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Photos from North Dakota State University's Germans from Russia Heritage Collection show people from across the state carrying on their families' heritage and history in the foods they prepare. Photos by Michael M. Miller / NDSU Libraries, Photo illustration by Wayne Elfman / The Forum

Of Holubtsi and Heritage: New Cookbook Shares Germans from Russia Recipes, Memoirs and History

By Deneen Gilmour

The Fargo Forum, Fargo, North Dakota, February 27, 2002, page B1


Long after immigrants give up traditional clothing and cease speaking their mother tongue, they continue enjoying cuisine brought to America by their grandmothers and great-grandmothers.

Knowing that, Rose Marie Gueldner of Anamoose, N.D., has spent much of the past decade researching and writing "German Food and Folkways: Heirloom Memories from Europe, South Russia and the Great Plains."

Now her work is printed and bound in a 224-page cookbook-history book combination.

Too much food, facts
Initially, Gueldner set out to write a little booklet, a compilation of recipes and historical nuggets for her brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins - all of German-Russian decent.

But she became so engrossed in her research that the information exploded beyond booklet proportions. An educator and writer, she began to wonder if she had the makings of a book.

When she moved from California, where she was a university instructor, back to Anamoose in 1995, the project picked up steam. She returned to Anamoose to care for her elderly mother and discovered she had plenty of time to research and test recipes.

She connected with the folks at the German form Russia Heritage Collection at the NDSU Libraries and they encouraged her to think bigger that a booklet and write the type of historical cuisine book she envisioned.

Michael Miller, an NDSU Bibliographer, was chief among her cheerleaders and supporters. Gueldner said Miller's staunch support was vital to transforming her ring binder of research notes into a book.

"I've done almost nothing else for five years," she says. "I've tested recipes and researched and had to cut out some other things I like to do."

It has been worth it, she said, and will be even more gratifying if people of German-Russia decent discover old family recipes and morsels of their heritage in the book.

For Gueldner, that's what the project is all about: Connecting the present with the past, using food as the common thread.

"Ethnic cooking with its dependence on the pride and practice of group members is fragile in a foreign land, but it isn't easily eliminated," she wrote in her book's introduction.

"Part of my mission," she says, "is to give dignity and the spotlight to these pioneers."

Thousands left Russia
Some 300,000 Germans from Russia - Germans who initially sought a better life in Russia and ultimately opted for a new life in America - arrived on the northern plains beginning in the 1870s. The largest concentration of these settlers took up farming in what is known as "The German Russian Triangle," an area in south-central North Dakota and north-eastern South Dakota.

In towns like Strasburg, Linton, Frederick and Eureka, families did - and still do - enjoy borscht, strudel, mashed pumpkin and potatoes, oxtail soup, button soup and pigs-in-blankets.

"As a child, I loved the holubtsi (cabbage rolls)," Gueldner says. "They were special, done on a Sunday. Having made them again and again now, I realize how labor intensive it was. So, it was a labor of love when mothers made them."

Food for mind and body
Asked if the book is for cooks, history buffs or Germans from Russia, Gneldner answers, "All three. I tried to approach the needs of all three audiences," she says. "I wanted historical context for the scholar but didn't want it bogged down in footnotes. It's also for people who want a collection of grandmother's recipes, of wonderful historical foods. And it's for those who like to try different cuisines."

Scholars on Germans from Russia believe she had hit her mark.

"This is not just a compilation of recipes - it's a genuine survey of foods which are unknown to some, exotic to others and delightfully routine to many who have Eastern European roots," writes William C. Sherman associated professor emeritus of North Dakota State University. He is the author of "Plains Folk: North Dakota's Ethnic History" and "Prairie Mosaic: An Ethnic Atlas of Rural North Dakota."

Timothy Kloberdanz, a German-Russian researcher at NDSU, after reading the book, said, "If the German-Russians have a Martha Stewart anywhere in North America, it may very well be Rose Marie Gueldner."

As Gueldner neared completion of the book she realized it was too large. "I took all the breads out of this book," she said. Those bread recipes will serve at the seed for another book, and possibly for a "Germans in the Kitchen" series.

For purchase information, go to the Germans for Russia Heritage Collection Web site at (library.ndsu.edu/grhc/order/cookbooks) Or, call the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at (701) 231-8416.

German Fried (Raw) Potatoes
Deutsche rohe Bratkartoffeln
_8 medium "old" potatoes
_2 to 4 tablespoons lard, bacon fat or par butter
Wash and peel potatoes; hold in cold water, if necessary. Slice about 1/8-inch or thinner. Heat 2 tablespoons of the fat in a large iron frying pan over moderate heat until sizzling hot, add potatoes and fry, carefully scraping browned ones up from bottom with a spatula. Fry 25 minutes or until tender and browned throughout, adding salt and pepper to taste. Use additional fat if needed. Serve very hot.

When sliced thicker, potatoes were steam-fried before browning: Add potatoes to hot fat, cover and fry slowly for 15 to 20 minutes, shaking pan back and forth several times. Remove cover and cook for 5 or 10 minutes more, carefully turning potatoes once or twice with a spatula so they become golden brown on top and bottom.

About the Author

Rose Marie Gueldner grew up on a farm near Anamoose, N.D.

Both sets of her grandparents emigrated from South Russia in the 1800s.

She recieved her undergraduate degree from North Dakota State University and master's degree in education / food and nutrition from Iowa State University at Ames.

She taught for 20 years in the California State University System at Fresno and San Jose. She lived in Germany for a time and worked in private business before moving back to North Dakota seven years ago.

Reprinted with permission of the Fargo Forum, Fargo, North Dakota.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller
North Dakota State University Libraries
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
Libraries
NDSU Dept #2080
PO Box 6050
Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Tel: 701-231-8416
Fax: 701-231-6128
Last Updated:
Director: Michael M. Miller
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