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Comments about documentary
Comments from Christian Peter Johnson, New York, NY
What a terrific thing you folks have accomplished! I've been looking
and looking for something -- anything! -- about the foods of the
Germans from Russia, and I can't tell you how glad I am to see your
A few words about me: I'm a 31-year-old corporate lawyer in New
York City, where I've lived for nine years and plan to stay for
many to come. However, my grandmother (Edna Berg Johnson), is a
true Dakota Daughter, born and raised in McClusky, the seat of Sheridan
County (north of Bismarck). Her father (Fred Berg) owned the general
store and served as mayor for many years. We know that he immigrated
from Odessa as a small child, but we're not sure how long his family
had been in Russia before that -- it may not have been long. About
her mother we know even less (I'm not even certain of her first
name; her maiden name was Schindler) other than that she was born
in South Dakota and also seems to have been of German-from-Russia
Their daughter, Edna, married a Minnesotan Scandinavian named
Carroll Johnson. They raised my father in Grand Forks, and just
before he finished at UND they moved to Fargo. My father left North
Dakota for graduate school in Austin, Texas, where he met my mother,
a local girl. They settled in Seattle, where I was born. I probably
would never have spent much time in North Dakota, but my mother
died when I was five, so I spent every summer for the next ten years
in Fargo, and I loved it. I've lived in several places since then
(Washington, DC, where my father now lives, Northfield, Minnesota,
Japan for about 18 months and then New York), and I'm proud to say
that a part of Dakota stays with me, a part I especially like.
Anyway, I've always enjoyed cooking, so I'm the keeper of the
family sweet roll and kuchen recipes. My step-mother, bless her,
has taken the kaes knepfla duties. The funny thing is that where
we've lived no one else has ever heard of these foods, which made
me feel a little bit crazy -- this guy with these weird recipes
from god-knows-where. ("Well, they're sort of like big cheese ravioli,
but after you boil them you fry them with croutons...")
It's become even more imporant more recently. This summer my grandmother
was diagnosed with moderate Altzheimer's, which means that there's
less and less that we'll be able to glean from her. I'm really thankful
that we wrote down as many recipes as possible when I was a teenager.
I'm even more thankful that people are working with others, to keep
this history from disappearing as memories fade.
So, for several years I've spelunked around the internet, looking
for recipes for kuchen and kaes knoepfla without finding any. Finally
this summer I ran a Google search under the terms "Prune kuchen"
and came upon the web page describing the video.
I'm really impressed. It's a great show you've put together, with
wonderful personalities. I even found myself singing along to "Du,
Du"! And when we got to the kaes knepfla -- really just like my
grandmother made -- it was like coming home.