Spätzle (Spaetzle) 911 — aka U.S. vs Germany, World Cup

In honor of tomorrow’s game, I’m reblogging a post from May 2012, a tribute to my German heritage.


When my son came out of his bedroom this morning wearing black sweatpants tucked into the tops of his yellow soccer socks and a red shirt to celebrate family heritage day at school, I knew I had to step up to the challenge—by making some German delicacy that kids and parents would not leave on their plates at the potluck.

I’ve come to hate potlucks. I have a busy life. I can’t spend all my time in the kitchen. But it goes against every moral fiber my mother sewed into me to show up at a potluck with food purchased from a store. I recall her dissing our relatives the first time they brought KFC  instead of home-fried chicken to a family reunion. “Hmmmm, would you look at that?” she said.

Until I saw my little German flag walking around our house, I was prepared to go empty handed except for the sugar cookies I’d promised to bring. But those cookies weren’t German, and that little flag was waving a saucy corner at me, a silent Teutonic reminder to “play by the rules” and “make an effort.”

Four hours before the kids were scheduled to tell stories about their ancestors (1:30p.m.), I madly Googled “common German foods.”

Beer was  a nonstarter.

Bratwurst was another nonstarter, due to marinating and cooking time and the gag factor for kids.

Sauerkraut? I could just hear the puking sounds in the classroom the minute I opened the container. Why can’t a common German food be strawberries and whipped cream?

Google Google Google. I stumbled upon a five-star kaesespaetzle ( kozze-shpet-zle??) recipe—advertised as the “German mac and cheese.”  Kids would love it. My son would eat it. The foodies raved, said it was easy, came out great!

A spaetzle-making tool would be nice but not required. Other cooks had used a large-holed cheese grater or a pastry bag to squeeze out tubes of noodles. I had both in my kitchen. Plus, I had all the ingredients. Perfect!

10a.m. I assembled the ingredients and plugged in the KitchenAid. First mistake. Just like making mashed potatoes with a Cuisinart, making egg noodles with a KitchenAid at high speed turns them into glue. Still thinking they were salvageable, I added a bit more flour. Then I pressed handfuls of the sticky glop through the grater into a turbulent pot of boiling water. Lumpy noodles the size of small macaroni elbows floated to the top of the pot as they cooked. Once they were all afloat, I transferred the cooked noodles to a pan with butter. They didn’t look too bad.

But they were tough as lederhosen. To the compost! Schnell!!

11:15a.m. I find another mixing bowl, mixing spoon, and set of measuring cups and spoons because the others are all covered in spaetzle-glue that I don’t have time to strip.

I will mix this batch by hand since I’ve Googled another recipe that shows me how to do this. I am overjoyed. This one will turn out quite yummy from what all the reviewers say. I stir. The egg and flour come together into a paste, but perhaps a little too dry? I’m not able to mix it completely. The spoon cakes with dry flour. I add the milk. Things are getting lumpy. I am getting grumpy.

But I am German!! with a bit of Irish and French thrown in. I am determined. I cannot let this recipe get the best of me.

I stir and add a bit more flour, a bit more milk. And stir until I have something the consistency, once again, of glue. So I stop and let it rest for a bit. Although this recipe recommends a half hour, I can only afford 20 minutes. I rest, too, and look around the kitchen at the glue disaster area—including the lumps I’ve smashed into the tread of my shoes.

The pot of boiling water is churning away lustfully on the stove, begging me to throw it some more raw material. I wait no longer.

This time I pour the glue into a plastic bag to simulate the pastry bag I can’t find. It is not easy to pour glue into a plastic bag when you only have two hands. For a short moment, the bag and entire bowlful of mixture teeter precariously at the edge of the table, only to be saved from plunging into the abyss by my aproned stomach.  Dodged that bullet.

I wipe the outside of the bag with my gluestick hands and cut a hole in the corner of the bag before heading to the pot-o-lust. I squeeze a stream of glue into the water and it immediately shreds into a zillion tiny blobs resembling couscous. Not enough flour!

I whip the bag over to the table and squeeze the remainder back into the bowl. Add flour. Grab new plastic bag. Pour a substance that now looks a little more like dough back into the bag. Drop a blob onto the floor. Step on blob. Slice the corner off the bag and  head back to the pot. I will bend this amoebic slime to my will!!

I squeeze. Reasonable lengths of wide noodle dough give themselves up to the pot. But I get impatient with the slow extrusion rate. I squeeze harder. The corner slit bursts wide open. The dough plops into the water in a lump the size of a softball, and my right hand drops into the boiling pot of Hell.

 I run to the sink and douse my steaming flesh, and  the plastic bag it still holds, with cold water.

The noodles and glueball boil.

I curse the Germans and their common food. I curse the foodies who falsely raved at the no-brainer recipe.  I curse myself for being German, for being my mother’s daughter, for being too proud—because as we all know, it goes before a scalding.

I curse because I have to take the noodles out before they overcook.

Cut to the chase. They were less chewy but still the consistency of mediocre gnocchi. And fairly bland even with a dousing of butter. So this is where the cheese comes in.

