When I was young and my maternal grandmother was still living we used to make a wonderful meal we usually consumed as a large group at family gathering times. Sometimes the meal itself was enough to create the occasion sometimes we came together over this meal to celebrate some specific holiday or birthday. I suspect making and eating a big pot of Galuskies (I’m not even sure if this is how she spelled it) became a tradition in my mother’s family long before her father’s family left Europe and settled in the Chehalis Valley around 1901. By the time I was born the recipe had probably changed and even the name had likely been altered just as the last names of many Europeans had been changed when they entered the New World. The simple cabbage rolls we enjoyed together exist in different forms and take on many names around the world. Ours are the best! My favorite part was grinding the meat. Pork shoulder was always the best choice. Of course we could have had the butcher grind it for us, but that would have left us at the mercy of someone else’s interpretation of what our work of art was meant to be. Besides, I would have been robbed of the pleasing sights, sounds and textures the task afforded me. I remember watching as she cut the meat into just the right sized pieces for what my hands and the grinder could handle. I then enjoyed a luxury many of my ancestors never did…the power of the ELECTRIC grinder. Ah…the sound it made as I fed the first piece of pork into the shoot at the top, the feeling as the auger grabbed hold and twisted the meat at the perfect speed toward the blade and die, carefully chosen to extrude the perfect consistency on the other side. I did it just as she showed me and she always told me it was just right. I could immediately taste the kraut infused flavor and the trans-formative texture that awaited me. As I fed more pieces into the hopper I would often slip into a sort of trance. I endured visions of shoveling the first bite of the finished product balanced on a spoon full of silky mashed potato into my mouth.
I don’t often make the Galuskies anymore. I do however still grind the meat. I am grinding meat for other recipes and for other people, but in my minds eye I am the entranced little boy still grinding meat for my grandmother whose culinary influence is paramount to who I am today. I know she’s happy with the consistency I have achieved.