Reuben Casserole

In nineteenth-century Russia, sauerkraut was valued more than caviar—Mark Kurlansky

My love affair with sauerkraut was born out of a gastric sacrifice not to offend my future mother-in-law.

I know this seems like a strange beginning to a beautiful relationship with one of my most beloved foods. You see on New Year’s Day 1985 my girlfriend, who later came to be known as Mrs. Big Surf, invited me to dinner to meet the family on this day.

Of course this created a level of angst only to be surpassed by what she was about to make known to me…her mom would be serving sauerkraut. Now at this point in my life, I had convinced myself that I did not like sauerkraut, don’t know why. I never liked the smell of it as a wee lad and that carried over into teen and adult years. I think I tried it once in an elementary school lunch and vowed never to partake of this fermented cabbage again. We all know the eating habits of children will be figured out whenever we get a cure for the common cold, but I carried this vow until my 28th year of life.

The blue-eyed darlin’ being from German heritage and living in a German-populated area of Kentucky, informed me sauerkraut or some sort of cabbage dish was always served on New Year’s Day, a tradition I was not aware of or most likely didn’t care about at that point in my life. Nevertheless, I decided my love for this wonderful young woman would not be sabotaged because I wouldn’t eat what her mom would set in front of me on my first meeting with her.

I don’t know what happened at that dinner. Maybe my taste buds were affected by the reflection of the sauerkraut in the blue eyes of my future missus or my heart slapped my brain and said “Eat this you big doofus”. The sauerkraut was like a long-lost treasure that was found. From that moment, I became so enamored with this delicacy that I couldn’t get enough of it and still can’t. I eat it with pork, soup beans, sausages, hot dogs, chicken, out of the jar, off the floor, or anywhere I can get it.

Fermented or pickled cabbage was first known in ancient China about 2500 years ago or so, but our sauerkraut was probably closer to what the Romans made a few hundred years later. However, my fully known existence of sauerkraut was discovered thirty-seven years ago.

Mrs, Big Surf commandeered this recipe of Reuben Casserole from a friend when we lived in Highland Heights, KY. It captures the taste of one of my favorite sandwiches, the Reuben (clever).

Sauerkraut is just one of the many rewards in my life with Frau Groß Surfen.