Blog

The Rooms are Silent

This is an archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” first published 13 Aug 2013.

As we clean and prepare the house for sale, the rooms are slowly emptying as family members remove the items that they treasure. These rooms that for over 50 years rang with conversations, with laughter, and with tears, and prayer. While looking for a photo of the large maple that was damaged in the storm last week, I sorted through a stack of photos that were taken by my children. In amongst the usual “up the nose” shots was a candid photo of Butch and Marie in their respective wing chairs in the living room. I believe that children are able to capture the most natural “real” shots. These little people are able to stand there armed with a camera almost unnoticed. While the images may be a bit blurry, they capture honest moments in time. So there they were, captured just as I remember them, relaxing on a Sunday afternoon in that sweet spot between lunch and preparing dinner. Marie sharing a moment of conversation with her niece Kady.

The memories of Butch and Marie in these chairs span the decades. From the many family gatherings to Christmas Eve naps before Midnight Mass. Marie quietly “poofing” the minutes away, and when the timer goes off stating she “hadn’t slept a wink!”

My daughter recently shared this memory through a Faith Journey biography she had to write as part of a retreat. “I was about 5 years old or so, and spending the weekend at my grandparents. One night, I could not sleep, so I went downstairs to find my grandparents saying the rosary in the living room, as they did every night. Grandpa sat me on his lap, and they taught me the Our Father. After some time passed I went back upstairs and went to sleep.” Prayer was a large part of who Butch and Marie were. And the quiet of the living room was the perfect place for them to either pray alone, or most often together.

On May 19, 2012 we gathered as a family for a final farewell to the house, and to share memories. While pictures of Christmas trees, numerous attempts to get the perfect Christmas card photo, gatherings of friends and family could, and will, fill volumes, it was ending the evening in this room that just felt right. 

Gary and Dan sitting in their parents wing chairs, the rest of us spread out throughout the rest of the room quietly remembering. Sharing the memory of a lifetime.

I have moved the wings into the bay window, giving the room a new look as the house is prepared for the estate sale. The sale of these treasured items that the family does not have room for in their homes. After the estate sale, the house will be ready for its new life, a new family to love and take care of it.

St. Mary’s Hilbert Cookbook, 1970s – v. good!

August in Little Suamico, Wisconsin

This is an archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” and was first published 21 Jul 2013.

This past weekend we were in Suamico, and  with a bit of time to waste Gary thought it would be fun to try to find the cottage the family used to rent back in the early 60s, unfortunately we came close, but could not positively identify the cottage – well it HAS been 50 years!

While it was always difficult to get Butch on the road (there was always one last thing that needed to be done at the factory), once on the road he was ready to relax and enjoy a week at the cottage. For a week in August the family would rent a cottage located in Little Suamico, on the bay of Green Bay. The family had learned about the cottage from Butch’s sister Hank, as she and her family had  been renting the cottage for a few years. A week at a cottage meant visitors, so the family made a point of visiting each year. It really was the best of all worlds for the kids, as they got to spend “their” week at the cottage, but enjoy other family members weeks via day trips.

Dennis and Dan, bayside

The cottage was an unassuming building that contained a large fieldstone fireplace, and windows that had a legacy. The owner of the cottage had a brother who was a contractor in Chicago. One of the brother’s regular accounts was Marshall Fields. When Fields changed out the State Street store windows, he was able to “dispose” of them as he wished, so he brought them up to Little Suamico and installed them on the Bay side of his brother’s cottage, creating a wall of glass. What is not visible in this photo is a large wicker swing. The family would gather on the porch in the evening to talk, swing, and look at the Bay, listening to the calming sounds of the water. If they were lucky it would also be a full moon.

Each year on the way to the cottage the would stop for Florida citrus and corn at the Florida Fruit Market. This stop added to Marie’s already groaning list of foods that had been packed to not only feed the family for a week, but the many friends and relatives who would stop in for a day or an evening. The Florida Fruit Market was a fascinating place for young boys to explore, as not only was it full of citrus, but also all the souvenirs of a Florida vacation were there for purchase. Gary remembers shells, and beach jewelry and all sorts of cheap but interesting items.

