Toy Box owners preparing German meal for Centre event

December 03, 2003|EMILY TOADVINE

A couple of gallons of vinegar and a little research have yielded some tasty German fare for Steve and Mimi Becker.

The owners of Toy Box Catering have created a dinner for "Brews and Bach: An Evening in a Leipzig Coffeehouse" at Centre College. The evening's menu includes: hot cider, German potato salad, stuffed beef roll, green beans, red cabbage, assorted breads, and traditional German holiday cookies.

One inescapable ingredient in German cooking is vinegar, Mimi Becker says.

"Every single item, except the cookies and the bread, have vinegar in them," she says.

Finding just the right recipes was not easy. The Beckers found different recipes for the dishes they planned to prepare and made comparisons.

"The recipes we're using are authentic. It took a lot of research," says Mimi Becker, who teaches grades 7 and 8 in history, arts and humanities at Burgin Middle School.


In addition to vinegar, the recipes include a lot of wine and bacon. The Beckers have modified the recipes for vegetarian tastes. For instance, in Green Bean Salad, vegetable broth will replace chicken broth.

Both of the Beckers were familiar with German cooking. Steve Becker's grandparents cooked several German dishes. Mimi Becker's father, Paul Arnold, was German, and her mother, Kay, had a German roommate in nursing school.

"One of the things she used to do was send over German cookies," Mimi Becker says. "Mom always talked about those cookies."

The Beckers plan to have gingerbread men, almond and brown sugar cookies.

Preparing for the three seatings of the dinner theater will be part of a typically busy weekend for the Beckers. From 2-6 p.m. Saturday, they are having an open house to celebrate five years as owners of the Main Street business that Mimi Becker's parents opened in 1980. The event will include displays of paintings by Paul Sirimongkhon and pottery by Paul Muth, who runs Sugar Grove Pottery. The dinner theater, which may total 80 people for each seating, follows, and the Toy Box is catering for the Neil Sedaka concert that night.

"That's a usual day for us," Steve Becker says. "We're hoping Neil is going to eat Bavarian that day, too."

The Beckers do miss the help of their oldest child, Paul, who is away at Marshall University. Their son is putting his catering background to use by occasionally cooking for his fraternity.

"He said, 'I'm the only person here who knows how to do anything for more than 100 people,'" Mimi Becker says.

Their daughters, Katherine and Laura, also help with the business.

Despite her attention to accuracy, Mimi Becker is glad that she knows some shortcuts to the time-consuming German cooking.

"Those women had to work all day to put a meal on the table. It was hearty food," she says, noting that most of the meat was prepared for a couple of hours in a Dutch oven.

Steve Becker says their choices of foods were based on what they had available.

"They cooked what they grew - winter crops, root crops."

The Beckers expect apple cider will be served first and then diners will go to the cafe, where salads and bread will be served. They then can go through the buffet.

The Centre Singers may pass the desserts around to make it an interactive performance, Mimi Becker says.

This is not the first time the Beckers have created a menu based on the food of a certain country. They fondly remember a dinner they made for a family who had traveled in Italy.

"We recreated several of the dinners they had while they were there," Steve Becker says.

Although the Beckers prefer to stick with catering, they are anxious to hold occasional dinners with specific cuisines at their Main Street business. For instance, they hope Sirimongkhon, who is from Laos, will do an Asian dinner.

"We're looking to do that once every couple of months," Steve Becker says.

Bavarian Red Cabbage (Rotkohl mit Speck)

5 slices bacon

3 onions, chopped

1 tablespoon flour

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup red wine


Freshly ground pepper

2 pounds red cabbage

1/4 teaspoon caraway seed (optional)

1 apple, peeled, cored and diced

In a heavy, enameled casserole dish, saut the bacon over meduim heat to render the fat. Do not allow the fat to brown. Remove the bacon and reserve for other uses.

Add the onions to the casserole and saut until translucent. Sprinkle in the flour while stirring. Cook for about 30 seconds, then slowly pour in the vinegar and the wine. Stir briskly to avoid lumps.

Add the red cabbage, caraway seed and apple. Season with salt and pepper. Mix all the ingredients together and cover.

Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the cabbage is tender but not soggy.

Serves 4 to 6.

Green Bean Salad (Bohnensalat)

3 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup chicken stock, fresh or canned

2 teaspoons salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill

1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley

1 pound fresh green beans

1 sprig fresh summer savory, or 1/4 teaspoon dried summer savory

Central Kentucky News Articles