While at a family funeral back in November, a cousin of mine said that our cousin Bruce had an old 78 RPM album that contained a speech delivered by my great-grandfather Herman Swart. He was on the Board of Directors for the Oklahoma Farmers Union for 18 years until his death in 1962.
Herman came to America from Germany at the age of 14 in 1895 with his family aboard the SS Braunschweig. I’ve seen lots of photos of him, but the thought of being able to hear his voice is amazing. I wonder if he still spoke with a German accent after all those years.
The wedding portrait on the left is of Herman & Bessie Swart in 1912.
I contacted cousin Bruce about the record and he is going to make a digital copy of the recording and send me one!
While talking of family heirlooms, he said that he has a handwritten copy (in my great-grandmother’s hand) of a recipe for Speck und Decken, a family recipe brought to America. It’s a whole-wheat pancake with raisins and hint of licorice flavor. It also has bacon and sausage in it. Most people think it’s a peculiar food, and I guess it is. But since I have grown up with it, I just love it. We only have it once a year (New Year’s), and it is something that I always look forward to.
I think it must have been developed in Germany when the family was running the bakery in Mitling-Mark. They were the village bakers for about a hundred years before coming to the U.S. I’ve never met anyone from Germany or German descent who has heard of this recipe. So I think it truly must be a family recipe.
I had no idea that a receipt in her own hand survived. I remember my grandparents telling me stories of everyone going to “Mom Swart’s” (as they called her) for Speck und Decken. She would have several cast iron skillets on the stove to fry enough for the whole family. They laughed when remembering the times she would get the skillets too hot and smoke would fill the house. They would have to open all the windows to clear it out. It makes me proud to think of all the generations that have shared good times with each other because of this recipe. It is something that I make each year, and will share with my own children. I can just imagine everyone sitting around visiting a laughing, while children of all ages played about in the house and in the yard.
It makes me smile.