Good Bye to Pokeberry Hill...


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Soup to History a Meandering Post...

My pressure canner is busy right now loaded up with 8 pints of homemade soup. It is chicken soup without my usual matza balls-(made with chicken fat--yum!). Hubby wanted those but I'm not sure they would pressure can well. He can have some in the batch of soup that will stay in the fridge. I guess I could put just one in a jar--just to test. Hmm...ok--I'll try that! I don't plan to can much 'starchy' ingredients until I'm convinced the results would be good. I want to do some more research and maybe test batches before I get into that. In the meantime, I'll be doing very little of noodles, rice, dumplings, knefla or matza balls. (sorry Dear)

Knefla,... oh that would be so good.. thinking of that soup, mmmm.. Maybe that will be another 'trial run' with starches? I may try it sometime this winter--at least one jar just to see how it goes. That would be nice so I could give some to my son far away, he loves it! Knefla soup is also my 'lead in' to some things I would like to write about this morning.

My #3 son, the knefla lover, is up in Milwaukee and struggling right now. He needs to have a medical procedure done on his wrist but he won't have insurance at work for a year. He is at UPS and loads trucks right now which of course is irritating to the bad wrist. He's a good worker and has been given some kind of paper saying he is eligible to apply for a line supervisor job if one comes up--that would be easier on his wrist. He is still on our insurance until January--but can he risk taking a couple weeks off of work just before Christmas? Probably not. They need workers now, and someone else will have to be hired. Its tough to decide the things he must decide and to endure the little difficulty. Tough times though I think are good for a young man I have no doubt it will turn out for the best some day.

Nevertheless, I wouldn't mind if there were more protections for part time workers and for new workers. I am part time and I have no benefits and can be dismissed for any reason. That seems not right to me. My oldest son and his wife have some difficulties too related to what they can and can't do with the new baby coming and making sure they don't lose a job or insurance. My son was laid off about a year ago and eventually hired back. His company fought his unemployment and won and so he ended up going back to the same company after they did that to him. He also is a good worker and yet he has lost ground due to that lay off. His wife had to change jobs because of her pregnancy so she too has problems with job security and insurance matters that make the pregnancy more difficult.

I do want to see protections in place for workers that keep folks from losing jobs or insurance coverage if they need time off during difficult times. I don't think I'd like to see a whole hog government health care plan though--isn't there something in between that could be functional? That's my hope for it. I guess though I don't expect things to be easy, I just wish they could be a little easier--not so government controlled that we lose freedoms and choices in the process or severely hurt businesses that employ people.I also feel it is wrong to take tax payers money to pay for things that some tax payers are morally opposed to--that is a violation of our hearts I think.

Knefla Soup brings so many things to mind, even health care, one things leads to another it seems.I think of Knefla and health care because I think of Knefla and the hard times that existed when those who brought it to America were settling in North Dakota.

Knefla is a soup I learned to make when we lived in Fargo. It is a soup they say came to Fargo with the 'Germans from Russia' a group of German immigrants that had formerly lived in Russia. Having moved 4 times in 4 years I think I know how they must have felt coming here. Will they finally have a home? That is something always in the back of my mind--especially as a gardener--whenever I plant something I wonder will I be here to see it grow?

I was also interested when I heard them called 'Germans from Russia' because it reminded me a little of my dad's side of our family. In Dad's family there were two groups of Polish immigrants--my gramma's family and my grampa's family. I understand that when they married in the early 1920s there was some fuss about it because one side were 'Russian Polish' and the others were 'German Polish', apparently the one looked down on the other. Of course to the rest of Americans they were just all Polacks. ;)

I can only imagine it was her family not pleased with his, as my Grampa was a bit of a troublemaker in his youth, and came from a family of Milwaukee tavern owners--at a time when drinking was not so ok. I have heard they had 'soft drink parlors' which were not always above suspician. Knowing Grampa--who once made wine from the wild grapes in our backyard,the drinks likely were not that 'soft'. Mainly though, the Polacks in Milwaukee back then were foundry workers.

Grampa was a machinist who smoked cigarettes without filters and played a 'fiddle'. You could certainly not have called it a violin as he mainly played Polkas. My memory of him is of me dancing around his little apartment standing on his toes,while he would saty 'dancy dancy' to me. I also recall we kids would line up to poke his smoke rings. There was also the excitement of the raffle tickets he used to buy us kids to win toys at the Catholic Church's Spaghetti Dinner. We always seemed to win something, not usually the big teddy bear but at least a little stuffed dog or something. If we didn't win he would have words with the lady at the counter and something seemed to have been forgotten and be brought forward for us. I also loved his 'finger dinosaur' that would crawl over the kitchen table and pick up the cake crumbs too and eat them.

Our generation didn't really know all the business about why one side of the family didn't like the other, we just knew our grandparents and loved them. We also didn't know much about how the Democratic party had helped the immigrants in the early days,which secured many votes I'm sure. We knew everyone was Catholic and everyone was a Democrat. My mom's family was Irish--and that is another story altogether.

