Around the time that I was beginning to take percussion seriously, my dad made a comment that was something to the effect of “You can’t play a Mahler symphony without knowing German!” referring to all of the sections marked langsamer (“slower”) and Schwammschlägeln (“use soft mallets”). And the thing you must know about every teenage kid who has just fallen in deep with classical music is that they love Mahler. Everyone loves Mahler. But teenagers especially because when you’re young and hormonal and learning about emotions for the very first time, it’s natural to find that only very loud, very intensely passionate Mahler symphonies will satisfy your needs for ***feelings***. You want to shout about the hammer blows in Mahler 6, and cry over fleeting summer memories dancing barefoot through the Tanglewood fields to the Adagietto in Mahler 5.
In other words, I desperately signed up for high school German class so that I could understand the scribbles all over Mahler’s music. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the enormous compound nouns and umlauts scattered about the language, and shortly thereafter I became just as enamored with the food.
My new favorite foods fit snugly into my childhood dogma of noodles and bread and no vegetables. They had fun names like Knödel and Schnitzel and could be finished off with gummy bears and Kinder Eggs, all in the name of research.
There were a few summers in high school when I took my new language skills over to Germany, to play music and chill with my dad, who had a similar fascination with the culture. On one occasion he and I went to the Hofbräuhaus in Munich and sat at a long communal table as the Oompa band made their rounds. I ate an obscene amount of Käsespätzle that was almost as good as my mom’s mac and cheese, and when I was finished I persuaded my dad to let me have a taste of his beer. He obliged, probably knowing what was about to happen, which was that I had one teeny tiny sip that felt like fire going into my brain and down the back of my throat. It was painful and I wanted it to be over from the moment it started. My dad watched me cringe and nodded, knowingly, and he was probably thrilled to see that I hated beer so much. But when the pain died away and all that was left was the faint taste of bread, I was slightly intrigued. Intrigued enough to use my status as a 16-year-old to secretly buy beer souvenirs for all of my friends and smuggle them back in my suitcase.
“What do you have in here, Myllo? Books??”
“Yup, Pop. Calculus.”
Little baby spätzle dumplings are chewy and rustic and slightly nutmeg-y. Specialized spätzle makers exist, but you can get by with strong arms and a slotted spoon. Once boiled, spätzle are typically fried in butter or oil, but because this dish is heavy on the bacon, we’re going to use up the fat to brown these nubbins. One rule I always follow with this is to crisp up extra bacon so that you-know-who can nosh on some while I’m pressing out the spätzle.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, nutmeg, a few turns of black pepper, and
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in batches, press the spätzle dough through a greased spätzle maker or greased slotted spoon (the holes should be on the larger side,
In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy, about 10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel. Pour off all but about
Heat the bacon fat over medium heat and add the Brussels sprouts and a good pinch of salt. Cook, stirring very occasionally, until the Brussels sprouts are browned and tender, 4 to 6 minutes.
Add the spätzle to the skillet and cook, stirring often, over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes to give the spätzle some color and ensure that the Brussels sprouts are tender. Stir in the bacon and finish with more black pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a few shakes of hot sauce. Taste, adjust seasonings as desired, and enjoy.
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