Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Schnittled Carrots

There are certain words that apparently only our family uses. I grew up with these words, thinking they were part of the American lexicon. I learned words like “schmutzy,” “shittle” (schüttel), and Knisperhexie. And “schnittle.”

In German, schnitt means “cut,” so in the pidgin German used by my family, we have brought the word into our English, attaching English plural and conjugational endings like -s and -ed and -ing. It can be a verb and it be can a noun. Here are some examples.

“After the second graders had created their paper snowflakes, the floor was covered with schnittles of paper.”

“I’m busy schnittling up the potatoes to fry them; I’ll schnittle the veggies for the salad in a minute.”

You can see how schnittle comes in handy if you’re cooking. It implies cutting up into little pieces, and not just something you can sever with one whack. Schnittle is kind of like “whittle” or “snip.” Julienning comes close, too; matchsticks, chips, slivers . . . schnittles.

So here is another recipe for you. It’s taken me a ridiculously long time to understand how to make it, but I’m so pleased now that I have it (mostly) figured out. I think I heard my dad say it was one of the first recipes my Grandma S learned to make, taught to her by her German-born mother, Wilhelmine Thomas. And yeah, I’m still working on it, but here it is.

Schnittled Carrots

Peel carrots and cut into matchsticks; splinters. I don’t think grating will work, unless you have an exceptionally coarse grater. Do up about three cups.

Put these in a saucepan with a little water. Bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer until almost done. Cook off most of the water if you can. (I’m still figuring this out. Maybe steaming would be better. At any rate, you don’t want a lot of cooking water, but neither do you want to overcook the carrots.) (I think Grandma often used an electric skillet, with a lid, for this.)

Gently stir in the following, and serve.

  • 2 tbsp. butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar. (Remember what I told you about apple cider vinegar: there is no substitute when we’re talking about “Grandma recipes”)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. flour
  • 1/4 c. packed brown sugar (or maybe a little less)
  • salt and pepper to taste

The carrots should turn out kind of sweet-and-sour glazed.

Another note: This recipe is remarkably similar to what we do with red cabbage around here (grate cabbage, cook or steam in a small amount of water, add sliced apples if you want, then add a dressing that’s almost identical to this).

On the face of it, this would seem a very ho-hum kind of dish, but like I said yesterday, it’s one of those dishes that acts like a time machine for me. It’s “comfort food” of the first order.


Anonymous said...

My family also uses the word Schnittle and a family friend has recently challenged whether or not "schnittle" is a word. Thanks for the lesson on the German origins and English corruptions that brought us this wonderful little word. I think you presume correctly. Thanks!
Jennifer N.

Julie said...

Oh my family has a ton of these terms. I thought of another one today--I have no idea how to spell it--Ketropple? Catropple?--it means junk, trash, detritus, litter. We had weeded and trimmed the flower beds today, and then we had to go around with a basket and pick up all the ketropple. Funny, huh?

Julie said...

Oh, also: "is it a word?" Well, if we insist on using it enough, and convince others to use it, by golly, Webster's will eventually have to recognize it!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the word for a cabinet?

I know one is schrank...but I heard another word...in German called a "kos..."

Or, kas...

Is this correct?

Julie said...

Well, according to Yahoo's Babelfish (free Internet translation deal), "cabinet" translates to "Kabinett." Er, maybe that's like "cabinet" in the sense of "advisory board." "Cupboard" translates to "Schrank."

When I try translating kos and kas to English, I get nothing. At least, not going from German to English . . . I just don't know.

(I took French in high school and college.....)

Anonymous said...

I grow up hearing my grandma tell me not to get schnittles of paper on the floor. :)

Julianna Schroeder said...

That's great! I say, Keep it up! These are fun words, aren't they? The more we use them, the more they will be used!

Thanks for the comment,

Leanne Miller said...

My grandma and mom always used "Schnittle" along with words like "doppich" (clumsy), and "stroubly" (Your hair is so "stroubly," go brush it!). I believe these are actually Pennyslvania Dutch in origin, not true German (high German). You can find most of these words (along with several others) on the list here: http://www.padutchculture.com/ferhoodled.html

Julianna Schroeder said...

Hi, Leanne, thanks for the comment. I suppose these loan words can have a number of origins. My grandma's mom and dad were immigrants direct from Germany, so I think the German she used was a kind of pidgin--Germglish? She heard one language in the house as she was growing up, and another in school and other public arenas. It's possible that she may have picked up some Pennsylvania Dutch from other people she encountered, or maybe the two linguistic pathways led to the same words and pronunciations.

Of course, it's up to us to keep these great words alive for the next generation!