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A Remembrance of the Past; Building for the Future." ~ Eve Eckert Koehler



Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors
     
 

The Nourishment

by Dr. Viktor Pratscher
Translated by Brad Schwebler

The Way of Life "Man Creates what he eats" - so our fathers said.

The Food

          The mealtimes were formerly much simpler and far from lavish, unlike today.  The food was prepared mainly from wheat meal.  There was flour soup, dumplings, noodles, etc.  Cakes, such as thin cakes - the so-called Kerweih (consecration) cake - or milk bread were only made on festival days.  Cornmeal, mixed with wheat meal, or alone as "Malei", served as general nutrition for the people.  Today it is seldom served at the table, as a rarity, naturally well prepared with lard and sugar.  The bread of today is baked from first rate pure wheat meal.  This bread is generally available to everyone regardless of prosperity.  

          The potatoes - called "Krummbeere" (crooked berries) - have always had a very special place in our nutrition.  They are valued in Feketitsch as a special dish of the Swabians.  It comes boiled, fried, roasted, and in the (Teps?) fried crooked berry, then crooked berry soup (Supp), -mash, -salad, (-kichelkel?), -strudel, -schupp (flake?) noodle and also crooked berry and (Knedl?), crooked berry paprika, etc.  

          To make the dry bread tasty it was first soaked in water and then salt was sprinkled on it, or smeared with fruit jelly and called "Schleckel" or "Leckwar" in Feketitsch.  A slice of schleckel bread was the breakfast.  For the (Attich-?) and mashed schleckel a supply for the whole year must be bought.  Instead of steamed fruit there were apple, pear, and apricot slices, dried Weichsel cherry and Zwetschken plum which for the most part were kept on the floor under the chimney in a sack.  This dried fruit the children received for little accomplishments and it tasted excellent, or the dried fruit was hardly brought to a boil, and eaten as a compote (stewed fruit).  Today the fruit is steamed in syrup and the pride of the housewives are the steam bottles of course, not the cracked ones which lay in the glass crate. 

Milk, sour milk, and cheese (Faul (rotten?) cheese and loaf cheese) served at breakfast or supper.

          In the old days meat was served mainly on Sundays and then it was usually poultry.  There was only one meat shop in each village and it seldom had another meat such as mutton.  A cow could be slaughtered only seldom because much of the meat did not sell so quickly which was necessary.  Also pigs were not slaughtered (so fette?) as today.  At the time there were still very few pigs in the settlement because the Turks had this animal eradicated because their religion forbid them the enjoyment of this meat just like the Jews.  Therefore sheep and cattle were slaughtered although no fatty (Metzelsuppe?-massacre soup?) was made from it as it is today.  Besides that the little fat and (Inschel?) was used for lighting.  Instead of a lot of pig fat, which is used today, oil and (Raps?) was consumed.  The oil had to be roasted up in a pan before use and some water was added to the oil so that the unpleasant taste of the oil was lost in the vapor.  The cook often cried with a sudden fright from the smoking vapors, or disguised being startled when pouring on the water on the unwanted vapors to remove the unpleasant taste, because all the foods were prepared with this oil.  Today pig fat is generally used, our modest prosperity is indeed in such excess as in many purely German villages.  Where no pig can be slaughtered in a house at the start of winter, where it went miserably, in addition poultry, beef, veal, and mutton were consumed by the Germans in decreasing order, in latter days also the meat of hutch hares (rabbits) and goats.  

          In 1935 the following were slaughtered in our slaughterhouse (Feketitsch):

             horned cattle...231 heads                 sheep....85 heads

             calves.............216 heads                 pigs.....489 heads  

Emergency slaughtering would be carried out in 18 cases.  

          Of the vegetables the potato stands in first place and of these an appropriate amount were buried in the fall so they remained protected from the frost in the winter.  Then followed cabbage, and also the housewife has to look after the winter supply of this, then beans, peas, pumpkins, carrots, spinach, lentil, etc.  Besides the usual spices such as salt, vinegar, pepper, and onion, there was Hungarian paprika in green and in a pulverized state eaten in excess.  The paprika was prepared as sharp as possible by the Germans in Feketitsch, just like the kind used by Hungarian shepherds and is often the cause of various stomach upsets.  

