One of Cincy’s Oldest Men’s Sports Stag Has Ties to the Turner Clubs

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There’s a nearly 70 year old sports stag thrown every year at the clubhouse of an organization called the Southern Ohio Dog and Game Protective Organization in Butler County.   I’ve been hearing about it for over a decade and it is one of the oldest continually operating sports stags in Greater Cincinnati.   One of my good friend’s father has gone to it for over 20 years and took his son and sons-in-law. I’ve have heard some of the epic tales of the event.     Tickets are limited and you have to have a tie to one of the members, who in turn must be sponsored by two current members and pay annual dues of only $40.    Although there’s food at the stag, it’s more about playing cards and drinking beer with your buds and relatives.

One dish that has been at the event since its inception about 1950 is mock turtle soup.   In earlier days it was made by members, but now it’s  premade Worthmore Mock Turtle Soup, which is a decent sub. A menu of the 1952 stag  in the Cincinnati Enquirer read: “turtle soup, corn on the cob, spare ribs, ham, fried chicken and other solid delicacies near to the male heart, and plenty of suds to wash it down with.”   Today those suds are Miller High Life, but originally they were Bruckman and Hudepohl.

The clubhouse is on the farm acquired by the group in the Spring of 1941 from Scribe’s Picnic Grove, at East Miami River Road between Venice and New Baltimore in Butler County.    They have a fishing lake that was once stocked with Walleye and several hundred acres where game and deer roam free and where many game related sporting events are staged.    Before they bought the farm the club met and had events at the Farmer’s Union Hall in Peach Grove at Blue Rock and Springdale.

The club was incorporated in 1931, but had events starting in 1927.   Founding members of the club had ties to the Cumminsville Turners, the North Cincinnati Turners (in Clifton), and the Central Turners (in Over-the-Rhine, now in Springdale).   The Turners were a network of German sport and social clubs founded in 1848 right here in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood by Germanic immigrants.   The movement spread all across America’s Germanic immigrant settlements, but was cut at the heels by the anti-German sentiment of World War I.   Many of the Turner organizations that survived World War II became mostly Americanized bowling, softball, and volleyball clubs.  The original gymnastics and Germanic cultural aspects were almost gone.

In an effort to keep the sporting aspects and male fellowship of the Turners going, and to keep some Germanic customs alive, but in a more American or patriotic setting,  former members formed other offshoot clubs like this one.    One of the founding members was William Bruckman, who’s father was founder of Bruckman Brewery and President for many years of the Cumminsville Turners.   William had been a Cumminsville Turner in his youth and a member of an offshoot group, the Northside Fishing Club.   Another founding member was Robert Eiselein, who’s uncle Josef Eiselein had been a founding member of the Cumminsville Turners and whose father-in-law George Dorman was also a Cumminsville Turner.    Edward Brendamour, another founding member, whose family owned Brendamour Sporting Goods, was a member of the North Turners.

In 1947 the Ohio Dog and Game Protective Organization provided for stocking of the lake for a fishing program for kids at Inwood Park in Corryville, which was a popular Cincinnati Turner Club Park.   The Central Turners had dedicated a monument there to Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, who was the founder of the German Turner movement near Berlin, Germany in 1814 during the Napoleonic wars.    That monument still stands at Inwood and was vandalized during World War I at the height of anti-German sentiment.

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The club’s first event was the Sporting Dog Bench Show in 1927, which was sanctioned by the American Kennel Club .   Over the years they added a Coon Dog Field Test,  a Turkey Shoot, a Fall Sportsman Show, an Archery Competition, a Boy and Girl Dog Parade, a Public Fishing Tournament, and a 6 Mile Handicap Walking Tournament.

The founding president was Cincinnati Judge Ferd Bader, Jr., who lobbied locally on many wildlife conservation issues.  One of his big wins was the release in 1953 of 800 mature cock pheasants in Hamilton county for pheasant hunting season.      Ferd Sr., his father was a long time Hamilton County Sheriff and former superintendant of the old Cincinnati Workhouse.      Cumminsville Turner Fitness instructor Robert Gulow was the Fitness Instructor for the Cincinnati Police Force and designed their fitness programs at the time when Ferd Bader Sr. was sheriff.

It remains to be seen if the current crisis will cancel this year’s stag, because it’s not at all about social distancing.

The Kennedys, Polish Nobility, Reality TV and the Dinner that Originated “Putting on the Ritz”

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The Restaurant de la Conversation or Conversation Haus, where Ritz hosted the dinner that gave him world renown, a colloquial phrase, and a musical.

