German-Russian Soups are his Forte

Lewis, Gillespie Anne. "German-Russian Soups are his Forte." Star Tribune, 30 December 1999, T9.

Sam Brungardt

Soup's on at Brungardt's house in St. Paul at least three times a week, and soup is often the first course when Brungardt has dinner guests. Although he makes a variety of soups from around the world, he takes special pride in making soups that connect him with his German-Russian ancestry.

A long journey

Brungardt, his two brothers and two sisters were raised on a farm in a west-central Kansas community populated mostly by people of German-Russian heritage. They are descendants of Germans who settled in Russia over a 100-year-period, beginning in 1763, having been enticed there by Catherine the Great, who promised them free land, religious freedom and other benefits. There were 100 colonies of Germans in the Lower Volga River Valley, where the families of Brungardt's parents settled. The Germans were fairly isolated from Russians, speaking their own language and cooking their own specialties, although many dishes became hybrids of both cuisines. Soup was a staple of both cuisines, and when the German-Russians immigrated to the United States in the late 19th century, their soups came with them.

Soup means home

The Brungardts grew up on soup, usually thick with beans, noodles, dumplings, potatoes or vegetables. "We had soup all year-round," said Brungardt, who is an information officer for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in St. Paul. "It was not unusual to have soup at least once a day. And there is nothing better when you come in from working in the cold and pull up to the table, and there is a big bowl of soup to warm you up. And when I make soup now, it reminds me of home." All the Brungardt children did field work and helped in the kitchen on the farm. "My folks encouraged a lot of independence and my mother always encouraged us - if we were at all interested in cooking - to help her or make it ourselves." A stint in the Navy, when he visited several countries as an officer on a seagoing tugboat, broadened Brungardt's appetite for different cuisines, but he kept coming back to his German-Russian roots.

Sei Unser Gast (Be Our Guest)

When the North Star chapter of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia decided to do a cookbook, Brungardt was the editor. He contributed or tested at least a third of the book's 300-plus recipes, and, yes, there are soups - three dozen. The cookbook, Sei Unser Gast, was a labor if love for Brungardt, and it gave him a chance to explore his heritage more fully.


"I think people need to understand who they are and where they came from."


Go easy on the salt until the final steps; you can always add more to taste. Saute' chopped onions in a little shortening to give them more flavor before adding to soup. Meat or poultry soups can be thickened by adding an envelope of unflavored gelatin to the broth; dissolve the gelatin in a little cold water first.

Thicken pureed cream soups by adding rice or potato, cooked until it is nearly falling apart and then pureed.

Anne Gillespie Lewis is a Minneapolis freelance writer and the author of the new "The Minnesota Guide."

Noodle and Bean Soup

Serves 8
This soup does not freeze well.

1 c. dry Great Northern or navy beans
2 c. potatoes, peeled and cubed
2/3 c. onion, chopped
2. tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Pepper
6 oz. (about 3 c.) thin egg noodles
1 c. cooked ham, cubed (optional)
1 c. cream or sour cream, or half of each

Pick beans over and put in medium saucepan. Cover with water 1 inch above the top of the beans. Bring beans to boil and boil one minute. Turn off heat, cover and let stand at least one hour. Return beans to heat and cook until tender, adding water if necessary to keep beans covered. Drain, saving cooking liquid and adding enough water to make 8 cups of liquid. Put liquid and beans in large soup kettle. Add potatoes, onion, slat and pepper. Bring to the boil. About 10 minutes after liquid begins to boil, add noodles and ham. When the noodles are done, turn off heat and add cream. Season to taste.

Nutrition information using & per serving:

Calories 260
Carbohydrates 38 g
Protein 14 g
Fat 6 g
including sat. fat 3 g
Cholesterol 39 mg
Sodium 855 mg
Calcium 97 mg
Dietary fiber 5 g

Sam Brungardt standing in his basement cellar with jars of pickled fruit, watermelon syrup, jam and vegetables. Sam preparing the dough for Runza, a Volga German food (Bierrocks, Kraut Brot or Maultsche).

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