By Angela Magstadt
Strudla. I don’t know how we got to talking about it, but at a recent family gathering, the topic of German food came up, and I mentioned that even growing up in a German-Russian household, I’d never had, or even heard of, the savory dish until I married my husband 15 years ago.
To my surprise, my aunt and grandma hadn’t either, so my sister-in-law, Alicia, (who is quite a bit younger than I am, but has made it many times) and I promised someday we’d make it for the whole family.
When the topic of Easter came up a few weeks later, I again opened my big mouth and offered to host Easter supper. Then I volunteered myself and Alicia to make strudla for everyone.
For those of you who don’t know what it is, strudla is a dumpling-type dough stretched very thin, then rolled up and cooked on the stovetop with potatoes and meat. I learned to make it from my husband’s great- aunt, who was a pro. I remember her stretching it so thin you could see through it – and i t just hung off the edges of her table. I also remember her strict orders – DO NOT, under any circumstance, lift the lid of the pot until the strudla are done.
At first, I was pretty confident, and looking forward to the delicious treat. But when I got to thinking how long it has been since I’d had it, I remembered it was before my daughters were born – and they are 10.
Out of curiosity, I googled “strudla” and to my surprise, there were only two or three websites in English. I clicked on one, and along with a recipe, it included a story from a woman whose grandmother said it needed to be stretched so thin you could read a love letter through it. The story continued by saying when her mother (whom she called an accomplished baker) tried to make it, she got so frustrated that she threw the dough against the wall and gave up. “Wonderful,” I thought.
Alicia’s family doesn't stretch it out as thin as I learned, because they put ground beef on the dough before rolling it up. My husband’s family rolled the see-through dough into tubes, cut them into pieces, then cooked them with cubed ham and potatoes. My co-worker said her grandma used chicken in hers.
The more we made, the better they turned out, and I’m proud to say the last batch was stretched so thin, you could read a love letter through it – I checked – using a love note my daughter wrote me. The whole process took all afternoon and into the evening . And the next day, my shoulders were a bits ore from all the kneading and rolling.
Making strudla was a lot of work – but the laughter, togetherness, and tradition we shared that weekend was well worth it. I’m almost ready for our next cultural adventure. Almost.