There is a strong connection between food and tradition. From grandma’s cookies to our culture’s cuisine, the things we eat speak volumes about our place and path through our world. Our culture, our home life, our traditions, and our quirks.
If you’ve spent any time on the internet you’ve come across this question: “What are the weird foods you eat, or used to eat?”
If you say milk and Pepsi, or french fries dipped in vanilla shakes, you’re not weird. Everyone did that.
White rice mixed with ketchup? Closer.
Sweetened milk and noodle soup or, perhaps Cottage cheese mixed with sour cream and served on a slice of crusty rye bread? Those, my friend, are weird.
The first one is also disgusting, in case you’re wondering. My apologies to anyone who thinks Milchnudeln is delicious. I was led to believe it would be. I tucked into it with gusto– I was a child after all and I was about to eat something sweet for dinner with parental blessing. I could barely swallow the first bite. Pasta and sugar should never cross paths again as far as I’m concerned.
But lets focus on the final bit of weirdness. There is no special name for it, it’s just cottage cheese and sour cream, a lunchtime staple at my Oma’s.
Fascinated as I am with food, history and tradition, I wanted to know if anyone else ate this simple meal. I often mentioned it in groups and forums whenever someone asked the question “What weird foods do you eat?” And never once did anyone say “me too!” Le sigh.
Not long ago I finally came across a mention of it and a suggestion that it was originally made with quark, a fresh cheese similar to cottage cheese and popular in Germany. Ah, the heritage of my people. I knew I was on the right track.
I managed to track down a quark supplier in a European import market in a nearby town. I say “managed to track down” like it took some detective skills, but I actually shop there a few times a year. While I was picking up braunschweiger, paprika flavored potato chips, rye bread, sauerkraut and vanilla sugar, I checked the dairy case, and there it was.
I rushed home and mixed some of the quark with some sour cream. Excited, expectant I took a bite… well, it wasn’t as bad as the Milchnudeln fiasco, but it wasn’t great either.
What had gone wrong? I thought I would be recreating something special, a lost link in the chain of food that followed my family on a two hundred year track from Germany to Hungary to the US. I tried the quark on its own. It had a different texture and flavor than cottage cheese. Denser, yet smoother than cottage cheese. The taste… not quite right, a bit more sour, but cheesier, where cottage cheese and even ricotta are more milky.
It struck me that perhaps cottage cheese wasn’t a substitute for quark but that the mix itself was a substitute for quark. This made my disappointment make more sense– I’ve always preferred my mix to be heavier on the cottage than the sour, and by mixing quark with sour cream I was creating an unbalanced flavor profile in the wrong direction.
The origins of our family’s odd food habit is finally solved! A quark substitute for German immigrants unable to find the traditional cheese of their old homeland.
It’s simple to make, requiring no real recipe, but nevertheless, I give you this…
Cottage Cheese and Sour Cream
- Small Curd Cottage Cheese Knudsen's in the pink container works fine. Avoid large curd varieties, they don't create the right texture.
- Sour Cream Do not use low or non-fat, or sub yogurt. If you have a source of live culture sour cream, then you're golden.
- Sweet Hungarian Paprika
- Fresh Rye Bread Seriously, the crusty stuff that's shaped not baked in a pan.
- I don't include measurements because its variable to your taste and how much you want to make at once. Start with equal amounts of cottage cheese and sour cream and mix them together in a small bowl.
- Adjust the ratio to your taste if needed. Be like me, and lean slightly heavier on the cottage cheese, or follow in the footsteps of my grandfather and go with a much heavier portion of sour cream.
- If serving in the bowl, sprinkle with paprika to give it some color and leave the shaker on the table for double sprinkles. If serving pre-spread on bread, sprinkle the paprika on top once spread.