Once at the cottage the family would settle in for a fun week on the Bay. Some years Cub would bring his 16′ fiberglass runabout boat up for the family to enjoy during the week. This boat was perfect for waterskiing  and fishing. Fishing was a daily activity, and one evening the whole family was out on the water. Well, the whole family minus one. The family’s Boxer Fawn had been left behind, but on this particular evening she too wanted to go fishing. Taking matters into her own paws, she swam out to join the family in the boat. The boys were thrilled that she had done so, but I can imagine Marie, not so much.

Another water activity were the water boats. I love the contrast between these three pictures. In the one photo you have Dick giving a fully dressed Dan a ride. In the other, you have 38-year-old Marie wearing her first and only swim suit, topped off by a life preserver. I do love the pure look of happiness that I see on her face as she gets off the bike.

The best that I can date these photos is August 1960, as they were included in an album with other photos from that year. Each photo had been cropped to fit into the sleeve and unfortunately the date stamp was on the bottom of this developed batch. We can also assume  that these were taken the families week at the cottage as the group photos include Fawn. If it had been a day trip to visit during other family members week, Fawn would not have been included.

Gary has this vivid memory from 1960. Hank and Syd and their family had secured the cottage for the week of July 9-16th, which happened to coincide with the Democratic National Convention being held in Los Angeles, California. The boys must have been there for an overnight as Gary remembers playing inside in the living room portion of the cottage. Unlike during their week in August, this was a cool July evening and the black and white TV glowed in the evening light as he watched the convention.  As they played, Hank came in and asked them if they would like some ice cream. Kennedy would secure the nomination on Wednesday, July 13, 1960, the third day of the convention.

While Marie looks happy in the photos, you just wonder how “relaxing” these weeks in Little Saumico really were for her. She couldn’t get away from her usual task of cooking and cleaning for large groups of family and visitors. Hamburgers, hot dogs, brats, the occasional beef roast, and of course the fish that was caught each day by the boys. But each evening sitting on the swing listening to the sound of the water as the sun slowly set over the bay was certainly a welcome change of scenery.

St. Mary’s Hilbert Cookbook, 1970s, p. 12 (good)

I Made Sauce!

This is an archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” and was first published 14 Jul 2013

This morning I woke up to a beautiful summer day. A  perfect summer breeze, low humidity, and robins in the fountain. Nothing says summer to our family as much as Rhubarb Sauce and I was pretty sure the rhubarb was ready. 

I used the recipe that was included in Kate’s rhubarb post from last summer. I am not very good with directions that are cryptic such as: “Place in saucepan with just enough water to keep from burning…” Ummm how much? I think I added too much water – but I don’t think it turned out too badly for a first go. Thank goodness there is more rhubarb to pull so I can get lots of practice. (Thanks Frank for the great plants, they are thriving in my garden.)

Recipes, time spent with family and great memories are all part of what makes our lives rich and full. How many times is a great memory sparked by a smell, or the taste of a favorite food? A recent conversation on Facebook sparked such a memory for a cousin of Gary’s. She shared with me her memory of sitting at Marie’s kitchen table copying recipes in long hand out of Marie’s collection. I can imagine her mother next to her at the table, Marie at the stove, and comfortable smells accompanied by soft conversation filling the kitchen with love. 

Lynn shared one of the recipes she copied that day, and it appropriately fits the rhubarb theme.

Marie’s Rhubarb Dream Dessert

Crust:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 5 Tbs. confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter

Blend together well. Press into an ungreased 7 1/2 X 11 X 1 1/2 inch pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. (Watch it.)

Topping:

  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 tsp. salt

Beat eggs and then add ingredients together slowly. Add 2 cups or more of chopped rhubarb. Spoon into crust and bake 35 minutes, or less if rhubarb is done. Serve warm with topping or plain cream.

