On to Rule #4: Avoid Food Products That Contain High-Fructose Corn Syrup. This rule isn’t meant to rag on high-fructose corn syrup, but sugar in general. Sugar is sugar, and unless you eat fiber to process the sugar, it’s going to strain your liver. (That’s why it’s better to drink a smoothie than juice—fruit flesh contains fiber.) The World Health Organization recommends limiting sugar intake to 25g, or 5% of total daily calories. If you eat packaged food, this can be tough: sugar hides under many names, and healthy-seeming foods are often high in sugar. A Clif bar contains 22g of sugar; an Izze sparkling juice has 27g! I stay aware of how much sugar I’m eating by checking nutrition labels and avoiding packaged food, for the most part. For this rule I’m making rotkohl, German sweet and sour cabbage, which you can buy canned in grocery stores.
When I miss my Opa, who immigrated—by boat!—to the United States at eighteen years old, I get a strong urge to the food of his homeland. A good schnitzel is often accompanied by German sweet and sour cabbage, cooked until soft and tender. I did some research and it looks like even the canned German brands use high-fructose corn syrup, which prompted me to look for recipes and substitute a natural sweetener.
Recently I was missing Opa and decided to make schnitzel for Sunday lunch. I used pork instead of veal for the schnitzel and served it with parsley and lemon, along with the sweet and sour cabbage, pan-fried potatoes, and roasted asparagus. I first had white asparagus in Germany, circa 2000, when we got to go for two weeks with Opa as our guide. I was ten years old, and I still have the most vivid memories of our trip, mostly of the food we ate. We always said we’d go to Germany and Austria again with Opa, but it was not to be, making those memories all the more precious. Schnitzel in Vienna at Cafe Maximilian, white asparagus in a tavern after a day in the Black Forest, ice cream on the train platform, and rolls and ham at hotel breakfasts—these are the things I remember.
Opa is gone and has been for several years, but sometimes the pain of his passing is acute: grief hits you that way, doesn’t it? One minute you’re fine, and the next you’re sobbing and driving, trying to see the road. Making the food helps, I promise, it’s the good kind of emotional eating: tied to dear ones and heritage.
Opa passed before my son was born: he was quite sick and death came as a relief, in a way, but I mourn that he never got to hold his great-grandson. When Jack is older, I will tell him about his great-grandfather, the only grandfather I knew, and the only one I needed. I will have a good cry, play Wiener Blut, and make the memories come alive for my son, as German potato salad, schnitzel, and rotkohl. We will eat those memories at our table: they will tell the story of who we are, what we came from, and who we are.
Enough, let’s talk more about this German sweet and sour cabbage: some recipes use a slow cooker, but I wanted it to cook while I prepared the rest of the meal. So, I started the cabbage first and cooked it at a higher heat, adding in more water and vinegar. I’ve estimated those quantities for you, but you may need to add a bit more of each. I also wanted the cabbage to be more sour than sweet, to contrast with the oily meat and potatoes, another reason to add more vinegar. I adapted this recipe, because it used apples and cloves, which sounded lovely. My final recommendation is to use real maple syrup (or honey) instead of sugar. Yes, it’s still sugar, but it’s in a natural form, and easier for your body to handle when combined with the fiber of the cabbage and apple.
You could also try omitting the maple syrup and using a sweet apple. Let me know if you do, and how it tastes.
If you make this German sweet and sour cabbage, I want to see! Tag me @katielepine and use the hashtag #eatingfoodrules.
- 1 small head red cabbage
- 1 grated apple (I used a Pink Lady)
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3+ tablespoons water
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Slice the cabbage thinly, or run it through your food processor, using a slicer attachment, and put the cabbage in deeper sauce pan or Dutch oven.
- Peel, core, and grate the apple over the cabbage.
- Add the vinegar, water, maple syrup, and cloves.
- Give it a stir, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and cook until tender.
- Check the mixture occasionally and give it a stir, adding more liquid as you need. (I alternated using a lid and higher heat to speed up the process, then took the lid off so the liquid could evaporate.)
- When the cabbage is soft and the liquid is absorbed, it's ready!
- Serve warm with German food, and eat it cold the next day for lunch.