My grandparents were Pennsylvania Dutch. I loved to hear them talk, but they often used the language to keep young ears from hearing things that weren't meant for us to hear! I did pick
up some of the sayings, which often combined English and German to make the mixture of "Pennsylvania Dutch". A youngster watching a train: "Mom, ven it comes a little red box, why then the train's all, ain't?" If the weather is rainy, the expression is: "Makes somesing down like a drizzle". Complete amazement is expressed as "Oy, anyhow!" Being miserably sick translates as: "I was wonderful sick last week". When my grandparents got frustrated with our childhood chatter, they would let us know by saying, "Ach, don't talk so dumb!" We often heard, "Outen the light" at bedtime and if the day was not going so well, "Ach, such a dog's life!" was the saying of choice. One final mixture comes in this sentence, intended to give directions: "Go straight on this crooked road till the fence ain't". Some of the sayings will be forever in my head and heart. There are a few stalwart souls around who are determined to keep the language alive, for which I am grateful.
Here is a typical Pennsylvania Dutch recipe(I never did like it, but a lot of folks just love this one!): DANDELION SALAD: Dandelion greens, 4 thick slices bacon(cut in small pieces), 1/4 cup butter, 1/2 cup cream, 2 eggs(beaten), 1 teaspoon salt, black pepper(to taste), paprika(to taste), 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/4 cup cider vinegar. Wash dandelion greens as you would lettuce.(Never use dandelion greens after they have begun to flower, as they are usually bitter). Roll in cloth and pat dry. Put greens into a salad bowl and set in a warm place. Fry bacon and turn out onto greens. Put butter and cream into skillet and warm over low heat. Mix into the beaten eggs the salt, pepper, paprika, sugar and vinegar; blend into slightly warm cream mixture. Increase heat and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Pour hot dressing over greens; toss gently and serve at once. (One thing made from dandelions that I liked a lot is Dandelion Wine. My parents made homemade wines every year and this wine was not quite as sweet as the cherry and grape wines that we had in the cellar. The wine was especially good in the wintertime, after supper and before bed!)
My grandfather was quite a collector. Many of my memories center around
these collections. He collected player pianos(4 of them at once! The
main one in the pantry was hooked up to a vaccuum cleaner for power.
Turn on the switch and you turned on the piano and the vaccuum cleaner!
The vaccuum cleaner was kept in a closet, so it wasn't loud enough to
interrupt the music. The whole family often sang around this piano on
Sunday nights, with yours truly doing most of the playing). Grandpa
also collected zithers, autoharps, old organs, clocks(you should have
heard the house at 12:00 noon-there must have been about 40 clocks of
assorted sizes all chiming at once!), license plates, bottles and
steam engines. Grandpa went to many steam engine shows in his time
and I often tagged along. I loved the smells and sounds of all those
engines and to this day, I'm attracted like a magnet to any steam engine
I also have fond memories of my grandmother. She made lye soap when I was quite small and we kids had strict orders to stay away from her when she was busy doing this chore. The lye could have done much damage to small, curious hands. She often wore a sunbonnet, since she made the soap outside on sunny days.
Grandma often scrubbed us as toddlers(I had one brother and two sisters) in a basin in the kitchen sink. The water in the basin had been warmed up on the wood stove and it was hot! Our ears were often cleaned and preened until they glowed beet red. Grandma always said we needed clean ears for church and God!
Grandma taught me how to make braided rugs and I spent many evenings after school as a teenager starting at the top of the steps with a braid tied to the bannister and working my way down the steps with the braid growing longer until supper was ready. The finished product was not the neatest-looking rug, but it served to keep my knees warm when I said evening prayers before going to bed. We had no heat in the upstairs and the wooden floors were often cold in the winter time. Frequently, snow would come in through the cracks in the windows during the night and I would wake up to see a pile of snow at the foot of my bed. The only warm place in our house was the coal furnace and that's where we got dressed for school in the morning-one at a time, so as to give us each our own privacy.
My grandmother also made the most beautiful and colorful afghans. She gave them to us grandchildren as Christmas gifts one year because her health was failing and she wanted to give them to us while she was still alert and able.
Grandma fed the chickens and gathered the eggs-something I never mastered, as I was petrified of the chickens and hid behind Grandma's skirts. As I got older, however, I didn't mind helping with the chicken plucking and cleaning that we did each year in order to make chicken corn soup, chicken potpie, fried chicken and all those other homemade goodies. One summer, my grandpa caught a snapping turtle. The turtle eventually turned into snapping turtle soup, but I would have nothing to do with it. My cousin saved the heart and put in in formaldehyde. The heart turned white. He kept that turtle heart for years and years.
I used to sit quietly and watch my grandmother comb her hair on Saturday evenings-I was absolutely enchanted by the length of hair that tumbled down her shoulders past her waist when she took out the topknot she wore throughout the week. This was a weekly ritual to prepare for church the next day.
February 24 is the traditional Pennsylvania Dutch Celebration of Fastnacht Day. My grandmother made homemade fastnachts fried in lard for years. Eventually, we switched to store-bought doughnuts and stuffed ourselves before the Lenten Season started. Grandma also made the best gingersnaps and kept them in the pantry. Those crunchy cookies were a special treat for use kids whenever we visited. I often wondered how I managed to keep all my teeth intact, as they were the hardest and snappiest cookies I ever ate! Another tasty treat that we occasionally got in the summer, was Grandma's apple fritters. She made corn fritters too, but they weren't as good as the apple dumplings, dredged in powdered sugar! I have never learned to this day, how to make apple dumplings as good as my grandmother's.