In college on a crazy whirlwind backpacking trip of Europe, I made a stopover in the historic resort town of Baden-Baden near Alsace-Lorrain and in the Black Forest.   Baden is the German word for bath, and man did I need one !   It was a quick stopover and lookabout after a long train ride from Amsterdam on the way to Freiburg.    This had been the resort area where the rich and famous – among them the court of the Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm (after whom my grandfather was named) –  came to take their cures (a mineral bath)  and party their newly hydrated asses off.     Unfortunately, I didn’t get to partake that time, but did get an interesting offer of some hallucinogens from Uri, the German Hippie who was looking for stupid American kids to sell to.   I declined.   I had just come from Amsterdam.

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Me and Uri the German Hippie, Baden Baden.

A little over 100 years before my stopover – the Summer of 1888 – a dapper, well dressed Swiss hotelier was hosting a dinner in Baden-Baden for Polish Prince Ferdinand Radziwill, who was part of the German Parliament – the Reichstag – and the Berlin court of Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm.      The hotelier’s name was Cesar Ritz  (1850-1918).     Many of his guests had arrived from the same train station I had – although they certainly smelled and were dressed better than me.   Prince Radziwill told Ritz he wanted to host a dinner for his Berlin friends that would be remembered.     Ritz was to host it at his newly opened Restaurant de la Conversation, in Baden-Baden, and his chef, a talented Georges-August Escoffier (1846-1935) , was to pull off the elaborate menu.

Escoffier was in the process and would revolutionize cheffing.   He shortened menus and invented the hierarchy in the back of the house and chefs with specific duties that we know today- chef, sous chef, pastry, fish, sauce and meat chefs.   He also started the tradition of naming dishes after famous celebrities, like the dish Peach Melba, named after an actress of the day.

 

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Cesar Ritz, 1897.          Georges-August Escoffier

At the time Prince Radziwill’s family had about 300 years to amass great wealth and a ton of castles around what was the former Holy Roman Empire.   It had been in 1518 that his line had been granted the rare title of Prince from the Holy Roman Emperor.      They had a castle in Gdansk, in what is now northern Poland, where they had ruled and only about 25 miles from where my maternal Grandmother’s family were just leaving a small village called Stary Targ, to emigrate to America, for a better life.

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Prince Ferdinand Radziwill.

Challenge accepted and this was the type of challenge Ritz loved – creating a spectacle.   This would not only be a dinner but the event of the season.   And Ritz would market the crap out of it, making sure all of Europe’s aristocrats and America’s wealthy travelling robber barons knew of it.     Ritz was born into a family of 12 siblings to poor peasants in Switzerland.  He was sent off to a Jesuit monastery and found work early as an apprentice sommelier.   He worked his way up and through some of the most opulent hotels in Europe.

Ritz came up with a theme to bring the outside in.  He covered the entire floor of the restaurant with grass and had the walls covered with hundreds of roses.  Potted trees were dispersed amongst the tables.   He brought in a stone fountain and filled it with exotic goldfish.    Ritz even rented a giant fern to be the centerpiece, surrounded it with tables and covered them in more flowers.     A wonderful orchestra serenaded the guests through their lavish multicourse menu.

The scene of the dinner was magical, transporting guests into sort of a Midsummer Night’s Dream.   And despite all the difficulties in pulling it all together, it was a phenomenal success.   It was so successful that one guest, the owner of the Savoy Hotel and Savoy Theatre in London, a Mr. Richard D’Oyly Carte, asked Ritz and his chef Escoffier to come work for him at his hotel.   D’Oyly Carte had made his money in the 1870s and 1880s by staging Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas in London like Pirates of Penzance and the Mikado.    After a visit, Ritz and Escoffier took up his offer and made the Savoy the most modern, over-the-top, luxury hotel in the world from 1889-1897.

Ritz would go on to open the famous Ritz hotel in Paris in 1898, which would increase his brand and his fame and coin the slang term of the Jazz era, “putting on the Ritz.”   The phrase would also inspire a song written by Irving Berlin in 1927 that was introduced in 1930 in a musical of the same title, and later made famous in Fred Astaire’s dance to it in Blue Skies.

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The Hotel Ritz, Paris, founded in 1898 by Cesar Ritz and August Escoffier.

The Royal Radziwill family, like my maternal Grandmothers’ family would move to the U.S.    Prince Ferdy’s grandson, Prince Stanislaw “Stash” Radziwill married Caroline Lee Bouvier, the sister of First Lady Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis.    Ferdy’s great grandson, Anthony Radziwill married Carol DiFalco, who was an accomplished journalist, author, and 8 year cast member of the Bravo Reality Series The Real Housewives of New York City.    Apparently Radziwill men liked women named Carol.   And we have Prince Ferdy Radziwill to thank for all of this culture.