NOTE: 29 Mar 2015, I found the recipe. It was “(very good)”

St. Francis Catholic Church Our Favorite Recipes, 1988, p. 137 (very good)

The Ice House is Ready!

This is an archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” and was first published 8 Feb 2013.

On November 21, 1905 Henry John Fassbender took the plunge, and purchased the White Clover Dairy Company in Hollandtown, Brown Co., Wisconsin. Not a young man, as he would soon turn 26-years-old, he knew what it would take to keep a factory of this size running. He would have help, as on January 17, 1906, he would marry the love of his life, Ida Emma Schultz.

Henry had been working in cheese factories all of his life, as in 1887 his father had built one of the first cheese factories in Outagamie County, Wisconsin, not far from the family farm in Ellington. One factory grew to two, and these family factories were now being run by his elder brother, Hubert; their parents, Peter and Elizabeth, had retired to Appleton, Outagamie Co., Wisconsin, in 1901.

One of the tasks of a cheesemaker was to harvest enough ice to last the summer. Harvesting began as soon as the ice was thick enough, usually by mid January, and continued until the house was full. That first year it was reported in the Kaukauna Times on February 9, 1906 that: “Our hustling cheesemaker Henry Faustbender [sic] is harvesting his next summer’s ice.” A couple of years later on January 31, 1908, the entry in the Kaukauna Times reported: “The ice harvest has begun in earnest and our cheesemaker and others who store ice are busy putting up next summer’s supply.”

Reporting on January 13, 1913, the Kaukauna Times stated: “Mrs. E. Van Abel, H. J. Fassbender and Matt Becker were harvesting their ice supply.” Matt Becker was a friend, and business associate of Henry’s, and Mrs. E. Van Abel is the former Ellen Wassenberg, the 71-year-old widow of Martin Van Abel, and grandmother of Wilfred and Don Van Abel. She was harvesting ice for her “Hotel.”

As we move further into the 20th Century, gasoline motors become more readily available, making harvesting ice a much quicker and easier process.

Why am I writing this post about ice? What does it have to do with food? Many years ago I had the good fortune to sit down with Henry’s daughter Mildred (Hunce), and she told me many wonderful stories about growing up in Hollandtown. Two centered around Henry’s ice house. 

Always the humanitarian looking out for the people of his community, each year Henry would open up his ice house to the people of Hollandtown. Anyone who had a need for cold storage larger than what would fit into their household ice box, could carve out a niche in the ice house as their own. As Hunce remembered it, many people took advantage of this offer, coming and going throughout the summer. 

The second story occurred on Monday, May 22, 1922, when at approximately 10:30 p.m. a boiler exploded at the factory. Hunce remembered hearing her father fly out of his bedroom on the first floor, and out the side door of the house. This door led straight to the factory. Eighty years later she could still hear the shower of sparks and debris hitting the tin roof of the house. An article published in the Appleton Post-Crescent on May 23rd states: “…the farmers were powerless to do much more than prevent flying sparks from communicating with nearby dwelling houses. At one time the sparks had started a blaze on the roof of a stucco house [Henry’s] about 200 yards away, but it was quickly extinguished…” There was nothing that could be done to save the factory, the papers reported the loss at $20,000, only “partly recovered by insurance.” One can only imagine Ida’s fear as she stood helplessly by watching the factory burn to the ground, and as she tried to comfort and protect her children. At the time of the fire Harold (Fat) was 14, Laurine (Ena) was 12, Red 11, Butch 9, Hunce 7, Cub 4, and Ann (Hank) was just eight months old.

Hunce also told me that day of her memory of the ice that was left after the ice house burned to the ground. She had a clear and distinct memory of how tall the remaining ice was, and how long it took for it to melt. Her memory, again corroborated by the newspaper article: “The ice house adjoining the factory also burned to the ground leaving a tower of ice about 35 feet high.”