Before my Grandmother passed away, I picked out a few treasured items from her house. I have one of the clocks, some of her dresses, hats and scarves, old sheet music, some antique plates and glass bowls, some of her afghans and a real live stereoscope with pictures from World War I. It's been many years since she passed away. Grandma had a stroke and was paralyzed on one side. She couldn't speak or feed herself, but was able to stay at home in her own bedroom up until the end of her life. I'm glad I have the treasures from her home because
they keep her memory and her spirit alive.
My cousin had a habit of naming all his favorite animals around the farm "Lassie". My Grandpa bought one animal, however, that never suited this name. One day, Grandpa arrived home with a rather pretty mule, who looked calmly at us with large brown eyes. The neighborhood kids tried to come up with a name for him and we eventually settled on "Popeye", because we figured he was stubborn and strong. One day Popeye got out of the pasture and headed from my grandparent's farm at the bottom of the hill to my home at the top of the hill. We lived back a dirt, one-lane country road, so there was barely room for cars to pass each other without one of them going in the ditch. Popeye decided to park himself right smack in the middle of the road between my house and the neighbors' house. He sat there for about 15 minutes and then we decided that he ought to be moving on. My neighbor tried coaxing Popeye by talking to him. This had no effect at all on the situation. My neighbor then retrieved a carrot(you know the old trick about dangling a carrot before the donkey's eyes to keep him going?!. Well, this had no effect on Popeye either. About this time a car came down the road and had to stop dead in its tracks. Popeye didn't even bat an eyelid about the approaching car. The driver tried beeping his horn and yelling at Popeye, but all to no avail. Finally, the driver got out and attempted to push Popeye out of the road. We all joined in at that point, but got nowhere for all of our troubles! Popeye most definitely lived up to his name that day because he certainly was strong! There were 8 of us trying to budge him and he still didn't bat an eye about anything. The situation had gotten pretty much hopeless by the time my Grandpa arrived on the scene. He got out of his truck, walked up to Popeye, looked him in the eye, said, "Come on you old mule!", gave one tug and up got Popeye! Grandpa led Popeye onto the truck and went down the road, much to the amazement of all us kids and the driver of the car. The driver was pretty upset about everything and yelled at us kids but there wasn't a thing we could've done differently! Within the next week, Popeye had disappeared from Grandpa's farm. He never did say exactly where Popeye went-'just muttered that the old mule was too stubborn even for him!
We also have a most loveable and warm-hearted dog named Kirby that I got from a friend and co-worker. He was actually smaller than our black cat at the time we got him! He now weighs in at about 80 pounds and is a bundle of love. Kirby is part black lab and part retriever. He is quite intelligent and would love to have attention showered upon him 24 hours a day! His favorite activity in the whole wide world is chasing after the ball in the back yard and bringing it back to whomever threw it. When Kirby was younger, he fell madly in love with a fetching neighbor dog named Babe. He is still friendly to nearly all other dogs he meets, but only Babe brings out furious tail wagging and pining, whining sounds from his lips! Talk about true love-he's got it! Kirby is very protective of the family cats. He chases other cats from the yard with a "whoofing" sound and looks just like a freight train barrelling down the yard! If one of our own cats returns to the yard after a jaunt around the neighborhood, Kirby walks delicately up to them and politely sniffs noses. He is a great source of comfort and never turns down a hug from any of us. Kirby is truly "family" and we love him to pieces!
Since I'm a coffee lover, I'm including some information from an article by Bonnie Altland in our local paper, The Evening Sun. Homer's "Odyssey" spoke of the African plant that ended sadness. A popular tale dates back to 1440, when an Ethiopian herdsman noticed his goats became frisky after eating leaves and berries from a particular shrub. He made powder of the plant's fruit and noticed that he no longer felt tired. 50 years later, a Yemen sheik heard of this discovery and ate the powder, which helped him to stay awake during prayers. Coffee was introduced into Europe in the 16th century. In Paris, coffeehouses became popular. Johann Sebastian Bach became Germany's most famous coffee drinker. Coffee probably came to the U.S. with the early settlers, but the first reference to coffee in this country is in 1668 in New York. It was flavored with sugar, honey and cinnamon. The first coffee-roasting plant opened in 1790 by J. Applegate from New York.
The coffee tree is actually a shrub. The ripe "cherries" from the shrub are hand-picked and depulped to reveal two coffee beans, which are then dried and hulled. It takes nearly a ton of hand-picked coffee cherries to provide enough beans to produce one pound of roasted coffee! This is the annual crop of one average coffee tree. Here are two great coffee recipes that Bonnie shared with her readers. Enjoy!!! (The recipes are from Pan American Coffee Bureau)
Black Forest Coffee: 6 ounces fresh brewed coffee, 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup, 1 tablespoon maraschino cherry juice, whipped cream, shaved chocolate or chocolate chips, maraschino cherry. Combine coffee, chocolate syrup and cherry juice; mix well. Top with whipped cream, chocolate shavings and a cherry.
Mexicali Coffee: 8 ounces hot chocolate, 6 ounces fresh brewed coffee, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Topping: dash of cinnamon, 1/2 tablespoon fine sugar, 1/2 ounce grated chocolate, whipped cream. Combine first three ingredients together and divide between two mugs. Top the coffees with seasoned and sweetened whipped cream and grated coffee.