Category: The Aroma of Bread

Letters in a Mailbox

This archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” was first published 11 Oct 2015

October 10, 1950

On October 4th, Marie’s younger brother  Leo’s celebrated his 89th birthday, and yesterday would have been his 65th wedding anniversary. Sadly, he lost the love of his life, Angela, on 26 Sep 2011. But out of this sadness, a great friendship was born. My daughter, Kate sent Leo a sympathy card at the time of Angie’s passing due to the inevitable complications from Alzheimers. Leo responded to Kate’s message of sympathy, and soon monthly letters were being sent back and forth between New York City and Hilbert, Wisconsin, and in-person visits when Kate was home to see us. 

Marie – July 1940, Calumet County Park

Kate is home for a time, and on Friday headed off with birthday cupcakes to visit Leo. They had a great visit just the two of them – no mom and dad to put a damper on the flow of conversation that happens throughout the year via the written word. We did make one request. We asked Kate to ask Leo about a story he told while we were gathered in Marie’s room at the St. Paul Home shortly before her death. What we remembered from that day, was  that Leo had gotten into trouble at school, and a letter was being sent home for his parents from the principal. Marie was asked to intercept the letter. 

Marie and Leo – May 30, 1944

As Leo told the story to Kate, it happened his freshman year of high school, which was the 1941-1942 school year. During this time it was very unusual for a student to have a car available for them to drive to school. There was such a person in Leo’s class. Kate didn’t get the impression that this car was a point of jealousy for Leo, but it must  have created some annoyance. So Leo and a friend cooked up a plan. They decided to let air out of the tires of the car. They were caught. Taken to the principal’s office, the other boy was let go without punishment. Much like in today’s school system, athletes, especially during the season, are given special treatment for bad behavior. As Leo recalls, this boy was on the basketball team. Leo’s punishment was to be a letter sent home to his parents, granted this was not much of a punishment, but the “crime” did not really harm anything, or anyone. Knowing the letter was to be sent, Leo asked Marie to intercept the letter, which she gladly did. 

Leo’s parting comment about this incident? It was not the first time that Marie helped him to get out of trouble, and it wasn’t the last.

Rainy Day Easter Egg Hunts

This archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” was first published 20 Apr 2014

Today is April 20th, Easter Sunday. After the winter that we all just lived through, one would have hoped for a warm and pleasant day, but it is only 52 degrees. And it is raining. Which brings to mind Easter of 1984, which was a cold, rainy, April 22nd.  

Butch and Marie loved to hold Easter Egg hunts for their grandchildren. When the weather was warm and clear, they would hide the plastic eggs filled with treats in their yard and around the house. But what to do when it was cold and rainy? Five grandchildren racing around the house while Marie had the kitchen full of meal prep, was not a recipe for a relaxing and joyful Easter Sunday. Butch’s solution: head to the factory for an indoor hunt.  

Early Easter morning, Butch, Gary and Dan would walk over to White Clover Dairy armed with a bag of filled plastic eggs. Heading for the basement warehouse they would hide the eggs on racks and pallets, both high and low. 

Later that morning, the grandchildren would be let loose to run through the warehouse collecting the eggs. One flaw in Butch’s system. He didn’t count the number of eggs that were being hidden, nor did he track how many were found. For weeks following the Easter hunt the warehouse manager would appear in either Butch or Gary’s office delivering a missed plastic egg.

Marie’s Apple Crisp

8″ x 12″ pan or 1 1/2 recipe for a 13″ x 9″

6 apples
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

  1. Peel and slices apples into pan.
  2. Combine flour, brown sugar and butter until crumbly, set aside.
  3. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over apples
  4. Sprinkle crumbs over apples
  5. Bake 375° for 30-40 minutes.

The Thrill of the Hunt

This is an archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” and was first published 1 Dec 2013.

Cleaning the chandelier for the last time

This past Thanksgiving was bittersweet. The house has been sold,  leaving an unexpected hole in our hearts. We were taken by surprise with the feelings of renewed loss that we experienced with the thought that we will never be able to enter the home again. I guess we were feeling a sense of being close to Butch and Marie every time we walked into the house, even though it had been sitting empty for 5 1/2 years. As we began the preparation for this year’s Thanksgiving “Feast,” Gary asked that I not only prepare our traditional wild rice stuffing but to add his mother’s famous recipe to our dinner list. 

But what was the recipe? I, the collector of all things family!! had never asked Marie for a copy, nor asked her how she made it. This was just a dish that magically appeared each time we gathered for Thanksgiving in our home, the perfect complement to the wild rice stuffing that I was making. She was always going to be there to add another delicious element to the table, right? Wrong. With that being said, we realized that it had probably been over eight years since we had last tasted Marie’s recipe. 

Our daughter Kate has a version written in paragraph style that she had received from one sister-in-law a year or so ago, and I also asked our other sister-in-law if she had a copy, which she then sent to me.

So I set about combining the two, looking for similarities, looking for the differences, and picking Gary’s brain as to what he remembered from helping his mother make stuffing for so many Thanksgivings. One big difference that we discovered is that the use of commercial breadcrumbs was more often used by our sisters-in-law than drying bread for the stuffing. Another was that one recipe included eggs, and the other did not. We dried, we studied, we tasted – and we baked small dishes of stuffing after making adjustments. While I am not ready to post my findings, I will say that the dish was deemed pretty close in flavor to what it should be. Once the feeling of being stuffed by Thanksgiving has passed, I will mix up another batch to use throughout the year to stuff pork chops, serve with chicken, etc. and we will take another look at how close I have come to Marie’s Famous Stuffing.

