When I learned that today is National East Meets West Day, my mind immediately went to cultures – Eastern Culture and Western Culture coming together on common ground. Turns out, I was wrong. In April of 1945, World War II had been raging for over six years. Allied Forces were marching toward peace, but to reach their goal would require the coordinated efforts of the American Troops in the East and the Soviet Armies in the west.
The units were not supposed to make contact with one another, given orders to remain on their eastern and western banks of the river while superior offices from each division met to formalize their mutual conquest and occupation of Berlin. However, the two armies did meet on April 25, 1945, south outside Torgau approximately 60 miles south of Berlin on the River Elbe. U.S. patrols were sent across the river in a small boat to do a little scouting of the area. While this East Meets West event sounds monumental, and in the greater scheme of things it did signal the end of the war, in actuality there were only three encounters of Russian and American troops that day, involving less than 95 men all totaled.
The three patrols became known as the Kotzebue Patrol, the Robertson Patrol and the Craig Patrol, named for the patrol leaders at the time. The Kotzebue Patrol was the first to encounter the Russians. Two days later, photographers were invited to capture a staged reenactment of their meetings. April 25 would be remembered for more than just East Meets West. As fate would have it, it was also the day that the German forces retreated from Italy.
To mark this date in history, I’ve decided to share with you a recipe for Grünkohl und Pinkel, a Northern German comfort food of Kale and Sausage. Kale originated in the Mediterranean and became an important food source in Germany by the Middle Ages. In Roman times, Grünkohl was considered a rich man’s meal. Later it was considered a poor man’s feast. Now it has become a regular feature in restaurant fare, said to be one of the top “must try” dishes when visiting Berlin.
Grünkohl und Pinkel
1/2 lb Idaho potatoes, diced
4 oz Speck or Bacon
8 oz Bratwurst or Kielbasa
2 tablespoons Duck Fat or Olive Oil
2 lbs Kale
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 tablespoon Yellow Mustard Seeds
German Mustard, to serve
Scrub and dice potatoes into large chunks. Sauté the speck, sausage and potato in the duck fat until golden brown.
Add the kale, chicken stock and mustard seeds.
Cook for about 2 hours on low heat.
Finish with salt and pepper serve with Dijon mustard.