A Taste of Vienna - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2042701

A Taste of Vienna

Just to be on the light side for once:

I am earnestly recommending a recipe change to the chefs of Citarella who prepare the stuffed cabbage and stuffed peppers. Right now, these two Citarella offerings resemble the two traditional Mittel-Europa dishes like McDonald’s hamburgers resemble The Palm’s filet mignon.

Of course, I have a lot of nerve making cooking suggestions, since I am the last remaining of three generations of Viennese women who never cooked!

My grandmother was a businesswoman who opened one of the first movie theaters in Vienna, in the days of a live piano player below the screen. She was also among the first to have sound projectors, and her movie theater specialized in first-run American films. I was allowed to see Shirley Temple films.

Every morning at 10, I could find my grandmother sitting at her vanity, face powdered, dressed in some conservative dark dress or suit, with a flowered cotton wrap tied over her shoulders. And every morning at 10 sharp, her hairdresser appeared, combed and brushed my grandmother’s hair, and she then left for the rest of the day.

But I never saw my grandmother in the kitchen.

Her cook allowed me in the kitchen around noon on Sundays only, when she made a strudel as one of the desserts for my grandmother’s weekly 1 p.m. family dinner. The cook then let me shape the dough remaining after she trimmed the strudle and baked my two or three tiny kipferln.

When we were summoned into the dining room, I offered those kipferln to my father. He always said those were the best, the tastiest he had ever eaten. Is it any wonder that I liked men throughout my life?

When the war broke out, and my boarding school near Lille was turned into a hospital, my mother found an old book of Viennese, Hungarian and Czech recipes, a wedding present from a maiden aunt. She opened the book on a recipe for veal cutlets and string beans — and she never turned the page.

As for my recommendation to the Citarella chefs: If you don’t want the filling of your stuffed peppers or cabbage to taste hard and tough like cannonballs, mix the meat for the stuffing with yesterday’s cooked rice. No, not fresh, uncooked rice — yesterday’s leftovers. At least half the stuffing should be that moist, cooked leftover rice.

All of World War I impoverished Mittel Europa knew how to make the most of a dead animal, using kidneys, tripe and, my favorite, Beuschl mit Knodl, a lung stew, now hard to find in prosperous Vienna. Is there a butcher anywhere in our country who keeps and sells those animal parts?

Evelyn Konrad

Attorney at law