Grandma talked a lot about food. Perhaps it was because she was such a great cook. Or, it could be that she had to grow her own crops and slaughter her own livestock – pigs, chicken, goats, geese, whatever. Yep, in pre-World War I Germany there were no big box supermarkets. You did it all by yourself. Grandma gets into a great deal more. Oh yeah, she’s rocking the dialog now.
Btw, if you’re ever on Ellis Island you can find her name on the wall. And if you want to know what she went through on her way here from Germany have a look at the exhibit photos. Seriously, I’m amazed that she made it to the States alive.
INTERVIEWER: Let’s go back to your maiden name. Your friend Laura has that information.
GRANDMA: My maiden name is Aichner A-I-C-H-N-E-R and my brother had a big business in Ahnspar (sp?) Germany, my nephew is a doctor in Vitzpahten (sp?) Germany. He’s married and has several of kids, now. Course I haven’t heard from him in a long time. Now that my eyesight is bad I can’t to him any more. So that’s the way it goes. But she got, we talked about it and all, so if she goes over there all she has to look for is my name, my maiden name.
INTERVIEWER: You should also tell her a little bit when you see her about the town and what you remember of the town so she’ll know what the changes have been.
GRANDMA: Well I guess when she goes over there she’ll gonna go with uh, group, and they, get out of the group and go by their owns you know. And she’ll see a difference. Farmer, what they have here in the United States…
GRANDMA: …the farmer is completely different unless changes, because I’ve been gone for over 70 years you know.
INTERVIEWER: When did you leave again?
GRANDMA: 28, 1928. So that’s about 72 years I’ve been gone you know. And they have tractors. I, I understood that they have tractors now which at that time they had oxen and horses. We had, we had two oxen which did the work, and the uh, the farmers they had horses ya know. But no farmer for about thirty five, forty acres they had oxen.
INTERVIEWER: And your father had how many?
GRANDMA: Two oxen.
INTERVIEWER: But, so he had 35 or 40 acres.
GRANDMA: He had 35 acres.
GRANDMA: And we had oxen We had four cows. We had pigs We had chickens. We had a goat. We had geese, about 30 of them every summer. Then in the winter time we kill ’em all.
GRANDMA: Then you get to October we kill all the geese. Bring ’em on to market. We take, we take all the feathers and everything else you know.
INTERVIEWER: He slaughtered them himself?
GRANDMA: Oh yeah, we used ta…we used to turn their necks.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, yeah, but I meant the pig
GRANDMA: Oh yeah, we slaughtered about one pig a year. My job was to stir the blood. I used to hated it.
INTERVIEWER: Do what?
GRANDMA: Stir the blood.
INTERVIEWER: Stir the blood?
GRANDMA: Yeah when, when they, when you kill a pig they try to uh, hit ’em on the heart so they didn’t suffer much, ya know.
INTERVIEWER: Hit them on the heart?
GRANDMA: Yeah, stick them on the heart.
INTERVIEWER: With a knife?
GRANDMA: Big, big knife. And then uh, there’s blood running out. Well you have to save that in order to make the blood sausages and all that. See that’s what the blood sausages was made.
INTERVIEWER: And that was your job, to collect the blood?
GRANDMA: My job always was to stir the blood. But that was all.
INTERVIEWER: You mean stir it in what?
GRANDMA: Well you have to have a little winnergainer (container?) to stir the blood or else it clots.
INTERVIEWER: It clots?
GRANDMA: Mm hmm.
INTERVIEWER: So, it was in a container, a pan?
INTERVIEWER: And then you had to keep stirring it?
GRANDMA: Continuously. As long as it was bleeding you had to keep stirring it.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, as long as it was bleeding you had to keep stirring it?
GRANDMA: Uh huh.
INTERVIEWER: And then when it stopped bleeding what did you do with the blood?
GRANDMA: Then, they, that’s the woman’s job to make the sausages and stuff like that ya know. And then, uh, after it stopped bleeding and all that, then you cut, uh, the pig in half and hang it up. See then you cut the legs off you know cut the whole pig in pieces after that see.
INTERVIEWER: I, I don’t think I’d want to eat any more pork.
