Tobin, Paulette. "Schmeckfest."
Grand Forks Herald, 1 March
2000, 1 & 2C.
In German-Russian life, food was love, and food traditions
sometimes followed church year.
For many of us who grew up in a family of Germans from Russia,
the church season of Lent began on Shrove Tuesday with schlitzkuchla
and ended on Good Friday with noodles and prunes.
Food traditions were an important part of the Lenten observance
in many homes among the Germans from Russia, both Catholic and Protestant.
Although not as strictly observed today, those traditions are still
an important part of our heritage.
On Fastenacht (Shrove Tuesday), the day before Ash Wednesday (which
this year is March 8), many a German cook would serve her family
schlitzkuchla, a deep-fried pastry.
Good Friday was a meatless day in many homes, and for lunch we
ate homemade noodles topped with sweetened stewed prunes. Boiled
eggs also were eaten, with fish for dinner.
Some people claimed they liked noodles and prunes, but I always
considered it part of the Lenten penance.
In the old days, the first day of Lent was the beginning of a
period of frequent church attendance, with special services every
Wednesday evening. There was no dancing or card playing, no public
amusement and no weddings during Lent.
Easter Sunday, on the other hand, was a joyful day of family and
feasting. Children would open gifts received from their baptismal
sponsors and receive baskets filled with dyed eggs, licorice and
candy. Families would attend church together and gather to visit
and to eat noodle soup, chicken, potatoes and kuchen, writes Ashley,
N.D., native Shirley Fischer Arends in her book "The Central Dakota
In German Russian life, love often was expressed through food,
and many German mothers and grandmothers are fondly remembered for
the wonderful food they prepared.
Last year, I asked members of my extended Haupt family, as part
of a family reunion, to write about their favorite family memories.
At least five people wrote about homemade chicken noodle soup. My
mother remembered the wonderful spice cake that her mother-in-law
had made, the one whose ingredients included sour cream and goose
fat. My cousins reminisced about their grandmother's homemade noodles.
The producers of a new documentary called "Schmeckfest: Food Traditions
of the Germans from Russia" understand the importance of these traditions.
They visited kitchens and cooks and food festivals in Eureka, S.D.,
and Rugby, Fargo, Wishek and Richardton, N.D., to record the culinary
memories, which, as they put it, "feed the soul and warm the heart"
Viewers will share in the making of fresh churned butter, an authentic
German wedding with folk customs and dress, husking corn and preparing
traditional Germans from Russia food including kaseknephla and strudla
when "Schmeckfest: Food Traditions of the Germans from Russia" airs
on Prairie Public Television.
The 60-minute documentary was produced by Prairie Public Broadcasting
Inc. and North Dakota State University Libraries of Fargo, a follow-up
to their earlier documentary "The Germans From Russia: Children
of the Steppe, Children of the Prairie."
Written and narrated by UND professor and author Ron Vossler,
"Schmeckfest" is a collection of vignettes filmed in the kitchens
of cooks who remember milking cows on cold North Dakota mornings,
at a cafe that still serves knephla soup, and at a modern Schmeckfest,
where, to use the literal definition of the word, people celebrate
with a "festival of food."
Michael Miller, co-producer and bibliographer of the Germans from
Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Libraries, said "Schmeckfest" was
important to preserving the legacy of a self-sufficient ethnic group.
"The film is a chronicle of the prairie women who left no records
of their lives, but who are remembered every day in the recipes
and rituals of the kitchen, the heart of the home," Miller said.
The earlier documentary,"Children of the Steppe, Children of the
Prairie," an examination of the history of the Germans from Russia,
has aired on 70 public broadcasting stations in 26 states and four
It received the Silver Telly Award as one of the best documentaries
in America, a bronze plaque award in humanities from the Columbus
47th Annual International Film and Video Festival and was shown
to an international audience at the Third International Ethnic TV
Festival in Krakow, Poland.
The "Schmeckfest" documentary staff also included Bob Dambach,
producer; John Altenbernd, Original music; and David Geck, Tapio
Kube and Gretchen Jenson, assistant producers.
