Chips and Brats

For most of Dad’s career he was a meat-cutter/sausage maker.  He began working for his father in the family meat market.  One day Grandpa told Dad that he had taught Dad all he could.  He encouraged Dad to find a new mentor.

Until he retired, the only break Dad took from meat-cutting was when he and Mom moved with Judy and me to Indian Hills.  For several years, he drove a Blue Star potato chip delivery truck. He delivered potato chips, pretzels, and other snacks to taverns and small grocery stores.  Occasionally we got a treat from the truck – my favorites were the big pretzel sticks and the sardines!  (Mom remembered and many years later when I went off to Northern Illinois University, my first care package was big pretzel sticks!)

During the summer, Dad would take Judy or me along for a day.  I loved riding in the truck with Dad.  There was a hole in the floor.  I remember being both fascinated and a little scared seeing the road go by beneath us.  What I didn’t like was the way taverns smelled!

Dad eventually returned to cutting meat, making sausage and flirting over the counter.  He was a natural at all three, but sausage-making was his favorite.  He tweaked his recipes, adjusted spices until he felt that he had perfected Polish sausage, Italian sausage, and Bratwurst! (Dad loved creating and one of his other passions was wood-burning, but that is a story for another day!)

After we moved to the lake, family picnics became a regular summer occurrence with “brats” headlining the menu!  I don’t know Dad’s recipe for making bratwurst, but I have included his recipe for cooking “brats” below.   As he grew older and spent time reminiscing, he would often remind us, “Now this is how you cook brats…”

Dad’s Brats

Place fresh brats in a pan and cover with water.  Bring water to a boil.  Turn off the heat and let brats sit in water until the grill is ready.

In a separate pan heat beer and add butter and sliced onion. Heat until the butter melts and then keep warm.

Brown the brats evenly on the grill. Remove and place in the beer mixture until you are ready to serve.  When he reminisced, Dad would always say, “brown them until they are pretty all over.”


You don’t choose your family.
They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”
– Desmond Tutu









The Beginning

I have had several conversations with my husband recently, and eventually conversations with two of my sisters.  These conversations were about family memories… and what happens to those memories as people move away or pass away.  I was born and raised in Illinois but married young and moved to South Carolina when I was 21.  I now live in North Carolina amongst my husband’s family.  We often see his nieces and nephews, and “greats,” and even “great-greats.”  (Because my husband’s brothers were much older, his nieces and nephews are our age.)  And I am very grateful for the loving acceptance of my Rierson family!

“You ain’t from around here, are you?”
“No, I’m not; but I got here as soon as I could!”

Every time we get together becomes a time of story-telling.  I love hearing so much about my husband’s life before I knew him, stories about raising hogs and tobacco, cutting up with his nephews and brothers, extended family camping trips and lots of water skiing… family events and family dynamics that made him the man I fell in love with.  With several recent losses in the family, those stories have become especially poignant and meaningful.

The telling and retelling of those stories keeps the collective memory alive and well.  After a recent dinner with several of his family members, I mentioned to my husband that I miss those conversations with and about my family.  I moved quite a distance away from my family at a relatively young age.  Trips back were infrequent; and it was even more infrequent that my other sisters were home as well. Without the retelling of family stories, I fear I am losing them; and I know I don’t share them with my daughter nearly enough.  I want her to know her family history.


And so, I will tell my girl some stories.  My memory may be faulty, and my perspective may not be the same as my sisters’, but the stories need to be told.  Like many families, our relationships are not perfect, perhaps there is healing in sharing our stories.

With the power of social media, I am hoping for input from sisters, nieces and nephews, cousins and more! If you are reading this and have memories you would like me to share, feel free to comment on this blog or send me an email at

The first official story to follow soon!

“You don’t choose your family.
They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”
– Desmond Tutu