The kitchen of Russian Germans a hundred years ago

Cooking is an integral part of the culture of every people. It reflects his living conditions, history, national character. Without it, it is impossible to understand the culture of a people or an era. After all, we are what we eat. 
Since ancient times, the meal has occupied an exceptionally important place in people's lives. Even on weekdays, it was a ritual, consecrated by tradition: the whole family gathered behind it, prayer marked its beginning and end. As for the festive meal, the preparation of dishes for her was not a game of the mistress's fantasy, but the following of the rules handed down from generation to generation.
The cuisine of Russian Germans is a mirror of their history. Along with national traditions and songs, the culinary secrets of the homeland of ancestors were passed from mother to daughter. At the same time, the colonists willingly borrowed the dishes of neighboring peoples. The favorite dish of Caucasian Germans was pilaf, Bessarabian - mamaliga, South Russian and Ukrainian - borsch. Nevertheless, cooking was one of the most enduring elements of the culture of Russian Germans. Even in families that have lost their language and the religion of their ancestors, they often continue to prepare German dishes.
The Russian Germans did not have a single menu. Its regional characteristics were determined, first, by the culinary traditions of those German lands, where they were from, and, secondly, the living conditions in the new place. However, there are a number of dishes that are known practically to all Russian Germans. I will list some of them :
1. Chicken noodle soup (Nudelsuppe). Respect for this dish among Russian Germans was so great that until recently in many families, despite the abundance of pasta in the shops, Nudelsuppe noodles were made only by domestic means. 
2. Leg with stewed sauerkraut and mashed potatoes.The preparation of mashed potatoes from Russian Germans is a special art. It puts a lot of milk and butter and is long knocked down to the consistency of a light cream. 
3. Strudel (Strudel) In German and Russian modern culinary books, strudel is the genus of sweet baked goods. Russian Germans called the strudel dish, consisting of sweet rolls, which, together with ham or lard, are stewed in sauerkraut.
4. Dumplings In Germany and the Russian Germans there are dozens of recipes for this dish. They are eaten in soup, and also as an independent dish with sour cream, butter and cracklings. Dumplings were cooked also at the stake in the field during agricultural work. 
5. Sausage Used in cold and fried form. Sausage, fried in the dough, was usually a festive dish. 

6. Rivvelkuchen (Riwwelkuchen) This is a rich biscuit, sprinkled with dough crumbs. In modern Germany, it is known as Streuselkuchen. 

7. Schnittsuppe. Dessert soup made from dried fruits, sometimes with the addition of small dumplings. Currently in Germany is almost unknown. 

8. Coffee from cereals (barley, rye, wheat) or chicory (Prips)
Coffee appeared in Germany in the XVII century, and in the next century became a favorite drink of all classes. Many, however, were satisfied with the cheap imitation of real coffee, using barley and wheat grains. German immigrants who arrived in Russia in the XVIII-XIX centuries belonged to the poorest sections of the population and could afford only such coffee. Their descendants inherited this "coffee" and remained faithful to it, living in such a "tea" country as Russia. In old German cookbooks you can find recipes for coffee from cereals, but modern Germans almost do not know about it. Begin to forget it and the Russian Germans, and it's a pity: the good old Prips are much more useful and tastier than the so-called natural coffee.

The menu of Russian Germans united not only common dishes. Almost everywhere it was distinguished by abundance and diversity. This was explained by the relatively high level of welfare of the colonists, which was supported by their enormous work capacity. It, in turn, was a consequence of high-quality and high-grade food. This relationship is reflected in two German proverbs: "Wie zur Arbeit, so zum Essen" and "Wie zum Essen, so zur Arbeit". By the way, a good appetite was valued not only among the Germans. The Latvian farmers, hiring a farm laborer, first of all fed him a hearty meal and watched him eat: if he puts on both cheeks and asks for supplements, then there will be a good worker. But the Maloegs had fewer chances of finding a job.
Commendable reviews of the food colonists in the second half of the XIX - early XX century can be found in the numerous authors of the time. 
"In meat, they do not lack, and flour dishes are diverse," - wrote about the Volga Germans, pastor Bush, who in the middle of the XIX century undertook a journey through the Lutheran colonies of Russia. The same thing he writes about the Germans of Ekaterinoslav province: "Their food is both very good and quality. It consists of beef and pork, butter, eggs, sour cream, cottage cheese, barley porridge and flour dishes. " "The food of the colonists was simple, healthy and plentiful," - recalled in the middle of the twentieth century the pastor I. Foll, who spent his childhood in a German colony in the south of Russia. - There was plenty of milk, butter and cheese; smoked bacon and sausage did not come off the table. "

