Bessarabian Cooking Class in Gifhorn

Pioch, Birgit. "Bessarabian Cooking Class in Gifhorn." Mitteilungsblatt des Bessarabiendeutschen Vereins, February 2013, 10.

Translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, CO.

During the final weekend of November, 2012 the time had finally come for our long-awaited Bessarabian cooking class to get going in Gifhorn. In the course of two days participants of both genders wished to learn to cook Bessarabian specialties and in the process perhaps to have childhood memories come to life. Twelve persons had registered for the class in the kitchen of KVHS in Gifhorn. Participants were: Uwe Bageritz, Angela Knoblauch (whose place on Sunday was taken by her husband Jakob), Gudrun Kraus, Ingeborg and Ewald Krause, Lili Moses, Irma Motz, Birgit Pioch, Marina and Herta Rothernberg, Renate Thiele and Christine Wüppelmann.

We had been able to engage as instructors Bettina Hall and her mother, Hilde Seitz, both of whom for years have been conducting classes of this kind in the Stuttgart area. Accompanied by Hilde’s husband Ernst, they had managed the long trip from Southern Germany just to get us “Northern Lights” more familiar with Bessarabian cuisine.

We began at 2 PM on November 24, 10212 by having the participants and instructors introduce each other. Then we discussed exactly which dishes we were to cook during the two days. The first day’s list consisted of Ikra [an eggplant salad], Krautborscht [cabbage borsht], “gangene” Küchla [yeasty cookies], goulash, Pfeffersauce [a peppery sauce], Kartoffel-Krautsalat [potato/cabbage salad], Knöpfle mit Kartoffelschnitz [filed dough pockets with sliced potatoes], Krautwickel [cabbage wrap], and Schmandsalat [creamy salad]. From the onset we all agreed to use the familiar “Du” in addressing each other, which would contribute to general well-being and help the initial strangeness to disappear very soon.

Each cooking team consisted of three people. Recipes were available at each cooking station and, even before we began, ingredients for all the dishes had been weighed by Bettina and Hilde and placed at each work station so that we “Bessarabian cooks” would be able to get going immediately. All the teams worked well together and were encouraged to watch other teams in their work in order to maximize the learning process and to have it carry over to when we were at home again. Bettina and Hilde were always ready to answer questions, and now and then they explained specific preparation steps at the various work stations. The entire kitchen was filled with wonderful aromas, and we were beginning to look forward to our meal together. All the while Renate Thiele’s husband snapped photos of us so that we might all take home pleasant pictorial memories of these two days.

By 5 PM, the first day’s dishes were finished. During the subsequent meal individual participants told about their childhood memories related to one or another of the dishes.

Our first day of cooking lessons ended with everyone in a good mood and looking forward to the second day of the event.

That part began promptly at 9:30 on the morning of Sunday, November 25. The cooking teams, by now having become well used to each other, got to work right away. We sliced, kneaded and rubbed various ingredients. A highlight this day was preparing the legendary strudel. Each participant was to prepare his/her own strudel dough.

Other dishes on the list were Dillborscht, Hühnerschlegel [chicken drumsticks], Gurkensalat [cucumber salad], and Pladschinten [baked turnovers, usually with a pumpkin filling].

Preparation of the strudels was definitely a highlight, and all had a really great deal of fun with it. We learned that well-kneaded dough is the basis for a successful strudel. In other words, without good dough there is not good strudel. Bettina and Hilde provided hints and useful tricks, among others the “cut-test” for finding out whether the dough had been kneaded “kneaded well.” Pulling the strudel dough was a lot of fun for everyone, and various techniques were tried out. Both instructors kept coming around to make sure that all felt successful in their strudel making.

By noon the time had come for us to taste some of our delicacies. A total of fourteen people were gathered at the table, and getting to know that for many Bessarabian families, this number – or sometimes even more, due to large families – was not an unusual number at meals which Bessarabian women were responsible for taking care of, it became quite clear to us that a homemaker in those days had a whole lot of work and, to be sure, without the help of mixers, microwaves or electric ovens

Our class neared its end, and during the cleaning and putting-away process it was once again evident that we were all a well-oiled team.

Once again heart-felt thanks to Bettina Hall and Hilde and Ernst Seitz for their superb organization and well-structured execution of the cooking class, and for making the long trip to Gifhorn. The beautiful new kitchen in the KVHS Gifhorn rooms made for optimal conditions for our cooking class. For that as well, a big thanks to KVHS Gifhorn. Every participant greatly enjoyed the class, which makes one hope that another cooking class, perhaps even under the direction of one of our current participants, might be organized.

Krasna, 1940: Girls in their Sunday clothes. Only unmarried women wore tasseled head dresses.
A “trough” wagon with a keg of water on the steppe – indispensable for man and beast.

Photos by Birgit Pioch [uncaptioned]

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation and to Dr. Nancy Herzog for editing the article.



Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller