Hasenpfeffer mit Spatzle; Lebkuchen (1889)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Sun Nov 24 07:52:50 UTC 2002

   One more food antedate before I call it a night.
   OED has 1892 for "hasenpfeffer" and 1933 for "spatzle."  This Landau person has posted here on the latter, before he got the "German measles."
   There is a lot of food in this item, so it's long.  "Lebkuchen" is at the beginning, and two "hasenpfeffer" hits at the end.
   From the HARPER'S WEEKLY online database:

Search the Full-Text of Harper's Weekly, 1857-1912
This marks the beginning of page 314 from the 04-20-1889 issue of Harper's Weekly.
This marks the beginning of Column 1

     Being thus encouraged, Gottlieb bought the honey forthwith;
and with Aunt Hedwig's zealous assistance set about boiling it
and straining it and kneading it into a sticky dough, all in accord-
ance with the wise old baker's directions that he so long had trea-
sured in his mind. And when the dough was packed in earthen
pots, over which bladders were tied, all the pots were set away in
the coolest part of the cellar, as far from the great oven as pos-
sible, that the precious honey-cake might undergo that subtle
change which only comes with time.

     For at least a year must pass before the honey-cake really can
be said to be good at all; and the longer that it remains in the
pots, even until five-and-twenty years, the better does it become.
Therefore it is that all makers of lebkuchen who aspire to become
famous professors of the craft add each year to their stock of
honey-cake, yet draw always from the oldest pots a time-soaked
dough that ever grows more precious in its sweet excellence of
age. Thus large sums -- more hundreds of dollars than a young
baker, just starting upon his farinacious career, would dare to
dream of -- may be invested; and the old rich bakers who can
dower their daughters with many honey-pots know that in the
matter of sons-in-law they have but to pick and choose.

     It was about Christmas-time -- which is the proper time for this
office -- that Gottlieb made his first honey-cake; and it was a little
before the Christmas following that his first lebkuchen was baked.
For a whole week before this portentous event occurred he was
in a nervous tremor; by day he scarcely slept; as he sat beside
the oven at night his pipe so frequently went out that twice, hav-
ing thus lost track of time, his baking of bread came near to be-
ing toast. And when at last the fateful night arrived that saw
his first batch of lebkuchen in the oven, he actually forgot to
smoke at all!

     Gottlieb had but a sorry Christmas that year. The best that
even Aunt Hedwig could say of his lebkuchen was that it was not
bad. Herr Sohnstein, to be sure, brazenly declared that it was
delicious; but Gottlieb remembered that Herr Sohnstein, who con-
ducted a flourishing practice in the criminal courts, was trained
in the art of romantic deviations from the truth whenever it was
necessary to put a good face on a bad cause; and he observed
sadly that the notary's teeth were at variance with his tongue, for
the piece of lebkuchen that Herr Sohnstein ate was infinitessi-
mally small. As for the regular German customers of the bakery,
they simply bit one single bite and then refused to buy. Indeed,
but for the children from St. Bridget's School -- who, being for the
most part boys, and Irish boys at that, presumably could eat any-
thing -- it is not impossible that that first baking of lebkuchen might
have remained uneaten even until this present day. And it was
due mainly to the stout stomachs of successive generations of
these enterprising boys that the series of experiments that Gott-
lieb then began in the making of lebkuchen was brought, in the
course of years, to something like a satisfactory conclusion. But
even at its best, never was this lebkuchen at all like that of which
in his hopeful youth he had dreamed.

     Herr Sohnstein, to be sure, spoke highly of it, and even man-
aged to eat of it quite considerable quantities. Gottlieb did not
imagine that Herr Sohnstein could have in this matter any ulterior
motives; but Aunt Hedwig much more than half suspected that
in order to please her by pleasing her brother he was making a
sacrifice of his stomach to his heart. If this theory had any foun-
dation in fact, it is certain that Herr Sohnstein did not apprecia-
bly profit by his gallant risk of indigestion; for while Aunt Hed-
wig by no means seemed disposed to shatter all his hopes by a
sharp refusal, she gave no indication whatever of any intention to
permit her ripe red lips to utter the longed-for word of assent.
Aunt Hedwig, unquestionably, was needlessly cruel in her treat-
ment of Herr Sohnstein, and he frequently told her so. Some-
times he would ask her, with a fine irony, if she meant to keep
him waiting for his answer until her brother had made lebkuchen
as good as the lebkuchen of Nürnberg? To which invariably
she would reply that, in the first place, she did not know of any
question that he ever had asked her that required an answer; and,
in the second place, that she did mean to keep him waiting just
precisely that long. And then she would add, with a delicate
drollery that was all her own, that whenever he got tired of wait-
ing he might hire a whole horse-car all to himself and ride right
away. Ah, this Aunt Hedwig had a funny way with her!