          The food was formerly cooked on an open fire in earthenware pots and cast iron pans.  For the most part the containers stood on tripods.  One first learned to cook on the oven top later.  Stoves were first used in the 1890's.  

          Eating was usually done in the kitchen and in the living room only when food was cooking.  In the summer food was eaten out on the walkway.  

          Formerly food was generally eaten from a bowl and drunk from a bottle, or a water jug was also used.  Even today it can be seen with horror in the homeland newspaper of every German that this unhygienic custom is still in use in the Batschka and, to be precise, by Germans of the 20th century.  These kind of germs transmit the most difficult illnesses  - not perhaps but completely certain, that they clearly affect the younger generation more and more.  The old expression that "I have no fear of the illness," but it only comes from fear. - still not cease from the grandmothers and grandfathers.  The old people are therefore the most dangerous carriers of such diseases as tuberculosis because so far in recent times no one has expected anything to be done about this.  More attention must be devoted to their coughs in the future if the grandchildren are not to be infected.  For that reason it is essential that each family member must always eat from his own plate and drink from his own glass.  

          One to two hours after getting up in the morning breakfast was eaten.  This mealtime consisted at the time of settlement of one slice of bread, sometimes with Attichlekvar (plum jelly) on it.  In the wintertime "Malei" or "Flammkuchen?" was baked in the oven, Einbrenn (roux) soup, or milk was cooked.  Our grandfather took a slice of bacon and bread on his own initiative, or milk was eaten with bread.  Until today coffee was a fight for them, effectively mellowing the coffee with the necessary sugar added to it was an extravagance.  Formerly coffee was substituted with bread crust or barley.  Today in many circles coffee is the breakfast.  In the winter months one also found chamomile, lime, and Russian tea in use.  Midday, about 11 o'clock, there was a cooked midday meal.  They had supper during the season between 4 and 8 o'clock.  In the evening there was a warm supper because the worker had been in the field all day and had received nothing cooked.  At the time the housewife gave the field worker a bread sack which contained bacon and bread, cheese, and cucumbers.  At noon the horse cover was spread out under a tree and the contents of the bread sack were emptied.  Earlier the bread sack was not always so greasy as it is today.  That is, there is usually only "Attichschleckel" bread and no fat pig stuff which the farmhand looked for in the bread sack before he took on the service.  At harvest time and at the threshing a freshly cooked noon meal was taken for the workers with the wagon to the field.  

          In Feketitsch the water in the open wells is unhealthy.  At times the high water level reached the reflection of the water in the deeper lying parts of the village barely 2 to 3 feet down.  Therefore one searches for better drinking water than one has in his own yard.  Unfortunately though the best water is worth nothing.  Better water is found on the heights of the Teleschka and on the most (Salaschen?) where the water lay 4 to 5 fathoms deep.  In 1905 the community drilled an artesian well in front of the community house which brought crystal clear but not cold water from 60 meters down to the earth's surface.  It contained some sculpture and iron.  Since then at the two street crossings on almost every corner there is an artesian well from which healthy water springs forth day and night from 35 to 60 meters deep.  The number of artesian wells in Feketitsch amounted to 15.  The typhus illness, which claimed many victims every year until 10 years ago, has completely disappeared.

          The whole village is surrounded by vineyards in which grape juice of the best consistency thrives.  So much about the soberness of our Germans is praiseworthy.  The percentage of the drinks produced compared to other communities is favorable.  Wine spirits were produced from (Treber?-draff, marc), (Gelager?), and unfortunately from mulberries.  From other fruit, or even from corn, potatoes, etc. almost none was produced.  Most of the spirits were consumed at harvest, mashing, and bricklaying where a certain quantity was even insisted upon.  It is this one established custom which is the most harmful and reprehensible.  Of the usual drinks, beer and soda water were mostly drunk in the summertime. 

[Published at DVHH.org 2004 by Jody McKim Pharr]