Friday, November 28, 2008

Cooking with Gypsies Cookbook - Preorder today

My mother and I have been working on a cook book for many years and it is finally done! We are publishing it ourselves for the time being. We are accepting pre-orders. It is $29.95 and contains stories, photos and recipes from my family and gypsies all over the world. There is nothing like it available now! Below is an exerpt from it.

If you are a first time cook or someone whose cooking style is defined by measurements and precise ingredient lists, this is not a book for you. Gypsy cooking is about using what is available, and most importantly it is about using your senses to create a dish that is uniquely your own. It is about turning the kitchen into the heart of your household, the safe place for all friends and family to congregate as equals. A neutral place…a place traditions are built.

What you will find in this book, is a combination of our own personal collection of our favorite family recipes as well as those we have collected from our friends around the world and have made our own. It is a culmination of the history of the Gypsies, our family, memories and stories of travels. It is also a book of friendships and generosity from the people who have been generous in sharing their lives and their table with us.

My name is Daniela or as called by my Gypsy name Dani pronounced (Duh-nee). I am Sinti, or what you would know as a Gypsy. Sinti or Romani are Gypsies whose roots are in Germany. In our case, my family is from Heidelberg and Manheim Germany where they still live today. I am the granddaughter of survivors of Auschwitz. My mother was the first and only one in the family who left to go to the US to attend college which is where I was born. I put together this cookbook to honor her and the women of my family and of course my culture who have made it a profession to remain secretive. This act has deprived the world of their rich culture and history, and made us the unfair target of discrimination and misconception. So I thought, in my family all problems were solved in the kitchen…so why not try and do the same by welcoming the world in the families kitchen where you can hopefully begin to see that what you have known about the Gypsy people has most likely been a lie.

What I know of my family and my culture has come from the kitchen. From the holidays and reunions in Germany spent gathered around the stove and trays of food. The men in one room manning the grills and the women in the other, guarding the sweets! When you come over to our house, someone will always ask if you have eaten. It is our way of saying “I Love you”. It is an event for us, and everyone has their own style and own contribution to make to the meals. The kitchen is the heart of all of our homes.

My mother and I have been fortunate enough to have traveled the world many times over. We currently live in Hawaii where we are exposed to all sorts of cultures. Over time, our cookbooks have grown significantly. Every place we have gone, every person we were fortunate enough to have shared a kitchen or table with, has contributed to our book. If we tried something we liked, we were quick to say “Mmmmmmm…what is this? How did you make it?” Then it as added to our book. It was important to us to keep record. Because the kitchen was the one consistent aspect of our family that remained a constant no matter what wars were survived, what persona adversities…we all have to eat. And sometimes, at our darkest times, it is the sharing of food that can bring us home.

I have met with all the women of my family and friends we have met over the years to make this book. I hope you enjoy it because it comes from our hearts.

My daughter asked me to include recipes from my family for this cookbook. This is very difficult for me since I was not taught anything at home. As a child Mama rarely was home and cooked as little as possible. My Aunt Elli was from East Germany, and she could cook. Every Sunday there would be Potato balls that looked like white fluffy snowballs, Hanchen (small young roasted chickens), vegetables and apple cakes, and cheesecake. My job was to brown the bread in butter for the potato balls and sometimes I was allowed to fill the bag with grated potatoes that where then pressed so all the moisture was removed. That was all the cooking I knew. My brother Leidel would cook. Mostly Spaghetti with meat sauce. This sauce consisted mostly of ground beef, onions with chopped tomatoes and salt and pepper. If we made him mad, he would put in lots of red pepper flakes! To this day this is my comfort food. Of course I add broth or wine now.

Over time I have learned new dishes. I visit my family in Germany yearly where there is always something new to learn there. My one sister is married to someone from Austria, their cooking is very different then what I knew. My birth mother is Prussian Sinti and doesn’t know how to cook either. But, she makes mean Sauerkraut which I will share with you.

It needs to be noted that all I know is by observation. There where no recipes. I have actually been professionally trained as a Chef and therefore cook totally different then everyone which is probably a good thing the readers of this book because I can at least put these recipes in a way you can hopefully understand and that translates well.