Christmas 1976

Women Drivers

This archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” was first published 13 Sep 2013.

I heard on the news the other day that women drivers now outnumber male drivers. This got me to thinking “How long have I been driving?” and so the mental math began, 50 minus 15… 35 years! I can easily document the years, but wouldn’t it be interesting to be able to document the miles? Miles driven in cars from my early stick shift days with no air conditioning and AM radio, to my now 10-year-old Mountaineer with lots of bells and whistles.

This news was also the push I needed to write this blog post that I have had noodling around in my mind for a while. A blog post about a car. A 2000 Mercury Sable. A blog post about its first owner, Marie Fassbender.

It starts in the year 1947. When Marie was in the hospital, having just given birth to her first child, she received her first driver’s license. And I do mean that; she received her license. It was at that point that her husband, Butch, decided that she needed to drive. So he headed to the town hall to get her one. Stating his intent to the city clerk, the response was: “Well, she’s a Fassbender so she must know how to drive.” And he handed over the license. 

Jump forward to November 2000. Butch had been in the home for almost two years when the decision was made that it was time to get rid of the problematic New Yorker that Marie had been driving to and from, first the hospital, and then the nursing home. Her son, Gary, had been looking at cars for himself and noticed the Sable on the car lot. It had all of the luxuries that his mother had always loved about driving Butch’s Lincoln Town Cars, but without the size. One added feature that we felt was important for this 5’2″ (-ish) petite woman, was the adjustable foot pedals. She would no longer need to sit so close to the steering wheel but could sit at a comfortable distance and bring the brake and accelerator to her.

One bright day, I picked up the car, collected Butch and Marie from the nursing home, and we went for a “test drive.” Butch sat in the back seat and gave his full approval of our choice of the new car. 

Marie proudly drove this car until she went to live in a nursing home in June 2008. Later that summer as her granddaughter prepared to start her sophomore year at Edgewood in Madison, Gary made the arrangements for Kate to have the car and use it to go back and forth to school. Kate drove the car for the next three years, two of them heading back and forth on sometimes treacherous winter roads. The car never failed her, and is now being driven back and forth to college by yet another Fassbender granddaughter. Butch would certainly approve of the lifespan of his last car purchase.

One of the only images I have of the car. It had just been released from a snowbank and was being pushed toward the garage.
Need to find the source for this one.

The Tree Must Come Down

This archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” was first published 18 Aug 2013.

At the time that we built our home in 1993, White  Clover Dairy was in the middle of an expansion, and because of this, trees that had been on the property for many years needed to be removed. We took advantage of this and moved a large crab apple tree and a maple to our property. The trees were moved in November 1993, the maple straining the size limits of the largest tree spade that the tree moving company owned. We placed the crab to the right of our driveway, positioning the “flat side,” the side that had been growing against the building, away from the street. This tree has rewarded us for the last 19 years with the most glorious blossoms each spring. 

The maple was planted in the backyard with the idea that it would provide a nice dapple-shaded area for the swing set and patio. While it took a while for it to settle into its new home, we soon had a large and beautiful tree – with a history! 

Gary received a 1972 Cougar XR7 as a high school graduation gift. It was blue with a white vinyl top and a blue leather interior. He loved that car. But it soon became a favorite of Marie’s, and as she did not  at that time have a car of her own when she needed a vehicle and Gary’s was available she would choose the Cougar. As it happens this particular model of Cougar had a flaw, while idling in park, it would unexpectedly pop out of park and throw itself into reverse.  One summer day Marie packed her eldest grandson into the car and made a quick stop at the factory to let them know she was heading to town. While she was inside letting Butch know where she was going, the car popped out of park, spun around, and rammed into the maple that had been recently been planted on the neighbor’s property near the factory office. Luckily Rich was not harmed, the car was intact, but the tree bore a scar from the impact for years. The neighbor had great concern that his tree might not survive the brutal Cougar attack, so in typical Butch fashion, he paid the man an agreed-upon value for the tree. The tree survived but the money was not returned.

Jumping forward 40 years, late Tuesday night, August 6th, six tornadoes ripped through the Fox Valley. The storm woke us up just long enough for us to close windows, comment on the strobe light lightning and the wind that was pushing harder at the side of the house than an other time in memory. Then we went back to bed. No sirens went off that night, so many of us slept safely through the storm. Looking at the damage the next day, it is amazing that no one was killed by the tornadoes. We do count ourselves one of the lucky ones, we only lost a tree.

Meatballs – From Ken’s Mary

  • 3 lbs ground beef – I, Susan, like a mix of 90% lean and 80-84% lean
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup saltine crackers, crumbled
  • 24 oz. chili sauce – 2-12 oz bottles
  • 24 oz. Water – fill the chili sauce bottles
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp white vinegar

Combine the first 6 ingredients, and roll into balls, bake in a 350° oven till brown. Approximately 10 minutes, turning at 5 minutes.

You can freeze the meatballs at this point.

Bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil, and then simmer the browned meatballs in the sauce for 3 or more hours. 

NOTE: We discovered that if you still have sauce remaining when the meatballs have disappeared, you can freeze the sauce for a later time and just add meatballs.

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!