Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Schnecke & Glühwein

The Story: Schnecke
A German children’s game my grandmother played as a girl and taught to American children as an adult.

Schnecke [sh-nek-ah]
1) the German word for snail.
2) German children’s party game where everybody wins.

The game is called Schnecke because there is a spiral shaped line of prizes, starting with candy and toothpicks on the outermost layer, and larger toys in the center coil.

You roll two dice in the beginning, and the number you roll is the prize you pick up.  You may get the glitter lip balm or a toothpick, but you always win something. 

But when the prizes get bigger, as you loop in toward the center of the spiral, other rules apply. For example, only even numbers may get a reward — but this only lasts a turn or two.

And before the grand prizes, there is a bumper.  A bumper keeps all the players equal.  No one can collect a grand prize until all of the smaller trinkets are won.  Let's say you roll a five ... You count 1, 2, 3, hit the bumper (4), go in the opposite direction one prize (5).  This round sucks by the way if you’re the birthday girl.  My mom never let me play because I was "getting enough toys already." Try using that logic on a four-year-old in a tiara ...

In the end, everyone trades winnings.

I know, it makes no sense on paper; but, I swear, it’s awesome.

This game was taught to my mother by her mother (Oma), but it became a popular Christmas tradition on my father’s side of the family.

Last year's schnecke.  My cousins, sister and I played the same game we have for two decades, just with a grown-up twist.  
I should note that I, at 22, am the baby of the family on my father’s side — The Caboose, as my grandma Gammie calls me. And, we still play schnecke, but with a twist.

Instead of a Tonka truck or Barbie grand prize, we now play for a bottle of red or lotto ticket.  But, most of our treasures are still innocent.  We play for candy, face paint, glitter and old family photos. It’s all very nostalgiac of Christmases and Schneckes past.

Inside last year's snail.  In addition to our new, grown-up prizes, we still play for toys, candy, pictures and Mr. Bubble. 

The Drink: Glühwein 

Glühwein, or mulled wine, is a German holiday drink from my Oma’s 101-year-old cookbook.  It once belonged to my great-grandmother, or Uroma, and is written in old German script. 
A page from Oma's 101-year-old cookbook.  This week's recipe is at the top of the page, but written in Old German.

The poor book has seen better days, it is no longer bound and is covered in pictures doodled nearly 90 years ago by my great-uncle Albert (remember him from my St. Nikolaus post?).
This cookbook has been through a lot.  It even survived Albert!  His doodle of a train is still visible on the book's century-old pages.  

But, the recipe for Glühwein remains and is a staple at Oma’s Christmas Eve dinners.

-  ½ bottle of red wine (Oma suggests a sweet one)
-  100 grams of sugar (For us Americans, that’s ½ cup)
-  1 stick of cinnamon, about two inches
-  2 whole cloves
-  ½  of a lemon peel, but ONLY the yellow from the peel. 
    Oma says, “Don’t use the white! That’s bitter!”

Combine the ingredients in a pot.
Let it sit until the point of boiling, BUT DO NOT BOIL.
Strain, as Oma says, "You don’t want anything swimming in it."
Immediately Serve Glühwein,” this century-old book doesn’t mess around.  

 *Like the beef rouladen, this is a recipe my family will prepare in a few days for Christmas.  So, I did not make it today. I will post an image of Oma's Glühwein after Christmas

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