Slug, you’ll get no hate from me. I know people have been giving you a hard time today because you told Pitchfork that “Prince was a shitty version of Rick James and Parliament,” but I understand that you really meant it as a compliment. See, my aunt Gerta said something just like that once about my aunt Frieda’s sauerkraut.
We were all sitting around the table down in Mankato after polishing off one of our traditional German-American feasts, and everyone was complimenting Aunt Frieda on her amazing sauerkraut. Then Aunt Gerta said, “Frieda, your sauerkraut is a shitty version of Aunt Milly’s sauerkraut and Aunt Mitzi’s sauerkraut.”
Everyone fell suddenly silent—you could just about have heard a dumpling drop! We all looked at Aunt Gerta, waiting for her to explain herself.
“What?” she asked in exasperation. “You know what I mean!”
“Well,” said Uncle Gustav, “I’m not sure we do, now, Gert. You just said Frieda’s sauerkraut was shitty! That’s not very nice. It’s not very Minnesotan, it’s not very Gabler, and it’s not very Germa…” He paused for a moment. “Well, anyway, it’s not something we’d have expected you to say. Don’t you like Frieda’s sauerkraut?”
“Of course I like Frieda’s sauerkraut!” cried Aunt Gerta. “I grew up on this stuff! When I make my own sauerkraut, let me tell you, it is a shitty version of Frieda’s sauerkraut. What I’m saying here is that everyone’s sauerkraut is a shitty version of someone else’s sauerkraut. Frieda’s sauerkraut is shittier than Milly’s sauerkraut, and Milly’s sauerkraut was shitter than Mitzi’s sauerkraut, and Mitzi’s sauerkraut was shittier than Great-Aunt Birgit’s sauerkraut, and Birgit’s sauerkraut was shittier than the sauerkraut Great-Great-Aunt Matilda made back in Bavaria!”
Aunt Frieda wiped away a tear. “So you’re saying that your sauerkraut is shittier than my sauerkraut?”
Gerta stood up and walked over to Frieda’s chair. Frieda stood, and the two embraced as Gerta explained, “Of course I am, honey. My sauerkraut is the shittiest sauerkraut any Gabler has ever made in this family’s long history. We all love our sauerkraut, but sauerkraut can only be invented once, so we all just imitate each other—and no imitation is ever perfect, so every imitation is just a little shittier than the last.”
“But sometimes,” Aunt Lotte pointed out, “when we imitate, we add something new, and that something new makes the imitation sauerkraut…well, not necessarily less shitty, but different!”
“Exactly!” Aunt Gerta threw her arms in the air. “That’s exactly what I’m saying. For example, Frieda, don’t you think that the way I add just a dash of Worcestershire sauce to my sauerkraut gives it a nice tang?”
Frieda paused. “Um…”
Gerta’s smile faded away. “You don’t?”
Frieda wrung her hands, searching for words. “Well, Gert…you know I love you, but, well…”
“Well, Worcestershire sauce just isn’t to my…”
Frieda never finished that sentence, because Gerta punched her right in the mouth.
So no worries, Slug, I know what you mean. I know exactly what you mean.