I come from a long line of cat lovers; so it seemed quite natural to marry one when I fell in love with my beautiful girlfriend. Both of us believe with our hearts that cats deserve to go outside, so we have dealt with all the interesting antics of the small predators. For awhile, we even went as far as to install a cat door that gave them the freedom to go in and out as they pleased. Seemed easier than opening the door to let them in or out every 12 minutes. OK, maybe it wasn’t quite that often, but at times it sure seemed like it.
We love our cats and all, and we do allow them outside. We also got just a wee bit tired of uninvited “guests” showing up in various corners of the house though. “Ken!! There’s a mouse in the compost again!!” My wife would always dispatch me when “the one that got away” was busy trying to score a free meal after escaping the jaws of one of our feline hunters. Then of course there were some birds… Oh, and you really haven’t lived until you’ve stepped in a pile of guts on the kitchen floor in the middle of the night.
It took several years but finally, thank God, we came to our senses and boarded up the cat door. They still go outside and hunt, but they’re not allowed to bring in any take-out items they may have scored in Mother Nature’s garden. So now we still get the occasional mouse in the house, but it’s the kind we humans love to eat. This delicacy was first introduced to us by Mrs. Spoelma.
God bless Mrs. Spoelma, the “Hollander” (Michigan term for Dutch) lady who lived next door to us when we first moved to Muskegon. She and her husband were often outside cleaning up the yard, and we’d have many a conversation across the fence. That was 35 years ago (wow!!), and one couldn’t ask for nicer neighbors.
When our daughter came into the world, she started bringing us food. Most often, she brought an odd mashed potato dish we’d never had before. “This is maus (pronounced ‘mouse’),” she said. “It’s an old family recipe: mashed potatoes, kale, and barley. Oh and a little bit of onion, too.” It was simply wonderful. Perfect food for a couple of tree huggers with a brand new baby. Free food is pretty doggoned perfect if you ask me; especially when it’s delicious. “Maus” is not merely wonderful as a side dish for meat and another vegetable, maybe even some gravy. It is especially yummy the following day, reheated with an over easy egg or two on top. MMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
When I sat down to write this evening, I thought I’d go on the web and try to find a recipe that resembled this remarkable dish. No such luck. After many variations of the words potato, mashed, kale, barley, and Dutch, I found several interesting cooking ideas but nothing that resembled what our dear Mrs. Spoelma made. After a little trial and error, I think I’ve been able to replicate the flavor pretty closely.
However, I feel it’s my duty to share the basics with you. I love to cook but I rarely follow any recipe exactly. Mouse is no exception; but without further ado here is a rudimentary description. Try this and alter the quantities of barley, kale, and onions to your liking next time.
Maus: Delicious Mashed Potatoes, Kale, Barley and Onion
Potatoes : enough to fill a 6 quart pot a bit more than halfway when diced
Barley: ½ cup hulled barley (pearled barley is OK but not as nutritious as hulled)
Kale: 3 tightly packed cups, chopped
Onions: one large onion or 4 or 5 small onions, diced
½ stick of salted butter
1 cup of milk
salt to taste
Potatoes, barley, and kale will be cooked in separate pots.
Add more than enough water to the barley to cover, at least 2 inches higher than the barley. Boil the barley until tender, then drain, cover and set aside.
Add 1 cup water to the kale, and cover. Bring to boil, remove from heat after 2 or 3 minutes boiling. Toss the onions in with the kale and cover again, let that sit for about 5 minutes. The heat will cook the onions just enough. Drain, then set aside.
Wash and dice enough potatoes to fill a 6 quart pot a bit more than half way. (We leave the skins on.) Fill with water till the potatoes are barely covered, and boil until tender, drain. Add butter and mash, adding milk and a dash or so of salt along the way. When the potatoes are creamy, add barley, kale and onions to the potatoes and mash together until mixed thoroughly.
OK, you’re done! Now, don’t just stand there, it’s time to eat!!
Well, for this week’s cartoon, let’s go back to the rodent type mice…