Germans from Russia Recipes
Fastnachts or Schlitzkuchla
This fried bread is served in German-Russian homes on Shrove
Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup cream
l teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
Beat eggs and sugar. Add cream, vanilla, baking powder and enough
flour to make a soft dough. Roll to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into
squares, and cut 3 diagonal slits in the center. Leave flat, or
pull the extreme corners of the dough through the nearest slit.
Heat deep fat or salad oil to 375 degrees and fry dough until golden.
Leave plain or sprinkle with sugar and/or cinnamon.
Also known as Cheese buttons, this is a good and tasty meatless
dish appropriate for Lent.
2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
2 cups dry-curd cottage cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Diced green onions to taste (optional)
Roll dough about 1/4-inch thick, and cut into 4-inch squares.
Place a spoonful of filling on half of each square, then fold dough
over and pinch sides together securely to make the "buttons." Put
buttons into a kettle of slowly boiling salt water and cook for
no more than 10 minutes. (They're done when they float.) Boil and
handle gently, or they may come apart. Drain. Then fry them with
butter and onion. Cheese buttons also can be served in soup, either
with a broth or creamy base.
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 or 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
3/4 teaspoon salt
Milk or cream as needed
2 tablespoons margarine
2 tablespoons chopped onion
About 1/2 cup cubed dried bread
Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Then place egg in 1/2-cup
measuring container, and add water to fill cup. Mix with dry ingredients.
Add additional water if your dough is too dry or a little flour
if it is too wet. Knead dough on a floured surface, turning the
sides over into the middle. Then, let the dough rest on the counter
under an overturned bowl.
Put about 2 quarts of water in a 3-quart kettle. Add cubed potatoes
and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Add milk and cream as desired. While liquid
is coming to a oil, roll knephla dough into ropes. When soup is
boiling gently, cut knephla into the hot soup in pieces about the
size of the end of your thumb. It works best to hold rope with left
hand and use kitchen shears in right. Cook 10 to 15 minutes. In
the meantime, melt margarine in a saucepan and saute onions lightly.
Then, turn up the heat, and throw in the bread and brown it a little.
Add bread, onions and margarine to the soup and stir. Soup is ready
to serve. Add pepper once it's in the bowl.
Kuchen, a round coffee cake, is a favorite dessert for the Germans
from Russia. Recently named the official state dessert by the South
Dakota Legislature, it is traditional at Easter Sunday breakfasts.
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 package yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cooking oil
4 to 5 cups flour
Warm the milk, and put it in a mixer bowl. slowly beat in sugar,
yeast, salt, oil and eggs, and then add enough flour to make a soft
dough, using your mixer's dough hooks, or by stirring in the flour
with a spoon. Turn out dough onto floured surface. Sprinkle it with
flour and work with your hands, turning edges to the center, using
more flour as needed, until a neat ball forms. Put the dough into
a greased bowl and cover, and let it rise until its double in bulk.
Meanwhile, cook the filling.
4 cups sweet cream
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
Warm sweet cream over low heat (be careful-it scorches easily).
Mix in eggs, sugar and flour, stirring continually until it thickens.
Remove filling from heat.
To assemble: Put dough on floured counter, and cut into 8 pieces.
Shape into balls with floured hands by turning sides under. Roll
each ball in a circle to fill a kuchen pan or 8-inch pie pan. Place
dough in pan so that it extends about 1/2-inch up the side of the
Add topping, which could be prunes, chopped dates, diced rhubarb,
raisins, apples (peeled and sliced thin), peaches or apricots, blueberry
or cherry pie filling, cottage cheese or just plain sugar.
Spread filling over topping. Sprinkle with a little brown sugar
and cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees until dough is light brown and
filling is set in the center, about 10 minutes.
Source: Sei Unser Gast cookbook and Haupt family recipes.
|Jaqueline Dohn Maas
of Plymouth, MN., makes watermelon pickles.
||James Harr and Cora Lee Teske of Aberdeen,
S.D., were married at the Eureka, S.D., Schmeckfest in September,
1999, in a German wedding that included traditional food, music
|Theresa Kuntz Bachmeier of Rugby, N.D., prepares
the dough to make kaseknephla, a traditional dish among Germans
Reprinted with permission of the Grand Forks Herald.