My grandma is proud of her Irish-German heritage. Irish on one side, German on the other, my grandmother proves her genealogy with her Sunday dinners. I laugh at her because she isn’t any more German than the next person—cooking with corned beef, vinegar, and onions at every meal only proves that she has a distinct German/Celtic taste. In fact, I can look my grandmother in the eye and tell her that she’s a monkey in German, “Du bist ein affe,” and she will recite “Roses are red, violets are blue…” in Spanish, because she thinks we’re playing a second language knowledge game. But she is German on one side, Irish on the other, and very proud of it.
Growing up, I can’t remember a meal at Grandma’s house that didn’t include potatoes and cabbage. At eight years old, my favorite meal was “Hash-Trash”—a combination of onions, corned beef, potatoes, and vinegar. “Cole Slaw” came in at a close second, and gravy was a mandatory side with every meal. Even after being Americanized in every aspect of their lives, her family continued to carry on their heritage in the kitchen. My grandmother is the proud mother of seven children, grandmother of twenty-three grandchildren, and great-grandmother of six great-grandchildren. With four generations settling in the dining room of her medium, cottage-style home, she brings our family together with her dishes. In short, she knows how to cook for a crowd. There is always enough to eat at Grandma’s house, even when she runs out of places at the table.
Along with being the oldest, wisest member of our family, she is also the strongest. My grandmother, like the trunk of our family-tree, remains sturdy and solid when she’s needed the most. After losing her husband just before Christmas and their 58th anniversary, my grandmother held the family together and prepared Christmas dinner like always, just days after cooking four generations worth of food for his funeral. Thirty-two years earlier, she prepared dinner after watching her home burn to the ground on the morning of December 25, 1975. She lived through the Great Depression, watched her husband, two sons, and four grandchildren serve more than 100 combined years in the army, and got her family through a devastating accident that caused severe brain damage in her youngest son. My grandmother is a survivor—a fighter. Although her meals are now the only remaining part of the German-Irish heritage she embodies, she pulls her family through hardships as she carries on the traditions of her mixed heritage at every Sunday’s dinner. Because of my grandma, I learned why Sauerkraut gets better with age, that the perfect amount of salt makes or breaks a heaping pot of Haluski, and that food is something that holds a family together, because it’s relied on to remain the same when everything else is changing or falling apart. My grandmother is a proud Irish-German American, and I’m proud that we share that common heritage.
-Winter 2011-2012/Senior Year of High School