One of my fondest childhood memories is being in the kitchen with my Hungarian grandmother. I loved watching her chopping vegetables, kneading dough, and leaning over bubbling pots in a kitchen that was always filled with wonderful aromas. I’d always help her after school–shelling peas or beans, scrubbing and peeling vegetables, and when I got older, helping to prepare dinner. My favorite was Friday dinner–we would always have some kind of savory soup followed by a noodle or sweet dish. I was always a sweet tooth and looked forward to egg noodles with eggs or jam, palacsinta (Hungarian crepes eaten with jam, cocoa, nuts or sweet cheese fillings), and, in the late summer, silvas gomboc (plum dumplings) topped with cinnamon sugar breadcrumbs.
German people love to eat, and they certainly know how to cook. My grandfather was born and raised in the communal society of the Amana Colonies in Iowa, and I’ve attended many family reunions and dinners in the Colonies over the years. Food was designed to stick to the ribs and keep hard-working men healthy and strong. Although my grandfather passed away while my mother was still a little girl, some of the recipes for foods he loved have come down through the family. Special German dessert recipes for cookies and rich pastries, such as Peppernuts (sugar cookies) and Apfelstrudel (apple strudel), were a beloved part of my childhood.
I grew up with the knowledge that my Dad’s parents came to the U.S. from Yugoslavia in the very early 1900s. I understand now that Yugoslavia was a union of countries at the time, but the area where my grandparents came from was Kucur, Backa, in the province of Vojvodina, in what is Serbia, today. My Yugoslav, or Serbian, grandparents lived on a farm in rural Ohio. They had chickens, so eggs were plentiful. They grew crops. They lived far differently than my Mom’s town folk during the Depression and World Wars. My Mom recalled that early in her engagement with my Dad, she went over to his parents’ house after church one Sunday, for breakfast. She was appalled that Grandma had more than 13 eggs in a bowl, to make scrambled eggs. She felt it was nearly obscene to have that many eggs for a family of five. That brought home to me the huge differences between town and country in those times.