Over a meal of pan-fried Maultaschen with cream sauce, M. and I realized that everywhere we’ve lived, the local cuisine has included variations on the theme of dough wrapped around meat. In China, we used chopsticks to lift steaming jiao zi into bowls of vinegar and soy sauce. In Bolivia, we ordered saltenas, their pastry shells dripping with savory juices. In Michigan, a quick trip over the Mackinac Bridge brought us into pasty territory, where hunks of dough stuffed with meat and winter vegetables taste best smothered in gravy. I’ve never been to Italy, but don’t they have something called ravioli? And now, the aforementioned German Maultaschen, homemade by the butcher down the street, appear on our dinner plates every week or so.
What is it about dough wrapped around meat? Is it the stellar nutritional combination of protein and carbohydrates? The portability? The steamy warmth, so comforting as fall blends into winter? People have gone to great lengths for their meat and dough. Rumor has it that German monks used Maultaschen to hide meat during lent, while copper mine workers in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula imported pasties from their native Cornwall, England to provide themselves with hot, filling meals they could enjoy on the job.
Meat and dough– four continents can’t be wrong.