Monday, September 28, 2009

Amanuensis Monday: Sauerkraut, Palascinta, the Titanic, and the Rhein

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue transcribing in ten minute segments the tape my grandfather, Martin Deutsch, and his older brother, Ted Deutsch, recorded in 1977.

They had begun talking about their immigration to America in 1913 (at ages 6 and 11), but have returned to talking about the farm they lived on in Transylvania.


Ted: We had a place we called the cellar, but that was under the barn.
Martin: The cold storage
Ted: Where we kept sauerkraut
Martin: And the apples, we’d save during the winter
Ted: We had enough to last the winter anyhow. In the spring we had to live out of the garden. New stuff coming up. Cucumbers.
Martin: You always had enough sauerkraut, cabbage I guess
Ted: Yeah we had that, we had a barrel of sauerkraut.
Martin: I remember you had to cut up your cabbage and throw in the stuff, and
Ted: And take a rock and put it over it
Martin: I thought you went in there and stepped on it to squeeze it down. I know you did that with wines and grapes.
Ted: We did that when we made wine, yeah. We’d get in barefoot and press the wine. I don’t recall doing it on sauerkraut. I didn’t make that much of it.
Martin: I had a recollection of that, but I might be wrong.
Ted: I know we had to keep it in a barrel in the basement, and we had a big rock to keep the cover on it.
Martin: And we probably had several barrels of it, so if nothing else you were going to have sauerkraut.
Ted: That’s right.
Martin: I don’t know where we got bread, wheat, and flour
Ted: Dad got that in trade. The bread and the wheat
Martin: Did we have to make our own flour
Ted: Yeah, we had to grind it. We had that grinder. A primitive grinder. Two kinds of wheel connected to a rod, turn the wheel around.
Martin: It was probably a heavy stone that ground it
Ted: We made our own flour. Or if you wanted to there was a mill over there. Next to the river there was a mill.
Martin: The old mill stream.
Ted: The mill was built way down below the level of the river so we had a waterfall driving the wheel of the mill.
Martin: Which was the common thing of course.
Ted: You could take it there and they’d grind it for you for a small amount of money. So we had wheat stored, and we had corn stored. And when we wanted to use it we would grind it ourselves. The corn we ground ourselves, but the wheat we didn’t. I think the wheat we took to the mill.
Martin: I know in later years I remember we kept chickens, so we had some eggs I suppose. If nothing else.
Ted: Yeah we had eggs.
Martin: We probably didn’t have much meat of any kind.
Ted: We also made…during the season we made cheese from goat milk, or we also had lambs. People had lambs. We went up and they made cheese in big brown cakes, and we’d take the cheese home. That would last a long time.
Martin: We’d probably have something like they have in Mexico, what do you call it, palacsinta. You can always bake those
Ted: You always make that, and they stay a long time. But they have those big brown wheels of cheese they make up in the mountains and bring it down. They’d hang it up in the home to dry.
Martin: I was just trying to figure out how we got our meats. We didn’t have any.
Ted: Meats. We had a butcher that opened up once on Friday every week. That was the only time you could get meat.
Martin: And your meat was probably poultry mostly.
Ted: Poultry we used at home. We had poultry at home we raised. But if you wanted meat you could buy it at the butcher shop that was open once a week on Fridays.
Martin: They probably would slaughter a cow or something, kosherized course.
Ted: If you wanted a chicken killed you would have to go to the shochet who would kill it for you. You couldn’t kill it yourself. That’s how we got our meats.
Martin: Well, Jean then took care of the crowd. It was only for a period of a year. Mother left there and I still haven’t – you showed me that passport, but I couldn’t figure out the year. I think the year was omitted in some way. Or it gave a year, of course a passport needn’t be used the time it was issued. You can have it in your possession for a year.


Ted: We got here in this country in February 1913.
Martin: February 1913. It sounds approximately. I saw a movie just a few nights ago on television of the sinking of the Titanic which was in October or November of 1912. I do remember from my own memory about discussions about the ocean vessel sinking. It was a deterrent at the time.
Ted: I remember too. We had newspapers. Hungarian papers had the story about the sinking and the life lost on the Titanic. And the news came to us finally. It rippled down to the villages.
Martin: It must have been a deterrent to most people that were thinking of coming over.
Ted: It didn’t hit me as a kid. It didn’t mean much to me.
Martin: It was still an adventure to you, I imagine.
Ted: Even when I read about the disaster I didn’t realize at my age how many people died. It didn’t register with me even at my age.
Martin: I’m trying to figure out a sort of…if mother came over one year before, which was 1912.
Ted: She came in 1912
Martin: Then she must have earned enough to put a down payment.
Ted: That’s right. She was here a year before
Martin: Suppose she earned 2-300 dollars, that would do it, wouldn’t it as a down payment.
Ted: Of course she lived with her sister, and she probably didn’t have to pay too much board or lodging with her.
Martin: She probably borrowed some too.
Ted: She put everything away. But she signed up and they gave her credit for the entire family if it …. I really don’t know what the amount was for the entire family. Maybe they got a rate for kids. You know, smaller kids didn’t have to pay, or half fare. But I would say the amount of at least 500 dollars. Which was a lot of money in those days.
Martin: Especially for her and she had to live on it
Ted: Which would also include train fare.
Martin: After all Chicago is quite a ways
Ted: From New York, and the train from Varalmas to Bremen.
Martin: Yeah I was wondering about the ride from Varalmas to wherever you’re going
Ted: Bremen
Martin: And you’re covering a thousand miles there.
Ted: Maybe it cost more, I don’t really know.
Martin: I think you had to come through Hungry and Austria, and then cross over through Germany to Bremen, which was on the West Coast of Germany.
Ted: We crossed to Germany. We went to Germany.
Martin: We had to get through Austria to get to Germany.
Ted: I doubt it. We had to go South
Martin: You had to go North. That area where we were was almost the southeast corner of Austria Hungary. You see it ultimately was ceded to Romania, which was southwest of Hungary. Southeast I mean.
Ted: We had to get to Bremen and I know we went through Berlin. That I know.
Martin: You might have gone through Berlin. You might have gone up to Vienna and across to Berlin and over to Bremen. That’s my thought what happened. And do you think we took a train then?
Ted: We were on a train
Martin: That’s right, I don’t have any kind of recollection.
Ted: That was my first trip on a train. I’ll never forget it because we took the train. We went to Huedin, we got on the train. And I remember going through Berlin because they told us on the train this is Berlin, and I saw the first time electric lights over there in Berlin.
Martin: I imagine that’s where I saw my first automobile.
Ted: Well we didn’t get off in Berlin
Martin: We stayed on the train all the way
Ted: We stayed on the train to Bremen. We didn’t get off until Bremen. And waited there for the ship. The Bremen Rhein was the name of the ship.
Martin: You think the Bremen Rhein. A German passenger ship.
Ted: That was the name of the ship, the Bremen Rhein. We were on the ship for two weeks.

One of the difficulties of transcribing audio is running across an unfamiliar word, and trying to figure out what is being said. For example, I heard what sounded like "polechenta" and from context sounded like it should be a Mexican dish of some sort my grandfather was familiar with and reminded him of a Hungarian dish. But it took several creative searches to come upon Palascinta - a Hungarian crepe.

Recipes for sauerkraut do indicate pressing is necessary, but nowhere do I see any suggestion to use one's feet, as with grapes.

The route from Varalmas to Bremen is definitely Northwesterly.

I like how Ted's memory of the train ride to Bremen is reinforced through his recollection of the first time he saw electric lights at the stop in Berlin.

If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post below, or in the comments.

No comments: