Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Too Hot to Cook?

This week we are pleased to host a guest piece by Wisconsin writer Pam Parker. Pam's short stories and poetry have appeared in The Potomac Review, The MacGuffin, Grey Sparrow Press, The Binnacle and other print and electronic venues. She is pursuing a non-MFA MFA by attending writer’s conferences, such as the Tin House Summer Writer’s Festival and the New York State Summer Writers’ Institute, where she’s studied with incredible faculty. If she wins the lottery, she may one day pursue an actual MFA, but she’s not holding her breath, so don’t hold yours.

Please read Pam's blog and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Too Hot to Cook?
by Pam Parker

“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” One variation of an old German saying.

Sweltering July heat has created issues for many family cooks. I live in suburban Milwaukee, in a post-WWII home, which, like many has no air conditioning. For the number of days we actually require air conditioning here, my husband and I have opted not to put it in. So, while we’re being good to the environment in terms of energy usage, we have our uncomfortable times. And, though there’s a window unit in the kitchen, there are days when cooking inside seems foolish, and when the heat index is 105, grilling outside seems just as foolish. What’s a cook to do? Fire up the microwave? Put something in the slow cooker in the morning and let it go? Microwaving and slow cooking work as metaphors for writing, and there’s more on that in a post at Pam Writes , but they’re not the solution to please a harried, heat-stroke-approaching writer/cook.

Instead, I turn to a German tradition called abendbrot, which is an elegant way of saying, open-faced sandwiches are wunderbar. Milwaukee happens to be a city with strong German roots, but my family was introduced to this marvelous tradition when we lived in Marburg, Germany for a year. The big meal was served and eaten at lunchtime, a lighter meal for supper. So, how to prepare and serve a satisfying abendbrot?

The traditional offerings are simple:
  • Crusty, whole grain breads
  • Several choices of deli meats and cheeses
  • Butter, mustard (in our house, usually mayo too)
  • Pickles
And, that could be it. It would not be unheard of in Germany, or in my house, to add some type of side salad – here, it’s often cole slaw. I recall a rotkohl (red cabbage) salad sometimes in Germany. When tomatoes are in season and available, they’re often served, too. 

Enjoy with a nice German beer, perhaps a German chocolate bar for dessert.

Guten appetite.


  1. We're in especially with the german beer and chocolate bar for dessert!

  2. Pam,

    I love the idea of easy, light (and heat-free) dinners. Four o'clock in the afternoon seems to be the beginning of the witching hour at our house, so some days I think European: bread, cheese, grapes....

    I hope your house is cooling off now :)

  3. Having a vegetarian household, it can be a challenge to come up with favorable sandwich items at times. We can do only so much hummus and cheese.

    One thing we love, like Christi, is what we call "snack" lunch or dinner. I put out fresh mozzarella, feta, kalamata olives, flat bread, fresh basil, tomatoes... You get the picture. It's all easy, light, and with young kids, extremely flexible.

    Thanks for the great post, Pam!