I guess there have always been lines between people based on culture,nationality, race, status, religion or politics--we all like our own ways. When I married I had been raised Catholic and my husband Lutheran--there were some hoops to jump through with the church. I couldn't take communion in his church so we agreed to marry in mine and baptize our first child in his. Eventually we broke away from both churches and became part of something entirely different. In any case Gramma and Grampa married and stayed married until he died of lung cancer at 72. She went on to live to 90 and both of them were always loved for their wonderful humor and hard work and simple ways. I cannot think back without smiling about them. I have been married to my husband for 27 years now and my parents were married 35 before my dad died. I have seen differences worked out amicably in all these generations. Since my oldest boy married a gal with significantly different beliefs than he has I hope this track record of working it out will continue.

So... were you a German Polack or a Russian Polack? I guess it depended on which country had been picking on the part of Poland you came from. From what little I know of Poland--some country or other was pretty much always picking on them. If your ancestors are from a small country in Europe your family most likely has some interesting stories. Very likely you have someone in your family background who came to America for freedom and opportunity.

My Gramma told me about my Great(or is it Great-Great?)Gramma Julia ( I believe that was her name) helping to distract the cossacks when the villagers would teach their children their own language and religion. My Grandmother told me that Julia would roll logs onto the road so the Cossacks would have to dismount from their horses and slow down to clear the road thus giving time for her to run and warn the villagers of their approach.

Back in the days when I homeschooled my children I thought of the difficulty my ancestors had in passing down their beliefs and it helped to sustain me. We were one of the earlier homeschool families in our area and it was not very well accepted at the time. Certainly I didn't have to hide from cossacks, though I was heavily criticized. Being a Bible believing Christian and voting Republican was not something my family could accept. Even at my dad's funeral I got lectured by an aunt and uncle. "Your father would turn in his grave..."

Maybe, but he loved me.

My family were Liberal Catholic Democrats in a big way.Its funny because I turned out to be so different--and yet I would fight for them to be allowed their beliefs. If there is any value I embrace more than another it is the value of liberty.

My folks were involved in the civil rights movement--which I cannot fault. Mom cried a week when JFK died --I was little but I still remember that! We were all shocked by the deaths of RFK and Martin Luther King. For some reason folks don't seem to recall that it was a man who was a Republican who put an end to slavery in America--I don't know why folks forget that. Conservatives do not believe in oppressing others. Growing up in their home I was familiar with liberal thinking however and I knew that Republicans were rich and uncaring and Democrats were poor and compassionate. I have since learned that this is not at all true--but apparently lots of folks still think it.

When I grew up I was drawn a new direction and I marched to a different drummer and it sure didn't go over well. Still-- unlike my ancestors I was never in danger for teaching my children. I think it is possible that someday here in America the freedom to teach your own children your own beliefs will disappear--political correctness will eventually become some sort of law--most likely for the children's good--I have always known that. Right now it is conservatives and Christians that are the 'bad guys' who knows what group it will be in the future.

Facts are facts and there are some things that are changed these days and some of those changes do not jive with my beliefs. I can handle it--I know better than to think I can change other people--they can have their freedom even if I think they use it wrongly--but I also know my freedom can't go on forever. Sooner or later it will be considered so wrong to voice what I believe about certain subjects that my free speech will be gone.

In days past folks could choose to go elsewhere for freedom sake--many came to America-- where speech and religion and such like are free choices. Where will folks go when America is no longer free? There are no new frontiers are there?

My ancestry being partly Irish and partly Polish, my Husband's being mainly Norwegian, and my having travelled to live in five different states in my lifetime-- all these factor in to why I am so interested in the people around me, in our melting pot country. I wonder where they came from and under what kind of circumstances. I like to learn about things in new places, in Fargo I learned about life on the prairie in the early days and I learned to make Knefla soup.

The knefla soup in Fargo was not only delicious it had history, so of course I needed to learn to make it. :)

Knefla (spelled various ways) is a potato soup with chicken stock and 'knefla' which are strips of dough dropped into the soup as it cooks. It is absolutely delicious and smells wonderful too. It is the ultimate comfort food and knowing what I do about the early immigrants and pioneers in North Dakota--those folks deserved some comfort!

Life in North Dakota in the 1800s--wow--that life was beyond tough. Between freezing and floods, fires, poverty, diseases and living in sod huts on the windy frozen plain-- many of the settlers didn't stick it out long enough to keep their claims. It was just too too hard. Those who did got a nice chunk of land to build a farm on and their story to pass down to grandchildren who have not had to suffer like that.

It is good for us to always remember the struggles people have gone through to obtain what we were born with. I wonder if any of us are even able to endure such struggles now. We find it tough economically but we don't really know what tough is.

I am personally very 'ambivalent' on illegal immigration. I do think we ought to protect our borders for safety sake. 9-11 spoke volumes on the danger of illegal immigrants with driver's licenses. On the other hand I absolutely admire most of the Mexican immigrants I've met. Granted I have not met the many that have been criminals here in Charlotte, we have a huge gang problem--but I tend to run in different circles.

