Discovering Family & Food in Germany

October has become a difficult month for me; seven years ago, the Hal of Hal’s Kitchen passed away. I think about my dad all the time, and love when customers ask, “Who is Hal?” Most everyone thinks of October for Octoberfest and Halloween. Don’t worry, I think about that, too.

This October, I’m thinking a lot about Octoberfest. My dad was German, and although he left at 9 years old, being German never left him. He began to journey back to Germany in the late 1950s with his brother, then the ‘60s with my mom, the ‘70s and ‘80s with his five kids, then with his grandchildren. With each trip, he discovered more family history, and finally his trips concentrated only on preservation. He took a few trips with one of his few cousins and my oldest brother to mark old, forgotten gravesites dating back to the 1700s.

This little cemetery is very remotely located outside of the small town of Ernsbach. Even Germans don’t know where Ernsbach is located. It’s alongside the Kocher River, and is a factory town. We traveled through Germany this summer with all of my siblings, nephew, niece, and my teenage sons.

We went from Frankfurt to Munich with tons of stops in between, but our favorite was our three nights in Ernsbach staying at the Gasthof Lamm. My father and mother had visited them for at least twenty years. The guesthouse has six rooms to let, restaurant and private dining room. It has been owned since 1949 by the Lamm family. It is now run by Rolf Lamm who also owned the butcher shop. He still is the town butcher, and is famous for his Malthaussen. He had no hesitation in taking us into his kitchen to show us how it is made.

Being in his kitchen, felt like an episode with Andrew Zimmern. We were off the beaten path, enjoying local fare with the people who have been making it forever. Afterwards, we headed to the restaurant kitchen to cook with Marlese (the mother), Marlene (the daughter), and Lara (the grand-daughter).

We made homemade spatzel together, and cooked the malthaussen three different ways. Breakfast was meat cured, and we enjoyed homemade breads and jams by Marlese. The most memorable, was on our last night, Marlese made us Apple Cake. It was an act of love.

The next morning, there were a lot of long good byes, but my mind was already on the next time I could return to Ernsbach and Lamm Gasthof.

I’m going to leave the Malthaussen to the Rolf, but here is my version of Apple Cake. Apple Cake in Germany is the equivalent of a batch of brownies in the US. Making it is an act of love and memories.