I’ve been following Sofie Dittman’s blog at The German Foodie for quite some time now and every time I visit, I reconfirm the decision I made not to miss a single post. Sofie is a German living in Northeast Ohio and she blogs about the authentic German food she grew up with. In addition to traditional favorites, she also comes up with some smashing recipes. The city she grew up in Germany was near the French border so she was exposed to ethnic recipes from a young age.
As you can tell from the photograph, Sofie has a wonderful sense of humor and a terrific outlook on life. With Sofie, there’s no pretense nor any desire for it.
What brought her to Ohio you ask? Like all of us who travel to where the job is, she moved to Ohio 16 years ago when her husband took a job there. She told me she’s there permanently or until he’s called to work somewhere else.
As an American living in Australia, I know what it’s like to be away from food you grew up with. When I asked Sofie if there were any foods she missed that she wasn’t able to perfect in her own kitchen, it’s authentic cuisines. A trip eating her way through Alsace would put a smile on her face before eating her way through her native Southwestern Germany. She loves baking but savory foods win her heart.
Her earliest food memories are of cooking and baking with her mother since she was old enough to hold a spoon.
I wondered about a non-native American like Sofie — were there American foods that she just hasn’t been able to like? Yes! She hates icing and any processed ingredients like shortening or corn syrup. She told me that Big Food has had an influence on how Americans bake. I grew up with shortening and Karo syrup and never wondered if there was a better way to bake, did you?
Sofie started her blog when she owned a bakery but didn’t blog much because of her busy schedule but when the bakery closed, she cranked up her blog. It gives her focus and allows her to enjoy several of her passions — photography, writing and cooking.
The only thing blogging has changed in the Dittman household is that now Sofie does the cooking and her husband complains that she cooks too many potatoes. I checked her blog. German potato salad, pan-fried potatoes, salt-boiled potatoes and potato salad with bacon and apples. I could happily exist on those even if her husband couldn’t.
Our conversation got interesting when I asked her where she thinks food blogging is headed over the next few years.
” I think it will continue to expand the way people (used to) think of food journalism. Probably to the chagrin of the traditionalists, but they can just stab themselves in the knee w/ their own forks. There, I’ve said it.”
Interestingly, I feel the same way. Last year I wrote a piece about a post on a woman’s food blog (on another site). In our discussions, she made me promise I would never call her a blogger because “I’m so much better than that.” I still roll my eyes when I think about it so I agree with Sofie completely on this.
Often I ask people which person they’d like to meet, have dinner with or spend an afternoon and out of all the people past and present, Sofie would love to spend an afternoon with her maternal grandmother, a great cook and baker. She has her grandmother’s cookbook along with all the side notes in her handwriting but she has no personal memories of watching her cook or knowing how she made certain things.
A very important thing Sofie does as a food blogger is to help people revive heirloom recipes. I can only imagine how exciting that is. I’ve never done it but I’d love to. I cook traditional French peasant food that my grandparents brought from France and that’s as heirloom as it gets around here. She loves it when her readers try her recipes and then let her know how it came out.
I asked her was there a recipe that she was particularly proud of? In typical Sofie style, it’s usually the last one she’s created. I love her series on Southern BBQ and the English appetizers. Don’t forget her strawberry shortcake she made for Sunday Suppers.
If Sofie wasn’t cooking and blogging she’d be a full time photographer. That’s her true love. If she could turn back the clock she’d be off in some far flung region taking photos for National Geographic or maybe in a city like New York or San Francisco capturing people as she sees them.
I asked how just how much time she spends on her blog, including shopping, preparing, cooking, photographing, writing and promoting? I don’t think non-bloggers have any idea how much time we spend producing the weekly or semi-weekly blurbs. I can only imagine how much time a blog takes that posts every day. Sofie says she spends A LOT of time preparing every post but wishes she had more time to set up the photos.
What can we hope to see on The German Foodie this year? Video how-tos and recipes. I really look forward to that. It will really put a face and personality to her blog.
Finally, there’s that food memory that means so much to me. Sauerbraten does it for Sofie. It takes a long time to prepare and she wonders how people made totally involved dishes and multiple course meals before the days of gizmos and gadgets.
- 1 kg of beef round roast or brisket
- ---TIP: Choose a good piece of round roast or brisket, and be sure to cook the roast slowly. If you rush it, it will turn into shoe soles.
- 250 ml vinegar, preferably red wine vinegar
- 300 ml water
- 1 teaspoon* salt
- 1 small onion
- 3 cloves (whole)
- ½ laurel leaf
- 1 carrot
- 3 peppercorns
- 40 g bacon
- 40 g lard, oil or butter
- 1 small tablespoon* salt
- a pinch of pepper
- 50 g browned flour
- 2 tablespoons* marinade
- 4 tomatoes or 2 tablespoons* tomato paste
- 750 ml beef broth
- 2 tablespoons* red wine
- ---*denotes REAL spoons
- Tenderize the meat by beating it, washing it, then rubbing it with salt before submerging it into the marinade.
- The meat becomes even more tender if you substitute buttermilk (“Sauermilch”) for all or part of the water.
- In the summer, leave the meat in the marinade for 3 days, in the winter for 4. Turn it periodically as needed.
- The larger the cut, the longer it has to stay in the liquid.
- Dry the meat, garnish it with bacon (cut slits into it and “pull” the bacon through them) and season it with salt and pepper.
- Brown it briskly at high heat together with the carrot and onion.
- Add the browned flour, then the marinade, tomato paste and beef broth.
- Broil in the oven at around 300 F under a closed lid for 1.5 – 2 hours.
- ---MODERN-DAY TIP: use an oven bag. It is MUCH easier and will keep your meat tender.
- To make a gravy, separate out the grease from the top of the liquid, discard it and add the wine.
- Serve with potato dumplings or spätzle, a nice side salad and a hearty red wine. Guten Appetit!