      What kind of dishes could be found on the table of Russian Germans 100 years ago? Let us turn to eyewitness accounts. 
      The Catholic priest Keller, the author of the book on the South Russian German colonies, published in the early 20th century, mentions a variety of noodle dishes, as well as omelets, pork with potatoes and sauerkraut, beef, veal, sausage, brawn, lard, various soups, dairy products, as well as borsch and hominy. Pastor Voll remembers about mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, dumplings, chicken soup-noodles; salted cucumber, peppers and watermelons. A Russian traveler of the late 19th century writes of fried smoked bacon, fried bacon and potatoes on fat, milk soup with a loaf, soft-boiled eggs and waffles. "The food that the Germans love," he concludes, "is fat and fresh."
Not every stomach stood the delights of the cuisine of Russian Germans. Here is what the Russian writer A. Chuzhbinsky tells us about his acquaintance with the cooking of the Dnieper colonists: "At the appointed hour and minute, I had a bowl on the table. I was surprised, however, that instead of the usual soup in the bowl was milk. I try, unhelpfully, but from the bottom of the bowl I take out a spoonful of cherries. "What is it? - I ask. - "Kirschen-Suppe", - the mistress answers. Having sapped the initial hunger, I asked for a drink. I was served a glass of thick cream. The second dish was the fattest and most delicious ham. After the ham followed the roast with some kind of sweet sauce. " After several similar dinners, the Russian guest felt ill and hurried to leave the hospitable colonists.
Of course, the colonists themselves did not eat it every day. The diet of Volga Germans is evidenced by the memories of the famous historian of the twentieth century, Peter Zinner. In his family, a winter day began with coffee from fried wheat grains on pure milk (Weizenkaffee) or barley coffee (Prips) or tea, flavored on steppe grasses (Steppentee) and fried sausage. At lunch, meat soup was eaten, and on Sundays - also roast pork with stewed sauerkraut, millet porridge and Schnittsuppe. Supper was again served with soup, fried sausage and tea. Before going to bed, there could be a second, light supper consisting of baked apples or a salted watermelon with bread or bread with onions and salt. In the summer they ate breakfast on the grass for breakfast, eating it with bread and butter, and on Sundays - with cookies. For lunch, eaten zatishka (Mehlbrei) or millet porridge or fritters. Sunday lunch consisted of soup-noodles with meat, roast with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut and tea with brushwood (Krappeln). Dinner was repeating breakfast.
The food quality of the colonists was not the same. The menu of the South Russian colonists was more diverse than the Volga ones. Even within a single colony due to property stratification the diet was different. Farmers, however, ate with the owners and ate the same dishes.
During the field affliction, the attitude to nutrition remained serious. Even when the colonists went to the field for a few days, they had a three-hour hot meal, which was cooked at the stake. By the way, men cooked food because women, as a rule, did not participate in field work: they were engaged exclusively in housekeeping. Working day in the field, as Peter Zinner recalled, began with a light breakfast consisting of tea and bread and butter. A little later they ate with bread and ham or kalach with butter. For dinner cooked dumplings with potatoes (called Kartoffel un Klump); sometimes the finished dumplings were fried in fat. For dinner, they ate soup and fried sausage with potatoes. In general, Russian Germans did not like to eat on dry land and did not really trust the proverb that Hunger ist best der Koch.

The festive table was different from everyday - both in quality and quantity. On Christmas Eve, meat was usually not eaten, but they were given due sweet dishes - thick porridge (millet or rice) with butter and raisins, shintzuppe and all sorts of baked goods. Especially famous was the rich golden pie with saffron raisins, which were made in Volhynia. Christmas and Easter dinners consisted of traditional meat soup-noodles and fries. The corral dish of the Volga Volga Germans was a goose, stuffed with fat from a mass of grated kalacha and dried fruits. A special luxury was the wedding table. Served with meat soup noodles from Odessa, the Germans ran cinnamon and ate a sweet braid with raisins; at the Caucasian Germans the table was bursting with all sorts of pilaf, and the main delicacy of the Volynian Germans was the "golden soup" It was made from the blood of chickens or geese and honey, to which were served small dumplings. Having tasted this soup, they took to fry, and then followed another soup - milk, with honey and raisins.

Not absent on the festive table and alcoholic beverages, among which vodka was the leader. However, the colonists usually did not abuse alcohol and fought with drunkenness. In the Volga colony of Eckheim, for example, for appearing on the street in a state of intoxication, there was a threat of flogging, and therefore all those who, after a merry feast, did not quite stand on their feet, were laid in bed by their relatives. However, not everywhere the struggle against drunkenness was carried out as decisively, and in the early twentieth century, the colonial press reported on the spread of drunkenness. However, Russian neighbors were skeptical about the self-flagellation of the Germans. Researcher of the life of the South Russian Germans AA Isaev noted at the end of the XIX century: "Quite often there was a statement:" We have a lot of drunkards in the colony ". But when I was told about the size of drinking, I found that it is not so great. "
However, the colonists did not reassure, and, realizing the danger, they gave drunken decisive battle. As a rule, the initiators of this struggle were teachers - the natives of the colonists themselves. AA Isayev wrote about this as follows: "In Rybalsk 30 years ago, drunkenness was very developed. The old-timers say that many colonists sat in the tavern for 2-3 days before the harvest, and paid no attention to the exhortations of their wives. But the colony had an indefatigable public figure in the person of Shreitel's teacher. He diligently and persuasively preached sobriety. His preaching was crowned with success. By decision of the colonists, the taverns were closed. "
An energetic fighter for sobriety was the director of the central school in Grimm (Forest Karamysh in the Volga region) Karl Dorsch. He organized the "Society to combat alcoholism, smoking and sexual promiscuity." He had a tea-house and a library where general education lectures, concerts, talks and discussions were held weekly, which was attended not only by students, but also by local residents. As a result, drinking was eradicated in Grimm as well. 
      Our culinary journey through the German colonies of Russia has come to an end. After resting a little and digesting the information, we will go to visit the Petersburg and Moscow Germans and taste some dishes ...