GRANDMA: Well, I tell you what.
INTERVIEWER: No, I’m just teasing you. Because that was very, you were all very courageous.
GRANDMA: Well, I tell you, you get raised that way and you don’t know any different.
INTERVIEWER: You had to do what you had to do.
GRANDMA: Yeah. Because like the guts and the inside you know. You cleaned them out and then turned them upside down. See, that’s how they stuff ’em. Your guts get taken inside out. Turn them on the other side. That’s how you make your sausages and all that you know.
INTERVIEWER: Nothing went to waste did it?
GRANDMA: Oh no. And then on the ears and the uh, what is it? The ears…
INTERVIEWER: How ’bout the feet?
GRANDMA: The feet, part of the feet, you take and you make suls from it.
GRANDMA: You ever eat suls? S-U-…S-U-L-S.
INTERVIEWER: No, what is that?
GRANDMA: That’s the stuff when they have cut up the uh, the ears, and all that, and uh, they put em in uh, vinegar (pronounced winegar) and kind of gel like.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, they pickle them?
GRANDMA: Oh, I love em!
INTERVIEWER: Do they cook the ears first?
GRANDMA: Uh, really they cook’ em all first.
INTERVIEWER: They cook them first and then they put them in this vinegar brine.
GRANDMA: Yeah, uh huh.
INTERVIEWER: OK. OK. Yeah, well I can see that
GRANDMA: And it’s uh, the Mexican’s go great for that stuff I tell you.
INTERVIEWER: The who?
INTERVIEWER: They like them?
GRANDMA: They love that stuff just like the German do.
INTERVIEWER: Well so can you buy them at the market?
GRANDMA: Oh yeah!
INTERVIEWER: Pickled. Pickled pig ear…
GRANDMA: Pickled sals.
INTERVIEWER: Well see what I don’t know what you’re educating me Maggie?
INTERVIEWER: I’m serious. I’m serious.
GRANDMA: The uh, the sals, only a certain stores, only certain butcher shop have ’em. Now in uh, uh, where we lived in Mark West
GRANDMA: There was a butcher shop you could get them any time.
INTERVIEWER: So you had them there in Sonoma County.
GRANDMA: Yeah! And one day I bought em and the fella came along and he said ‘do you like that stuff too?’ and I said yeah. I said where you come from, he said ‘Indiana.’ I just loved that stuff. <laughs>
INTERVIEWER: So do you just eat them as they come out of a jar or do you eat them with something else?
GRANDMA: No, it’s it’s cut.
INTERVIEWER: So they’re sliced.
GRANDMA: They’re sliced like everything else.
INTERVIEWER: Ok, so then you just eat them sliced.
GRANDMA: On sandwiches.
INTERVIEWER: So you put them on sandwiches?
GRANDMA: Oh yeah.
GRANDMA: Oh yeah!
GRANDMA: It’s good stuff.
INTERVIEWER: So what else do you put in the sandwich with it, you just put that in the sandwich?
GRANDMA: Well if you want lettuce and stuff like that I never cared for it.
INTERVIEWER: You just like it plain.
GRANDMA: That’s right and stuff like that on the rye bread.
INTERVIEWER: OK, just go ahead Maggie.
GRANDMA: Let’s see, you cut your pig apart and then you put aside what you want to smoke and make smoke meat of it. It doesn’t have to be smoked, but you cannot use coal to smoke the meat. You got to use strictly wood. If you smoked it you have to have a chimney built. They have a smoke house really built in to the chimney. You know. You can walk in it and then you can hang your meat and your pieces like that were cut you know. And you put ’em, put ’em in the thing and smoke ’em. But you gotta use wood, not coal.
INTERVIEWER: Wood not coal.
GRANDMA: It’s…now in Chicago you can get smoked butt. But you think I can see it out here? No way! It’s a little tiny, it runs about two and a half pounds. Some of ’em run about three. It’s made from pork. It’s smoked. And tastes delicious. It’s almost, it’s almost like ham you know. Ham comes from the pork too you know. But, I’ve been lookin’ for smoked butt out here I can’t find it nowhere. And I used to buy it a lot in Chicago. It’s made in a form like this you know. And uh, there might be a little fat to it but it’s good.
