The North is Cooking

Haisch, Edith. "The North is Cooking." Mitteilungsblatt, June 2012, 11.

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

Whenever Bessarabians get together, the conversation invariably settles on the subject of strudla [strudels]. Eyes begin to light up, everyone is enthusiastic about how great they taste, and you can virtually smell the aroma. Still, how are these things actually cooked correctly? And then the “expert” talk begins. This kind of flour, that sort of oil, this is the way they need to be pulled, no, perhaps that way. How was it done in the past? – OK, then, how was it when our mothers made strudla as if it was just a minor thing for them?

This conversation took place during a birthday celebration of the Rauschenberer family (whose original home was in Yekaterinovka, and now they reside in Westerbeverstedt, Germany).

And that’s how the idea of staging a cooking lesson came about, so that the old recipes of our ancestors might not be forgotten entirely. Irma Gerken, nee Rauschenberger, even as a young girl had to cook for her family and siblings, so she is quite an expert on all recipes. Well, she took the initiative and at a get-together in Bokel on April 16, 2011 she presented her idea for conducting a course on cooking. Very soon, enthusiastic participants announced their candidacy for such a course, and the list of applicants grew large.

Then, on March 9 and on March 16, 2012, an actual course was conducted between 3 and 7 PM at the kitchen of the Surheide School of Cooking. For the March 9 session, nine female participants arrived, well supplied with large cooking pots and the requisite ingredients, finally to learn how to cook those beloved “strudla.”

 What excitement! Under Irma Gerken’s direction, each participant, starting with 500 grams [just over a pound] of flour, prepared her own strudla. Thanks to advice and suggestions from Irma, each participant succeeded in making the dough quite thin and rolling the strudels from it. Soon a wonderful aroma wafted through the cooking school. But that wasn’t all. During a break – after all, the dough had to set for a while – we partook of some butter kuchen and Riebelkuchen (cf. the thick cookbook on p. 187), which Irma had baked just for the participants. Tasted great! And this kuchen will be baked again at the next opportunity!

At the end, we certainly and “properly” partook of the strudla. Additionally, there were fried chicken and a cucumber salad. That’s how Irma’s family always preferred to eat them. Happy and satisfied, each participant then took home a cooking pot filled with the recently prepared strudla.

For the second scheduled day of cooking, the participants had asked for how to prepare küchle, and because two young students were also taking part, Riebelsuppe was also on the program. That soup is prepared quickly and is nutritious and very popular. We tasted the “raised” küchle that Irma had prepared earlier, along with a fruit soup. The quicker version, namely, the ‘non-raised” ones, we kneaded that afternoon, everyone for herself, and baked them in hot oil. At the end each cook had a large bowl full of küchle, which we would all take home. The conclusion of the afternoon consisted of a meal together. We were able to try the Riebelsuppe and the küchle -- all very tasty!

Cooking all together was a great deal of fun for us. And on top of it all, all sorts of experiences were exchanged, and we talked about the past.  Often the experiences of grandmothers and mothers came up. I am sure that all participants were proud and happy to be able to prepare by ourselves those beloved and traditional foods with some ease. Besides, being together was good for all of us.

Sincere thanks to Irma Gerken of Bremerhaven for her willingness to pass on to us the cooking skills of our ancestors. 

Coffee break with buttered kuchen and Riebelkuchen.
The strudel dough is rolled thin enough so “you can read a newspaper through it.”
Sonja Look with her finished strudla.
“Unraised” küchle being rolled out.
Irma Gerken nee Rauschenberger cooking “Strudla” with us.

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

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