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 12.51.02 PM


I will solve the problem with cheese.  

12:30p.m. I open the refrigerator and discover that my husband has eaten all of the cheese (needed to turn these little lumpy memory foam pillows into something edible) while working late the night before.  Off to the grocery store with my lobster claw still throbbing.

When I return, I mix the grated Gruyere and Grana into the noodles and settle them into the oven for a meltdown: the cheese and mine.

1:15p.m. I pull it together, leave the katastrophe that is my kitchen, bemoan the unglyck of my spaetzle-making experience, and vow never to believe the Germans again. Yes, you!! who had the nerve to say these “ ’little sparrows’ were better than your Bavarian Oma ever made!!”

2:00p.m. After the kids’ presentations, we eat. The adults are kind and tell me the spaetzle are tasty. The kids avoid the “weird lumpy worms,” but I insist my son have a bite. He refuses and turns away.

And then my Teutonic blood boils. I grab his shoulder and hiss in his ear: “I made two batches because the first one would have worn out your jaws. I scalded my hand in the pot of boiling water while making the second batch. I will never get the glue off every exposed surface in my kitchen. You must take at least one bite.”

He does.

He looks thoughtful and then seesaws his hand like a seasoned reviewer. “It’s not very good. Well, it’s OK. I don’t want any more.”

“Thank you,” I say. “Thank you for taking a bite.”

“Mom, the kids want to know where the sugar cookies are.” 


So take a guess. Which side will my spaetzle be buttered on tomorrow?

33 thoughts on “Spätzle (Spaetzle) 911 — aka U.S. vs Germany, World Cup

  1. subtlekate says:

    Children and the things they say. Having never attempted German, I can only salute your efforts and your stubborness. I’m impressed and I hope you were not too badly burned.

  2. mselene says:

    Ah, I have tried a few times to up my heritage factor by learning Finnish or Swedish… Much too difficult. I’ll just stick with Swedish pancakes!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yes, it is sometimes safer to stick with foods, particularly ones that don’t demand special equipment. I’ve now decided to learn Spanish instead of German. And i much prefer foods of Spanish origin. So maybe I should switch heritages despite being blonde and blue-eyed. :o)

      • mselene says:

        Haha, well my dad is full Scandinavian but he decided when he was about 40 that he wanted to be Russian, and his borscht is delicious! So if you can do it, I don’t see why you shouldn’t! 😀

  3. heylookawriterfellow says:

    I do so love stumbling upon an unfamiliar blog that makes me snort.

    I, too, am German, but to my shame, have not strayed far out of the cullinary neighborhood of beer and bratwurst. That said, it is a nice neighborhood.

  4. lightningpen says:

    Hi, this was a real life comedy of errors that made me really laugh! I once wrote a book specifically for my nephews Connor and Griffin to read! I handed them the book titled Dear Camy, the Lost Letters! They read the first page and say,” yeah I don’t get it, thanks!”. And they never read another word! Needless to say I’ve stopped writing for nephews! I think this blog is great! Thank you for the follow, the great accurate and well thought out comment, and the like! I can tell you the humor in your blog is incredibly well written and smart. I love a well written transition in my blogs, but only if it’s a positive portion! Have a great day of writing!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Your nephews’ loss. I enjoy your voice and envy your fleet pen. You have inspired me to take more risks. I look forward to building my flying circus after I’ve jumped out of the plane. All the best to you an yours.

  5. Mrs. P says:

    Great food disaster story that I could really relate to as I am trying to relearn cooking for people who have opposite food tastes than I. I’ve been trying a lot of recipes that don’t end up any where close to being appetizing.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yes, it’s disappointing, isn’t it? And sometimes a real disaster. It’s good to have a sense of humor—at least after the fact. I read somewhere that Julia Child would often experiment, and even if the meal turned out to be a disaster, she would eat it cheerfully, makes notes and move on. I suppose a bit of wine helped with the cheerful part.

  6. FictionFan says:

    HahaHA! You had me roaring with laughter, so all your pain was well worth while! I hope the hand recovered eventually. I do remember a short German holiday many years ago when I struggled to find anything remotely edible on menus and began to long for a Big Mac after a while. Mind you, I’m not being uppity – I come from the land of the haggis and deep-fried Mars Bar…

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yes, writers suffer (in more ways than one) so that others may enjoy the result. 😀 German fare is not for those with weak gastro-intestinal systems, is it? So I guess I’ve fallen far from the tree.

      The deep-fried Mars Bar has me intrigued. It’s really on the menu?

      • FictionFan says:

        Well, it’s on the menu in chip-shops (another British peculiarity there) in scenic areas but the only people who ever eat them are drunken teenage boys and innocent tourists – and they only eat them once… 😉

        • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

          And then they carry the poor souls out of the restaurant, straight to the emergency room, and proceed to pump their stomachs. I’m sure there’s a fresh supply of drunken teenage boys and tourists daily. Keeps the shops and the hospitals in business.

