"Often Imitated, but Never Duplicated"

This was my Uncle Alfred’s slogan for his restaurant, The Annistonian. My 96-year-old beloved great-uncle died two weeks ago, two days after his birthday. Uncle Alfred was born in Berlin, Germany to a family of butchers. Instead of becoming a professional boxer (he was a junior champion semi-professional boxer in Berlin), he decided to follow in the family footsteps and became a Metzgermeister (master butcher) in 1928.

In June of 1938, Uncle Alfred volunteered to report to the local police station, where he and other men were taken to Sachsenhausen. His family was worried when he did not come back that evening after reporting to the police station and his mother went to the police station to find out what happened to him. She saw a school friend of Alfred’s, who worked at the police station and he promised to find out where he had been taken. Six weeks later, and thanks to his school friend, he was released from Sachsenhausen. When he returned home, his mother told him to leave the country right away. He listened to her and a few days later, through the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Europe (HICEM), he went to Belgium, stayed two weeks, and then made his way to Paris. He eventually went to Marseilles, and started looking for a country that would give him citizenship. He found out that Colombia was accepting immigrants and he obtained passage to Colombia in the fall of 1938.

He worked in gold mines in Colombia for one year and became very sick and almost died. He decided dying of malaria was not going to be his fate and he moved to Bogota, where he worked in various restaurants and then eventually opened a restaurant and butcher shop. After the war was over, he found out that his parents, two brothers and one sister died in Auschwitz. One sister came to Bogota and raised a family and another sister immigrated to the US.

He went to New York in 1951, met my great-aunt Helen at Grossinger’s and in 1953 came to my hometown where he opened a fine-dining restaurant called the Annistonian in 1958. From 1958 – 1976, people came from near and far for his hand-cut steaks, seafood, fish and his pièce de résistance… Wiener Schnitzel.

I wish I had taken the time to learn more about cooking from him. I really regret this now. One of his most amazing feats in the kitchen was that he could carve a turkey and put it back together and you wouldn’t realize it had been carved until you got up close to it. He also made very good strudel and Black Forest cherry cake. When I tried making both of these desserts, he gave me his good housekeeping seal of approval. I was honored.

When I decided to move to Israel, Uncle Alfred called me “his hero”, but he was my hero. He survived the Nazis, moved to a strange country where he had to learn how to work in the gold mines for survival, survived the loss of most of his family, triumphed in Bogota and made a family and a career in the US. To honor his memory, I made a meal.

Uncle Alfred, I will always treasure your great humor, your amazing charm, your delicious food and your great dancing.

The menu was as follows:

Appetizer

Tapenade

Main Course

Wiener Schnitzel

Bratkartoffeln (Home fries)

Spinach

Wine: Wuerttemberg Edition Gourmet Kerner 2004

Dessert

Fig Galette

We began the evening with my husband’s tapenade. He adds just the right amount of garlic to give it that kick. In addition to the usual ingredients he added a little fresh rosemary and oregano. It was delicious.

I have a confession to make, and please do not send me any cards or letters in protest, but my husband hand-cut and pounded a whole turkey breast instead of veal. The veal was 15EUR/20USD per kilo and is just over our budget right now. If you do happen to make this with turkey, do not marinate it in lemon juice.

Print
Bratkartoffeln
Ingredients
  • 2.5 kg 4-5 lb. potatoes, waxy potatoes
  • 250 ml 1 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 125 ml 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons good Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon good Hungarian hot paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley optional
Instructions
  1. Parboil the potatoes until tender, but still firm. Let cool and then cut into 1/8inch/3mm slices.
  2. Sauté the onions gently in the olive oil until translucent. Add the paprika and let the onion take on its color and taste. Add the potatoes and fry until golden brown and slightly crispy. Season with salt and pepper and heat everything through.

The trick to making good home fries is to use waxy, firm potatoes. Do not use baking potatoes. Peel them and parboil them either the day before or earlier in the day.

Print
Bratkartoffeln
Ingredients
  • 2.5 kg 4-5 lb. potatoes, waxy potatoes
  • 250 ml 1 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 125 ml 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons good Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon good Hungarian hot paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley optional
Instructions
  1. Parboil the potatoes until tender, but still firm. Let cool and then cut into 1/8inch/3mm slices.
  2. Sauté the onions gently in the olive oil until translucent. Add the paprika and let the onion take on its color and taste. Add the potatoes and fry until golden brown and slightly crispy. Season with salt and pepper and heat everything through.

