Anyliss is in my Kitchen

kitchenThe aroma of baking bread mingles with sautéed cabbage, onion and ground beef.  I can’t make Kraut Berok (Cabbage Pockets) without thinking of my Grandmother, Anna (Anyliss) Koch Schauermann, who immigrated from Russia as a 10-year-old orphan. Grandma’s father, a tailor who traveled to Siberia for work, died of pneumonia when Anyliss was two.  Her mother, a young widow with two children, remarried quickly, as women with few options did in her time and place.  A year later Anyliss’s Mama died in childbirth. So at three years old, Anna went to live with relatives. A sad and hard beginning for the woman whose influence would stretch far and deep in the generations and kitchens of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Anna was raised by an Aunt and Uncle who had three sons and no daughters, and her brother, Peter by another relative who had only daughters. Anna learned and fulfilled obligations that fell to household females:  laundry, cooking and baking, sewing, gardening, preserving and cleaning.

Grandma could do anything.  So while Grandpa farmed the cash crops–sugar beets and beans—and the alfalfa and hay they used to feed their livestock, Grandma tended the garden, kitchen, chickens, and seven children. She churned butter, butchered chickens, milked the family cow, grew a vegetable garden, hand stitched quilts, sewed clothes, baked, boiled, roasted, fermented and griddled ages-old German foods. The foods Mom learned to cook are simple meals with few ingredients.  They reflect a poor immigrant farmer’s diet common among the German people who immigrated to the States, hoping for a better life for their children.

Blina, the German yeasty crepe is perhaps my all-time favorite.  The batter is started the night before and then finished and baked into griddle wonders for breakfast. When we eat Kartoffel Kleez we use eggs from our chickens and potatoes from our root cellar.  I feel most like I am walking in the steps of my Grandmother as we sit down before a steaming bowl of boiled potatoes and egg and flour dumplings that have been scrambled together with eggs.

Simple and satisfying.  It’s how I strive to live on our small farm, growing fruits and vegetables for our CSA families. We are trying to preserve food and life in whatever ways we can.

This winter my mother gave me the quilt that Grandma made for her and Dad as a wedding gift.  It covers the bed in the guest room upstairs and I am reminded how much a life can be preserved in something as simple and enduring as a quilt.  Equally impressionable are Grandma’s recipes, which I learned by cooking alongside Mom until I got them right, experimenting with the egg to flour ratio for the dumplings that were the crowning glory of Kartoffel Kleez.

I’ve put some of Grandma’s recipes down on paper for the sake of my children and grandchildren, to whom I don’t trust the memory of the oral tradition overly much.  I don’t trust my own oral memory now that I’ve joined a world where printed words take precedence over spoken ones.  I want my grandchildren to remember their heritage, even as every generation their lives become richly woven with the histories and heritages of other women.

The Kraut Berok is done baking and I’m cooling these steamy pillows of goodness before biting into one.  Like my mother before me, I’ll save some for the road ahead—or the unexpected guest.  When Mom packed up us for a family trip to Colorado to visit relatives and the farm, Mom often made Kraut Berok for our lunch stop along the way.  Cabbage Pockets became a midday reward for traveling well.

 cabbag pockets

In some ways Grandma’s recipes are reminders of a long journey.  Creating German foods give me opportunities to pause, and to remember the long line of women from whom I’ve come and the heritage I hope to preserve and pass forward to my daughters and granddaughters through good simple food, and the skill to prepare it.




  • Thanks, Allison. You would have liked Anyliss.

  • Marvelous. In a week I will learn from my parents how to make sauerkraut, and we will use cabbage growing in my garden. Your article captures the pull I feel towards learning and living the ways of my ancestors. My grandparents passed when I was too young and foolish to ask for their knowledge and wisdom. I hope not to make that mistake with my parents.

    • I am encouraged whenever I hear others who share the pull towards learning and living the ways of your ancestors. May you glean well from your parents what you can!

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