Soul Food: A Recipe for Life

A Recipe for Life

By Tom Unfried

Tom“Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”

I was reminded of this aphorism recently while watching the movie Kuffs, an action-comedy about a young drifter who comes to terms with both growing up AND being a good man.  Life happens for him when he gets his girlfriend pregnant shortly before finding himself investigating his brother’s murder. While not exactly a statement on the soul, this movie illustrates well how change, disappointment, and even loss can serve to refocus my efforts and even bring rise to gifts and talents of which I was not aware.

Oddly this made me think of a cultural dish in my family called kroppkakor. I have many fond experiences from my childhood with this little dumpling, most of them centered on pan-fried leftovers – eggs fried in the same butter as the day-old dumplings and served together. Just sayin’. Kroppkakor, which looks more appetizing than the way my old-world family members pronounced it (“croup caca”), is legendary in my family for its difficulty in preparation. Part of the preparation requires peeling and grating boiled potatoes, which is apparently so difficult that on more than one family occasion we had an abundance of mashed potatoes when the second generation failed to properly accomplish this step – not to mention a lack of Band-Aids.

Now there is nothing wrong with homemade mashed potatoes. Indeed, they can even be wonderful. But if you take a look at the recipe below, note the quantity. If you double or triple that for a large family so that they can all take home leftovers, you’re looking at mountain of potatoes to rival something out of a Steven Spielberg movie.  That may be great if you’re Richard Dreyfuss, but if the plan is to bring the family together to share a cherished cultural dish, mashed potatoes can be a great disappointment.

Plans are best kept lightly, serving as a guide rather than a rule. The drifter in Kuffs loses his brother, but finds his purpose. While it might have been hard to find a home for 30 pounds of mashed potatoes, my family had one more cherished memory together. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, a change in life, or simply preparing a meal for family, God is there offering to walk alongside both you and I.  If we are willing, He works in us through these challenging times. While we make our plans He calls us to life…

Ninnis Kroppkakor from Öland, Sweden* (copied from


10 lb raw potatoes

12 oz boiled potatoes

1 tsp salt

1 cup potato flour



2 lb salted pork

3 onions

salt and allspice to taste


Peel and grate the potatoes. Squeeze them into a solid mass. Grate the boiled potatoes and mix [all] the potatoes with salt and potato flour. If the paste is hard, dilute it with water until it is like a dough and easy to manage.

Cut the pork into small dice. Peel and mince the onion. Mix the small pork cubes and the minced onion. Season to taste with salt and allspice.

Shape the mixture into balls. Flatten and add a hefty spoonful of filling. Roll back into round balls.

Place the dumplings in boiling water. It is really important that the water is boiling! Allow them to simmer, without a lid, for one hour.

Eat hot with fresh cream, butter, lingonberries, lingonberry jam or any combination that delights your palate.


*Credit for the recipe and photos goes to Niamh (pronounced knee-uv) Shields, a foodie from London that blogs at She tracked down this recipe which resembles the kroppkakor I remember from folks in Sweden.

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