     And so the years slipped by; and little Minna, who laughed at
the passing years as merrily as Aunt Hedwig laughed at Herr
Sohnstein, grew up into a blithe, trig, round maiden, and ceased to
be little Minna at all. She was her mother over again, Gottlieb
said; but this was not by any means true. She did have her mo-
ther's goodness and sweetness, but her sturdy body bespoke her
father's stronger strain. Aunt Hedwig, of this same strain, undis-
guisedly was stocky. Minna was only comfortably stout, with
good broad shoulders, and an honest round waist that anybody
with half an eye for waists could see would be a satisfactory arm-
ful. And she had also Aunt Hedwig's constant cheeriness. All
day long her laugh sounded happily through the house, or her voice
went blithely in happy talk, or, failing anybody to talk to, trilled
out some scrap of a sweet old German song. The two apprentices
and the young man who drove the bread-wagon of course were
wildly and desperately in love with her -- a tender passion that
they dared not disclose to its object, but that they frequently and
boastingly aired to each other. Naturally these interchanges of
confidence were apt to be somewhat tempestuous. As the result
of one of them, when the elder apprentice had declared that Min-
na's beautiful brown hair was finer than any wig in the window of
the hair-dresser on the west side of the square, and that she had
given him a lock of it, and when the young man who drove the
bread-wagon (he was a profane young man) had declared that it
was a verdammter sight finer than any wig, and that she hadn't --
the elder apprentice got a dreadful black eye, and the younger ap-

This marks the beginning of Column 2

prentice was almost smothered in the dough-trough, and the young
man who drove the bread-wagon had his head broken with the
peel that was broken over it. Aunt Hedwig did not need to be
told, nor did Minna, the little jade, the cause of this direful com-
bat; and both of these amiable women thought Gottlieb very hard-
hearted because he charged the broken peel -- it was a new one --
and the considerable amount of dough that was wasted by stick-
ing to the younger apprentice's person, against the wages of the
three combatants.

     This reference to the apprentices and to the wagon shows that
Gottlieb's bakery no longer was a small bakery, but a large one.
In the making of lebkuchen, it is true, he had not prospered; but
in all other ways he had prospered amazingly. From Avenue A
over to the East River, and from far below Tompkins Square clear
away to the upper regions of Lexington Avenue, the young man
who drove the bread-wagon rattled along every morning as hard as
ever he could go, and he vowed and declared, this young man did,
that nothing but his love for Minna kept him in a place where all
the year round he was compelled in every single day to do the
work of two. Meanwhile the little shop on East Fourth Street
had been abandoned for a bigger shop, and this, in turn, for one
still bigger -- quite a palace of a shop, with plate-glass windows --
on Avenue B. It was here, beginning in a modest way with a couple
of tables whereat chance hungry people might sit while they ate
zwieback or a thick slice of hearty pumpernickel and drank a
glass of milk, that a restaurant was established as a tender to the
bakery. It did not set out to be a large restaurant, and in fact
never became one. In the back part of the shop were a dozen
tables, covered with oil-cloth and decorated with red napkins, and
at these tables, under the especial direction of Aunt Hedwig, who
was a culinary genius, was served a limited, but from a German
stand-point most toothsome, bill of fare. There was Hasenpfeffer
mit Spätzle, and Sauerbraten mit Kartoffelklösse, and Rindfleisch
mit Meerrettig, and Bratwurst mit Rothkraut; and Aunt Hedwig
made delicious coffee, and the bakery of course provided all man-
ner of sweet cakes. In the summer-time they did a famous busi-
ness in ice-cream.

     On the plate-glass windows, beneath the sweeping curve of white
letters in which the name of the owner of the bakery was set forth
was added in smaller letters the words "Café Nürnberger." Gott-
lieb and Aunt Hedwig and the man who made the sign (this last,
however, for the venal reason that more letters would be required)
had stood out stoutly for the honest German "Kaffehaus"; but
Minna, whose tastes were refined, had insisted upon the use of the
French word: there was more style about it, she said. And this
was a case in which style was wedded to substantial excellence.
What with the good things which Gottlieb baked and the good
things which Aunt Hedwig cooked, the Café Nürnberger presently
acquired a somewhat enviable reputation. It became even a re-
sort of the aristocracy, in this case represented by the dwellers in
the handsome houses on the eastern and northern sides of Tomp-
kins Square. Of winter evenings, when bright gas-light and a big
glowing stove made the restaurant a very cozy place indeed, large
parties of these aristocrats would drop in on their way home from
the Thalia Theatre, and would stuff themselves with Hasenpfeffer
and Sauerbraten and Kartoffelklösse, and swig Aunt Hedwig's
strong coffee (out of cups big enough and thick enough to have
served as shells and been fired from a mortar), until it would seem
as though they must certainly crack their aristocratic skins.

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