Eiergeraeusch, the ancestor to our holiday egg casserole.
A breakfast egg dish common in my family is the egg casserole. It’s still very popular at holiday brunches like Easter and Mother’s Day, and is an easy way to feed a crowd. My mom has her version, my aunt has another version, my sister-in-law and sister have their versions, and my sister-in-law’s mother has an even different one. It’s one of those casseroles that can include “everything but the kitchen sink.”
Some egg casserole recipes have sausage, some have vegetables. Almost all have cheese, which is melted into a gooey delicious topping. Some have American or cheddar cheese, or like my sister’s latest entry into the variety – feta. I’m sure there’s a recipe somewhere in Cincinnati that includes bits of cooked goetta. But they’re all good, and they all have a starch to give the cooked eggs some bulk. Most use stale bread crumbs, but others use potatoes or hash browns.
I had thought this was a product of the 70’s convenience casserole culture. But I was wrong. Recently I learned our simple egg casserole links to yet another older Germanic dish from Northern Germany and the region of Pommerania, called Eiergeraeush. It’s hard to understand how it got its name – literally it means “egg noise”. Perhaps it speaks to the cornucopia of ingredients people add. The German version is a mixture of eggs with cream, chives, onions and bread crumbs that can be baked or fried. But like our Americanized versions, the German version can contain other ingredients like their beloved “spargel” or white asparagus, carrots, leeks, potatoes, and more.
This is a cheap convenience dish born out of good home economics. Imagine life as a farm laborer on a manor house estate in mid 19th century Germany. Meat is not available to the common heurling or farm laborer, but eggs are abundant. The eggs become a vehicle or canvas for creativity of the individual cook. Use stale bread crumbs from a leftover loaf, throw in some vegetables and meat, maybe souring milk, and you’ve got a great dish that can feed a crowd.