I live in a multi-cultural neighborhood in a big city and I work in a library where many new immigrants from all over the world come to learn and often to work. In Charlotte I've gotten to know folks from Russia,Turky,Cuba, Korea, Australia, Brittain, France, Poland, Mexico,Honduras,China, Pakistan, Czechoslvakia and Libya. I also met Folks from Sudan and Ethiopia and Iran when I was in Fargo where the Lutheran church there brought them over as refugees. I became fast friends with a young student from Iran who came here to get an education because she is of the Bahai faith and in Iran she was not allowed to go to school for that reason alone. My son I think might have had a little crush on her, he fixed her car one evening, we were co-workers. Vietnamese and Thai people also abound in Charlotte.

Many of the immigrants I have met have lived in places where freedom is not a given. I recall the gentleman from China who came in to our library and could read the chinese writing we had on one of our displays during the olympics. He didn't agree with it though. The message was about our being all united in some way. I can't recall the wording exactly but I know he had a caution about it--he'd been there. It said one world, one ??was it spirit? I can't recall the word, but I know he said it was not true. America is not like China, Thank God--I hope it never will be.

I can only say that America is still that shining beacon that the people yearn for. I hope it will stay that way. When someone at work was complaining a week ago about America I said, you know, when they can show me a country with as many people trying so hard to get into it--that's when I will think about leaving America.

What do they come here for? First of all freedom and safety, then opportunity. When there is something to look forward to, to look up to, to yearn for--it calls out that spirit in people that causes them to strive. When all is 'level' I think why should they? Why should a man work harder if it won't get him anything better?

So Knefla Soup leads to history and politics--I did say this is a meandering post. There's still 50+ minutes on my timer so I have time to write here while my canner is going.

Living in Charlotte with all it's immigrants reminds me of stories about folks from Europe during the Ellis Island days--except there are many here in our city that didn't pass through any gate legally Many of these folks have taken hard jobs or even worked as day laborers until they could earn enough to start their own little business. These are often businesses set up on a shoestring and semi-underground at the beginning since they aren't exactly meeting all the coes and rules. Here and there the businesses pop up. I think adherence to health rules and such like does improve over time. When I was at the local Mexican and Asian markets yesterday I did notice some things were better than last time--but not all things. I'm still worried about the meats in both stores-but I am not afraid of the produce anymore--so that's good. I think I will pass on the cheese and some other things as well. I am grateful though that Charlotte posts the health inspection reports prevalently in stores--you need to read those. If it got an A-- chances are a correction and some instructing was done onsight during the inspection to bring them up to code. If it didn't get an A-- don't eat there.

I wonder isn't there some creative way to deal with the illegal folks that are here? Maybe McCain had something there--though it sure didn't win him anything. It is a thing that I think my parent's values are still in my heart in that respect. I am conservative but I have no anger against immigrants I wish everyone could live in a country like ours--I wish our country could continue to be that beacon. On the other hand I want our country safe from the worst ones, which is partly why we have laws--and should enforce them. I don't know about the jobs thing--I think Americans who want jobs will get them if they are willing to work hard, it may be that a little competition is good for us because I have to say I've seen some pretty poor work ethics in some places I've worked and I do think some folks definitely take advantage.

But what can be done about illegal immigrants? Now that the laws have largely been ignored what will fix this mess? When I walk into Walmart most of the faces I see are foreign--it makes me wonder--what will we do with all these families if we start to enforce the laws? I hope for the best for them. I don't want them breaking the law and I hope, hope, hope that most of them are here legally.

Perhaps some day their children's children will remember their stories when eating a special meal, like Knefla, from their heritage.

Hopefully America will still be the beacon then that it is today-- a place where people can be free to believe and speak as they choose and strive to make something for themselves and their families. That is the heartbeat of my conservativism. I don't apologize for it. I do wish I could show others what it is to me, but I know they have just as much passion about their own beliefs. I wish though that respect between those with opposing views could be improved. I think I am as guilty of that as the next person. I know its hard to disagree with respect--but I hope I can do so and I hope others can as well.


  1. The Knefla soup sounds delicious!

    Are you willing to give out your recipe?

    I am currently working on the pre-production of an independent feature film called UNDER JAKOB'S LADDER. It's about the Germans from Russia who lived--and suffered--in the early days of the Soviet Union.

    I'd love to have our "caterers" make this soup to serve on set this coming spring. (Being an independent film, we too must be frugal. Hence our caterers are women/men who volunteer for make food for the cast and crew).

  2. I'd be happy to give you my version of this recipe--but it is probably not as authentic as others you might find out there--because I am not a descendant of the germans from russia. If I were you I'd contact someone in Fargo ND for an authentic recipe-- but let me know--I'll send you one if you like.

  3. Yes, please let me know of your version of the recipe.

    Most of our cast/crew are not real Germans from Russia, so they'd probably prefer an "Americanized" version of the soup anyway!


  4. Hi Maria--
    Check the blog tomorrow night, I'll try to have a post with the recipe up there. I'm a little too busy today to get it together.