INTERVIEWER: Well, we used to buy a lot of pork roast.
GRANDMA: Yeah, pork roast. Pork loin.
INTERVIEWER: But also the butt but they weren’t smoked.
GRANDMA: No. They were not smoked. You got the butt. You got the pork loins. You got the loins. And you got the uh, the ribs. You know. But the you take the uh…
INTERVIEWER: But they smoke the ham hocks here.
GRANDMA: Yeah I know, but that’s different.
INTERVIEWER: I know and I don’t like the smoked for my, for my soup, I don’t like that smoke.
GRANDMA: Oh no, uh uh, it doesn’t taste good.
INTERVIEWER: No it doesn’t taste good.
GRANDMA: Uh uh. Uh uh. Uh uh. NO, but I think smoke butt is almost like ham. And I bet you would like that.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, I bet I would.
GRANDMA: But I can’t find it around here. It has, it’s been, it’s put together, it’s not bigger than two and a half pounds. Which is right for one person, you know, because you can use it for a whole week, you know I…and uh, it’s smoked but, no way. I tried every doggone placed there is but I cannot find it out here. But Chicago, anywhere.
INTERVIEWER: I do have a question. This, in your home you had a fireplace.
GRANDMA: Yeah, no we don’t have a fireplace.
GRANDMA: You had a smokehouse.
INTERVIEWER: OH so you had a smoke house, OK.
GRANDMA: We had a smokehouse that’s built into the chimney.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, OK, now I get it.
GRANDMA: See that’s built into the chimney.
INTERVIEWER: But you only used it once a year because I thought you said you only slaughtered, your father slaughtered only one a year.
GRANDMA: Sometimes two. It depends. It depends you know.
INTERVIEWER: On what they need to eat.
GRANDMA: Yeah, that’s right sometimes they need more meat the other times. And you might get short on meat, then you, you slaughter another pork. It’s like when you buy beef in a store, you know, a butcher shop.
INTERVIEWER: Did you buy beef?
GRANDMA: Oh yeah. Yeah, you buy it at a butcher shop.
INTERVIEWER: OK, so…
GRANDMA: you can pork. Pork you had yourself , but you can buy beef, you can buy lamb, you can buy, uh, goat, not goat, what is it? OK, that’s beef you can buy, you can buy lamb, and uh…
GRANDMA: Chicken, yeah but they raised them yourselves.
INTERVIEWER: Did you father, he had cows but they were milking cows right?
GRANDMA: Yeah, all milking cows. And another thing is you have sheep, uh, a baby, a baby every year for which you make money from it you know. A cow carries a pi.., carries a calf 48 ho..48 months. You know like…
INTERVIEWER: Wait a minute, you’re saying a cow carries a baby for two years?
GRANDMA: No no no, no.
INTERVIEWER: Well, 48 months would be 2 years (4 actually).
GRANDMA: 48 weeks. It depends on how the cow carries. You know, sometimes a cow carries better than other ones. You know what I mean? Sometimes after the mother gets rid of the baby she might be ready for another one.
INTERVIEWER: So he would have them bred with, um, somebody else’s.
GRANDMA: Oh, steer. Yeah, they had maybe two or three steers in a town and you’d have them bred with them. See you have to take the cow away some place else because we wouldn’t have enough for a barn to keep that stuff you know.
INTERVIEWER: How long did it take, do you recall it took to smoke? Now you father didn’t smoke the whole pig right?
GRANDMA: No just the pieces. I think it takes a month on slow fire. And and if he’ll kill a pig in the summer time you wouldn’t use much heat then, but then its gets hot you know. In, in Germany. Whew.
INTERVIEWER: Did it get hot in the summer where you lived?
GRANDMA: Oh yeah. It gets real hot there. But no humility (humidity).
INTERVIEWER: It’s dry.
GRANDMA: It’s dry. Dry heat but you know it get hot I tell you it gets real hot, no kidding about it.
Sweet monkeys I’m not sure I could’ve hacked it in Germany back then. How ’bout you? Feel free to leave comments below or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.