Fresh from Oven

The fig galette was easy to prepare, but make sure that you place the tart on a rimmed cookie sheet, otherwise you will have a mess in your oven.

Print
Bratkartoffeln
Ingredients
  • 2.5 kg 4-5 lb. potatoes, waxy potatoes
  • 250 ml 1 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 125 ml 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons good Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon good Hungarian hot paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley optional
Instructions
  1. Parboil the potatoes until tender, but still firm. Let cool and then cut into 1/8inch/3mm slices.
  2. Sauté the onions gently in the olive oil until translucent. Add the paprika and let the onion take on its color and taste. Add the potatoes and fry until golden brown and slightly crispy. Season with salt and pepper and heat everything through.
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Written by Baroness Tapuzina

Michelle Nordell (aka Baroness Tapuzina) was a foodie from the womb growing up in the House of Weird Vegetables, so named by a family friend because all of the unusual and exotic food cooked and eaten there. She loves to change recipes using herbs from her garden and spices from the spice shops she enjoys visiting.

10 thoughts on “"Often Imitated, but Never Duplicated"

  1. Michelle,

    Thanks for inviting me to share this honorary banquet in memory of your uncle with you and “Tampenade”. I can attest to the juicy gastronomy of the meal. Hear, hear to Uncle Alfred!

    Curly Carol

  2. what a wonderful tribute to uncle alfred, he was such a wonderful man! and so many fabulous recipes i will have to try 🙂
    love, stacey

  3. Michelle, hats off to you for another post of yours that absolutely hits home with me. Your tribute to Uncle Alfred honors the memory of all who perished in the Holocaust and all who valiantly struggled to survive (as my parents did by fleeing from Vienna in 1938 and eventually coming to the United States in 1939. I am familiar with Sachsenhausen. I recently quoted a Sachsenhausen survivor in a speech I gave on behalf of the Florida Holocaust Museum: “I have told you this story not to weaken you; but rather to strengthen you. Now it is up to you.” Here’s to you for keeping the memory alive.

  4. Wonderful–Don Alfredo would be so proud. I had his strudel dozens of years ago and never forgot it. We will miss him. May his memory be for a blessing to all who knew him. Sherry

  5. It was so sweet of you to even think to do this. Your meaI was beautifully done and he would be proud. I learned a new fact about my father. I knew he had boxed but not that he was a “junior champion semi-professional.” Every time I think I know all the stories about him, there’s another one. Papa is smiling because of your “Turkey Schnitzel Confession.” He made that for me one night and said it was a good substitute for veal-so you have his blessing. You were always a special person to him because of your “menschlichkeit.” He was always so thrilled about his calls from Israel. My last conversation with him was on his birthday and he proudly listed his “International phone calls.” In that conversation we mentioned the title of your story. There will never be another like him. Thanks to you and David for honoring him in this way. We miss him a lot. Love, Allen & Arlene

  6. Michelle, what a gorgeous meal! I loved that you found this incredibly special way to honour Uncle Alfred. I know he would have been proud! And though you did not spend more time learning to cook from him, I think you must have similar talents – beautiful!

    I did not know very much about Uncle Alfred, so thank you as well for the lovely tribute to his life. So much of our family suffered as a result of the Holocaust, but Alfred proved that we are made of tough stuff – and turned trials into triumphs!

    Love you,
    Michelle

  7. I grew up in a household where eating out was an luxury seldom afforded. That did not keep me from looking and wishing. When I landed my first “real” job, I saved enough extra money to go to the Annistonian Restaurant. It was worth every penny, (though not as expensive as I had thought)! I continued to use the Annistonian as my “reward” for a job well done, and always took anyone new to town there with pride. It was a fabulous restaurant with an easy-going atmosphere. Everyone always loved it. My favorite dish was Paprika Steak Supreme. I have never found a recipe that comes close! I suppose that meal will live on in my memories, along with the original restaurant. Thanks for keeping Alfred Caro’s memory alive and well!
    With fond memories,
    Debi Morgan

  8. Thank you for sharing this story. My grandparents bought the restaurant from your uncle. These recipes take me back to my childhood. I loved the schnitzel, liver and onions and the home fries. I spent many nights at the restaurants and often get nostalgic.

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