Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I dug out my family recipe for kuchen.  There's no great family secret about this could do a Google search for a kuchen recipe and find dozens that are similar.  As I look at it, I am reminded of the form of the recipes my family shared.   These days recipes take the form of listing the ingredients and numbering the steps to bake.  The way we shared, I realize now, was designed to fit all on a 3X5 card.  It was assumed the recipient cooked and baked, and didn't need step by step instructions with full sentences.  It doesn't say so, but I'm sure this recipe came from Great Grandma Spradau.  I copied it from her daughter's recipe card,  Grandma Knowles.  That's Grandma Spradau in front, with her birthday corsage, one of her daughters in the back (Aunt Vera?).

I got this out because I'm going to bake a kuchen for my co-workers.  Somebody started a cake-of-the-month club, and way back when I signed up for November.  I don't do so much baking now.  It's years since I baked this...but you don't forget, do you? 

A month or so ago somebody also proposed we create a zine with all our recipes, and each of us who brought a cake could design a page of the zine, or at least hand our recipes over to the zine editors.  I started to think in terms of story as well as cake.  I'd really hoped the recipe would be in my grandma's handwriting, then I would scan and put the recipe in the zine as-is.  Sadly, it is in my crappy mistake-ridden handwriting. Perhaps I will still include it that way.

I thought briefly about making the Poppy Seed Cake, written out by my grandma, all for the story.  There's Grandma Knowles' handwriting, and Grandma Spradau's name, and there's the form our recipes took: brackets pointing from the ingredients to the actions, ever more cramped at the bottom of the card.

I don't think I've ever made this cake though.  I loved it when my grandma made it.  It doesn't even say, but I"m pretty sure when done she would wrap it in tin foil, and the cooked vanilla pudding would soak into the cake, unless that was a different recipe.  However, another reason I love it is that there is NO LEMON.  Why does everything sweet poppy seed also have to have lemon these days?

But there is story  to the Fruit Kuchen recipe as well.  I had to do a Google search myself, seeing that no fruit amount was listed.  Some recipes listed about 4 cups.  Then I remembered that you put enough fruit to cover the batter, and of course, in this old school way of sharing, the women would just know how much they would need.

Grandma, my mom, and my aunt most often made this in the spring and early summer.  First when the rhubarb was ready, later, when the raspberries were ripe. 

There's my mom, my grandpa, my grandma, and my aunt at my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary celebration.  I wasn't able to attend because I was away at college.

I know my great grandpa came from Germany.  I'm not sure about his wife...I'll have to ask my mom.  Either she did too, or her parents did. As a family, we certainly had a lot of German eating habits, like kuchen, and vinegar on vegetables. (And we would say we would "go by so-and-so's house" rather than "visit" or "go to"'s a German thing.)

I suppose I could find some rhubarb in the frozen food section, but I decided I would find something fresh and local, so I put pears and apples on my grocery delivery list.  I'm not sure which one yet...maybe both.  I still want to plant rhubarb in my front yard as a part of the edible landscaping. I want to make rhubarb custard pie, rhubarb kuchen, and take a raw stalk and suck on it, making my mouth pucker so I can remember that childhood feeling of wondering why I was doing that if it was so tart.  And, with rhubarb in my yard, I can feel connected just a little bit to my family's traditions.  Everybody had a rhubarb patch.

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