed fruit (see the picture above.) I had never heard of this before but it sounds wonderful.

Last night I found my copy of a 35 year old cookbook called The Dumpling Cookbook by Maria Polushkin which is filled with recipes for dumplings and fritters from all over the world.

So, as I write and tinker around making hazelnut and cashew flour dumplings, it is nice to remember the role that the humble dumpling has played in the history of the world.

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. Being of Polish descent, I LOVE dumplings! Pierogi, of course. My gramma taught me how to make them, taught me to roll the dough until it was the thickness of a piece of school paper. She made squash filling, sweet cheese filling, mushroom and leek filling. So delicious.

    Thanks for the memories. :)


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