As my daughter has mentioned, we have lived in several different countries and therefore have been influenced by them. I do not measure. I am not bound by ingredients. I basically cook with what is at hand and I improvise. Currently, we live in Hawaii. Our recipes will change on what is available in the market.

Taste and smell is also my guide. This is an important aspect of Gypsy cooking. I know from stories told by my parents, you ate what you could before the war, if you survived then that was again a challenge. When it was time to eat, Gypsy families would divide up and go into the towns to see what they could scrape up. Many farmers and shop keepers would not sell to Sinti/Roma. My great grandmother had the money, but they would not sell to her. It all was a matter of survival, you ate what you could forage. My grandmother would sometimes steal the chickens and leave the money behind. Hard to believe considering what the world thinks of Sinti/Roma.

I am now close to my sixties and have to watch what I eat. Even more important, I can’t eat like I used to anymore either, because my body has changed. So here is where my culinary training comes in. I make changes from the traditional meals. I cook German, French, Italian, Russian, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, and whatever strikes my fancy. The biggest thing I know is that Sinti/Roma love to eat. Their food is very flavor full. What I also know, they don’t believe it rare meat. My mother would cook steak till it was shoe leather! But the best, the very best, was the gravy. Give me a bowl of gravy (rich, dark gravy) a piece of rye bread and I am in heaven. Even better, rich dark gravy with Spatzel and dark bread and that is that.

The secret is to really sear and brown your meat. I don’t eat meat well done, even pork has some pink. I learned that in culinary school. What I do find interesting is that I always go back to my cultural cooking. It has to have seasoning and be really flavorful. German food and English food for example can be rather grey looking and bland. Sinti/Roma always has more seasonings in their foods. In my family Hungary was a big influence.

My biggest thing is that you don’t have to run out and buy all the ingredients because the recipe says so. Take schnitzel, a breaded veal cutlet. We have discovered that a nice boneless pork cutlet or even a turkey cutlet is just as tasty. Especially the pork.

For me recipes are guidelines. Why would you go out and buy a spice when you only need one teaspoon? or 1/2 a teaspoon? Try to find something in you cupboard that is similar tasting. Improvise. Make do with what you have. Just make it taste to your liking. Just because you have leftover fried chicken doesn’t mean you can’t make chicken soup. Remove the skin, put it into a pot and add some vegetables and rice and or potatoes and you have soup.

Thoughts on Organic
I would just suggest buying local, buying fresh and buying organic. I know it costs more, but at least read the labels. I ruled my life by paranoia. I figured if I didn’t understand it, I didn’t need to put it into my mouth. I made my own baby food, I would bake my own bread, make my own mayo. This was all as a young bride. In my teens when I lived on my own, I used boxes, Hamburger helper etc. I then just added stuff. I didn’t know. I had no money and lived off the charity of my friends for a period. You would be surprised how good Campbell’s tomato soup is with a little butter, salt and pepper. Or Macaroni and Cheese with canned corn and peas with crumbled up crackers on top. You make do.

America is all about additives and preservatives and fast food. It’s cheaper. But these are decisions you have to make for yourself. I don’t take medications unless I absolutely have to. I believe in healthy food, life style, acupuncture, and massage to try and eliminate stress as much as possible. It has to do also with how you digest your foods."



I would like to share with you the recipes I remember as a child first. Most of these have Germanic influence~Sita

My mothers Sauerkraut (Schach) with Spatzel and Chicken.

Amounts again depend on how many people you are cooking for. Most important, taste as you cook.

White cabbage, shredded
Good Sauerkraut, wine Sauerkraut from Germany best.
Open and rinse well
Bacon - nitrate free. Natural cured (I also love duck fat)
juniper berries
salt and pepper
chicken broth

Cut the bacon in pieces, brown in a heavy oven proof pot, remove the bacon, add the sliced onions and start to brown them slowly, then add raw cabbage, wait till it browns a little, then add sauerkraut, season, add the juniper berries and add the broth till you cover the cabbage.

Cover and cook for 1 hour.

Meantime take some chicken pieces, season with salt and pepper, paprika and brown in some bacon fat. ( I always have some on hand). You don’t need a lot, you just want some for flavor.

Set aside.

Now Make Your Spazel:"
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