The subject, this time, is sauerkraut

My mother, who was born a Canadian on Prince Edward Island, came to marry my Maine father and lived in Maine until she was 102, which may be as long as decency requires.

She told me one day, when she could catch me, that the first time she heard anything about Maine was after a big windstorm, which sounds about right. She said everything in Maine that didn't blow away was tipped over, and a few days later the Charlottetown (P.E.I) Guardian had an eyewitness account on the front page. She heard Wess and Perc Acorn talking about the wide damage done, and the dispatch had been datelined "Augusta, Me."

Wess and Perc were next-farm neighbors, and plainly enough they did not know - as my mother also did not - that "Me." was the abbreviation for Maine. Wess and Perc, she said, were more interested in where "Me." was than in the force of the wind. Perc said, "I do not know, while I think it's in France."

My mother, fetching up her four Yankee bairns, was forever a fundamentalist grammarian. Every time she saw "Me." for "Maine" she'd deplore such sloppiness by repeating, "While I think it's in France." Maine, she opined, needed no abbreviation.

The subject this time is sauerkraut, and I thought Abaco was in France. It isn't. It is in the Bahamas, which some may suppose to be an improbable place for an authority on sauerkraut. But Paul Volter spends his retirement winters at Abaco, accompanied by his gn├Ądige Frau, Barbara, and aboard his power boat Economy, for which I had the honor of making the trailboards some years back.

Paul was always a sailor, sailing sailboats that had sails, but for winter dalliance in the Bahamas he reluctantly built himself a stinkpot. He says Barbara finds the power boat more comfortable than his sailboat, and he finds it more reliable for his crossing the Gulf Stream from Florida. He says he gets mail about six months late, but my Christmas letter did better than that. He is pleased to reply to my query about sauerkraut.

A true Hamburger, Paul became skipper of the IBM yacht Palawan, and sailed the seven recognized oceans in proud command of as fine and beautiful a boat as you'll find. He then retired to live at Camden, Maine, and Abaco. He and Barbara go back and forth.

They missed the annual flea market, one day a year, and are able to avoid many another local notable event. Paul swims a mile or so a day, takes fish off the port bow, and Barbara tunes in radio stations in the United States to listen to snowstorm reports. Paul tells me the boat is loaded with food for four months, and plenty of fuel, including that for his generator, and he finds potatoes and onions keep well in his cuddy.

Since it was breezy and he didn't swim, and he didn't want to row the dingy ashore, he wrote to tell me about sauerkraut. I go into details so you'll realize we are favored, and this is probably the only news about sauerkraut that you are likely to have from Abaco in the Bahamas this season.

We do have a vexing and irking problem about food here at our sumptuous retirement home for gracious senior living. Basically, it amounts to the attitude of our cook, who doesn't hearken to me and continues to do things his way. He's a fine chap, but will not fix beets with his boiled dinners and consequently deprives us of red-flannel hash, which is the only thing that justifies a boiled dinner.

I have spoken to him several times about sauerkraut and he has not deigned to consider me an authority. If he wants an authority, thought I, why not give Paul a shout? This has worked out dandy. Our combined institutional desire for a batch of Hamburg-based sauerkraut is poised.

Paul has replied and, as a starter, he quotes a recognized expert I never heard of, one Major Tilman, who says eating sauerkraut from a plastic tub is something to be done only under reduced circumstances. That is, the basic supply needs meditation, reflection, and improvement.

It is not a structure of itself, but merely a promise of delight to come, like a magnificent temple erected on a rough foundation. It is beautiful music scored on paper but not yet played. It is paint splashed on new canvas, but still to be evened and leveled and blended by the artist's genius and brush.

Paul says to open the can (unless you make your own kraut) and wash the stuff until you have cleaned it of every taint - do not shirk - and then wash it again. (For homemade kraut, you won't need to make such an ordeal of it.) Paul says it's not hard to know when you've washed it enough. Just taste it.

With sauerkraut, this is truer than it is with ice cream, custard pie, and other things of a less hostile nature.

Paul says upon adding a grated apple and your bacon drippings, you boil the sauerkraut for 10 minutes, and then you add your chopped onion and a "little" garlic if you desire. He did not mention caraway seeds, and I think this is mainly because he wouldn't use any. A lot of people put in caraway seeds when they shouldn't put in caraway seeds. Some people are like that.

Oh, and Paul cooks his sauerkraut on a gimbal.

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