  7. Margarita says:

    Ah, yes, the joys of potlucks. At my daughter’s school, because of the diversity of our population, they were always international potlucks. Because it was a small school, all the parents knew one another, especially by the time our kids got to fifth grade. By that time, we knew that their favorite was pizza from the corner pizzeria We, thankfully, complied and got on with the partying! xoxoM

  8. Shakti Ghosal says:

    The FIFA World Cup is now surely moving into the exciting Knock-out phase. And the German team looks good. If they don’t get upstaged by Netherlands- the tournament’s dark horse, for me they are favourites to lift the cup.



  9. Lady Fancifull says:

    Oh Jilanne! I laughed and laughed (till I got to the bit about your poor hand – note for future German cooking incursions – a l bottle of Lavandula angustifolia essential oil should be in your first aid kit
    – true lavender can be (and indeed should be – put undiluted onto burns – its really takes the sting out and prevents blisters from forming. But, still – why didn’t you just buy a bag of GERMAN chamomile flowers and make everyone a pot of soothing chamomile tea.

    However, I heard the voice of Fiction Fan in there at the ‘why can’t German food be strawberries and cream’ bit.

    I would suggest a wonderful book is awaiting ‘The kitchen disasters cookbook’ I will buy it! (though i might not cook from it)

    You should have stuck with a keg of beer. Or boiled the noodley things in beer.

    Or just dye your hair – how marvellous would it be to claim Spanish heritage -you could claim Rafa is your second cousin Vamos!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Thank you for the medicinal recommendation. I was not aware that lavender was such an effective remedy. I will get a bottle for my first aid kit. As far as FF is concerned, she had no influence during the writing of this piece. Any similarities between my and her taste preferences are purely coincidental. 😀 And yes, I should have taken beer-boiled bratz. At least the adults would have been happy.

      Now, if I haven’t already mentioned this, I must tell you a story about hair dye. Once upon a time, a few more than a handful of years ago, I got the “wild hair” to get my hair dyed peacock colors. Well, the names of the colors (as I recall) were wild blueberry, tart raspberry, grape, and poison frog green. I tried on a dark wig once for a Halloween costume. It was way too Goth for me. Although I love the name, Vamos! 😀

      • Lady Fancifull says:

        Now I’ve indicated what goes wrong when I get too hasty to punctuate and neglect the full stop after second cousin.

        Did you dye ALL those colours at once, in sections. You’d probably need a hairdresser on the case, but one colour as a base and then each of the others done in small sections pulled through a highlighter cap would be – wonderful. I’ve long wanted to get that done iin a selection of autumn leaf colours – 5 or 6 so that a head of hair became a dappled autumn leaf

        Re the lavender – the whole popularity of twentieth century aromatherapy started from the famous accident when a French perfumer/chemist sustained a bad burn and plunged his hand into the nearest vat of cold liquid in his lab – which fortunately for aromatherapy was Lavandula angustifolia. And the rest is fragrant history

        PS I cook with it as well, biscuits, smoothies – though I did overdo it in a whipped raspberry and cream dessert for a friend who absolutely dislikes any ‘messed about with’ food. She has never eaten any dessert i’ve ever made since

        • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

          And here I thought the missing stop was intentional! You and Vamos! were heading back to Wimbledon to watch the next match. 😀

          Yes, in some places strands of hair were colored in bands so that each strand could have one, two or three colors displayed. It did take an entire afternoon at the hairdresser’s, so I never did it again. I wish I had photos. My son finds it hard to believe that his mother ever looked like a peacock. I think your autumn leaf idea is a winner. Post a photo when you do, please!

          I love the backstory about the lavender. Where did you find that information? Your friend should be far more forgiving, especially when it comes to desserts. You can’t even entice her with a chocolate concoction?

          • Lady Fancifull says:

            Virtually every book ever written on aromatherapy will recount the ‘lavender accident’ and Rene Maurice Gattedosse himself, who invented the word ‘aromatherapy’ in his book published in the 1930s (in French) where he writes about the medicinal uses of the essential oils, recounts a lot about lavender, and other essential oils.

            I suspect I would be unable to resist making a chocolate flavoured with lavender concoction for her.

          • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

            Aha! I will need to investigate more about the lavender accident and other such serendipitous discoveries.

            I like your sense of humor. Your friend, however, is probably justified in steering clear of all your dessert offerings. 😀

        • Lady Fancifull says:

          But my chocolate and beetroot cake is just fabby dabby and the chocolate and black pepper biscuits likewise

          Have you not had lavender chocolate – it is quite wonderful! There are various companies here who make high end 75% and up chocolate who include various essential oils in their chocolate – rose, geranium, lavender, ginger, black pepper, a variety of citruses. plus other surprising spices and flavours – chilli, salt, Yum Yum Yum

          • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

            hmmm. I am a chocolate purist, although I’ve tried chilli, salt, citruses, and ginger with dark chocolate. And I have never been able to eat/drink foods that have any kind of floral essence. I love lavender essence after doing yoga or whenever I need a fresh mind. But I can’t let lavender cross over into the tastebud realm. I can, however, drink gallons of hibiscus tea.

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