Work began to rebuild White Clover Dairy began that very summer. 

St. Mary’s Hilbert Cookbook, 1970s, p. 163 – This

It Wasn’t About the Food, But the Fellowship

This is an archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” and was first published 22 Jan 2013.

Christmas 1951

As we mark the year anniversary of my mother-in-law’s death on  the 15th, and as we pack the rest of the Christmas decorations away for another year, our thoughts turn to ham.

That’s right, ham. Ham that was put in the oven to slow roast around 4:00 p.m. Christmas Eve, and to be eaten on Marie’s freshly made buns following Midnight Mass. Midnight Mass that really was held at midnight. The aroma of the ham filled the air, and created such a sense of anticipation for ten year old Gary, that he was as excited about eating the ham sandwiches as he was about attending his first Midnight Mass.

The year that Gary was in 5th grade he announced that he intended to go to Midnight Mass with his dad and his brother’s Dick and Dennis. He remembers his mother’s disappointment that he would not be attending morning Mass with her and five year old Dan, but he was determined to go. His big brother Dennis had been going for years, as he was only in first grade the first time that he attended Midnight Mass as the carrier of the baby Jesus. 

Christmas 1956

Christmas Eve in the Fassbender household was not the big event in those days as it was in later years. There was just too much to do. The tree was up and decorated, but there was still last minute cleaning and preparation that needed to be taken care of as Butch and Marie planned for all the guests (sometimes as many as 100), that would stop by on Christmas day. Presents also needed to be retrieved from their hiding places and placed around the tree. Midnight Mass and those much anticipated sandwiches were still hours in the future. 

So shortly before midnight, the Fassbender men headed to Mass where the St. Francis Men’s Choir made the evening magical. Nothing said Christmas more than waiting in anticipation, a little chilly in the darkened church, for those first notes to come floating out of the choir loft. Arriving home around 1:00 a.m., Marie was waiting for them with the kitchen table set for the much anticipated snack. The family sat down to their ham sandwiches, a few pieces of homemade candy, and then it was off to bed.

Christmas morning started early, as people would begin arriving as early as 10:00 a.m. The neighborhood kids and their dads, most likely booted out of the house so the women could prepare dinner, would start floating in to see what the family had received for Christmas. Marie would be busy getting Christmas dinner ready, which in those days was turkey, dressing, and all the rest of the side dishes, but Butch would be ready to greet their friends and neighbors and share a little cheer. As people floated in and out of the house, Marie with the help of her parents, Walter and Belle Campbell, would work to hold the dinner until there was a break in the ringing doorbell. It was not uncommon for dinner, once planned on being eaten at 12:30, to not be eaten until 3:00 p.m. or later.

Christmas more than any other time of the year exemplified Marie’s desire to welcome, serve, and enjoy the company of her family and friends. Ham sandwich anyone?

Marie with her boys, Mother’s Day, 1963
St. Francis Catholic Church Our Favorite Recipes, 1988, p. 71 (very good)

The Kitchen was the Heart of the Home

This is an archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” and was first published 15 Jul 2012.

The kitchen. It was the room where most things happened. In the early days the baby’s were changed here, slept here, clothes were ironed here, and most importantly, food was prepared and shared here.

I love this picture, not because it has great composition because it doesn’t, but because I can just FEEL my father-in-law’s happiness at having his granddaughters in the kitchen, and his hurry in wanting to capture the moment. It is also a snapshot of the kitchen on a “normal” day. A day when my mother-in-law had spent some time ironing and had yet to put away her days work, and at this moment when my nieces stopped in for a visit, she was most likely at the stove making apple sauce, or rhubarb sauce. It was a summer day after all!

This is a placeholder screenshot image of the original, as I have not yet found the digital copy in my files.

This recipe is a favorite of my nieces. I am not sure that I have eaten this particular meatloaf recipe, so I would love it if they would share their memories about this dish, and the time spent with grandma when she served it.