February 8, 2021
Food not only brings us comfort and pleasure, but also memories. Maybe when you eat a good bread from your local bakery, you recall your grandma saying, “Bread cannot be missing on the table.” In the past, it was a staple, eaten with almost everything. Bread was considered a heavenly gift. And in some countries, it still is. Each family had their own recipe, which was handed down from one generation to the next.
Maybe you also discovered, like me, various newspaper clippings in your mom’s old cookbook, with not just recipes but also good advice. These are treasure troves to me, because among them are various handwritten recipes, and seeing my mom’s penmanship and collection of good advice, I feel her care. Usually, over the holidays, I browse these recipes, see her handwriting, and think. Primarily, it is food, customs, and traditions that we keep in honor of our forebearers.
Some old recipes can now seem perhaps odd or strange, and many times, without any measurements listed. However, over time, the young cook gains experience, and that good old advice, whether collected from old newspapers or included in an old cookbook, may still serve to get your meal just right. The food we prepare at special occasions, many times, is the same traditional food cooked and baked over and over through generations…like fried donuts!
As the Fasching or Karneval (Carnival) will be culminating soon (February 16, 2021)—the European version of Mardi Gras in New Orleans—maybe you too will find a recipe for Faschingskrapfen in your old recipes. These German doughnuts, also called Berliner, or Paczki in Polish, Koblihy in Czech, and Šišky or Vdolky in Slovak, are fried traditionally at this time of year.
Do you still prepare the Eintopf? This was a staple of the German kitchen and means literally “the meal from one pot.” Do you still keep bread within reach on your table? Do you agree with the saying that man didn’t invent anything greater than bread? To me, nothing compares to warm delicious bread and unsalted butter!
Traditional recipes can even point to the region your ancestors came from. Check the MCPL Catalog for German and other cookbooks and traditions, including Mardi Gras. You can search for specific dishes, such as Rote Grütze, pudding from the red fruit, or Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes—bramborák), Holsteiner Schnitzel, Schwabian noodles—Spätzle, and more.
Tell us about your own experience with old family recipes! Are there any traditional dishes you make? Send us pictures as well! We would be happy to hear back from you.
Midwest Genealogy Center
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