This is an archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” and was first published 1 Dec 2013.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is an archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” and was first published 22 Jan 2013.
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 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?
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 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.