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Caroline Lee Bouvier Radziwill and Carol DiFalco Radziwill.

 

The High Hill Texas Butcher Who Makes Corona Sausage and a Goetta Cousin

Keeping our spirits up during this pandemic is as important as being safe and staying home.   One Texas meat processor, Willie Joe’s in High Hill Texas is doing just that for its customers.    On March 12, they announced that on Friday March 13, Corona sausage would be available – a ‘vaccine’ for the crisis.  They said they didn’t take insurance cards, but might consider negotiation for toilet paper rolls.   They went on to say there was no danger of overdose, and consuming a large amount may be your prescription.

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The Corona is a smoked sausage mixed with Corona beer, lime and jalapeno pepper.   And, it’s probably made from the locally raised Brahman or Santa Angeli cattle . It’s packed in twos and has been flying off the shelves and selling out – no surprise.   I interviewed the owner, Paddy Magliolo, two years ago by phone when I visited Texas hill country in search of a goetta cousin made by the German-Czechs in that area called jitrnice.

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Paddy makes the beloved High Hill Sausage for the annual St. Mary’s Catholic Church Labor Day German Picnic every year.    He is literally across the street from the church so  it’s super convenient for him.    When asked about his jitrnice, he says he says he spices his with salt, pepper, and garlic, uses rice only as the grain, and pork trim and pork organs only – but he wouldn’t specify what organs.    Jitrnice looks and tastes remarkably like goetta.

Jitrnice is made within about a 25 mile radius of Schulenburg, Texas, at the intersection of I-77 and I-10.    It’s a grain sausage cousin of goetta that came from the Moravian-Bohemian provinces of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, what is now Austria and the Czech Republic.    There’s another great supplier called Maeker’s in Shiner, Texas.   You can pick up your jitrnice and have a few free beers and tour the German founded Spoetzel Brewery, which makes Shiner Bock, and many other wonderful flavors of beer.   My favorite is their Prickly Pear Cactus Blossom Lager.

They have a great Texas Czech Cultural Center in La Grange, Texas, about 10 miles north of Schulenburg, that’s kind of like a Germanic version of our Sharon Woods Heritage Village.    I interviewed Brian Prause of 122 year old Prause’s meats in downtown La Grange, who has stopped making jitrnice, because it takes so long and demand is dropping as the generations progress.   He also says the USDA no longer allows processors to use pork lung, which is apparently a key ingredient in authentic Moravian-Bohemian jitrnice.

The area was settled in the 1850s by Germanic Catholic farmers from the Germanic province of Moravia in what is now Austria.  They’re often called Bohunks (ie bohemian hillbillies) or Czexans (as many came from the area that is now the  Czech Republic).  In addition to their wonderful Germanic sausages they’re also famous for bringing the kolachi to Texas.  My fave kolachi is the pineapple one made by Original Kountry Bakery in Schulenburg, but there are so many other flavors to try.

High Hill is no longer its own town as it was back then, with a saloon, a variety of stores and businesses.   It’s now the outskirts of Schulenburg, Texas, which is not huge itself, but has a fabulous historic downtown with a wonderful dance hall that has great live music and awesome Czexan food.   St. Mary’s, one of the famous Painted Churches of Hill Country, is still the center of the small community of High Hill.    The Czexans of hill country had Sokul halls for physical exercise, like the Goetta Country Germans of Cincinnati founded Turnhalls.    They became dance halls, concert venues, and gathering places for Czexans to preserve their Germanic culture and language.

A branch of my Woellert family settled there, belonged to and are interred at St. Mary’s – one Ludmilla Woellert Billemek even has a window in the church dedicated to her.   One of those Woellerts was even a butcher, and probably made his own version of jtronice, which unfortunately is not in the church cookbook, which of course I bought when visiting.

Unfortunately they’re not shipping, or I would be having some Corona sausage and jitrnice for breakfast with my eggs this week.   But, I do applaud their sense of humor and gumption!

Remus’s Death Valley Farm Was Originally a Catawba Vineyard

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The Death Valley Farm in Westwood where George Remus operated his bourbon bootlegging.

The best story of Prohibition is that the nation’s bourbon distribution network was centered right here in Cincinnati’s West Side. As far as bootlegging goes, we hear more about Al Capone’s Chicago empire, or the loose network of rum runners in Florida. But it was an isolated three generation family farm bounded by Queen City and LeFeuille in Westwood that became known as Death Valley that controlled the best bonded hooch in America. George Remus bought nearly every shuttered distillery at the beginning of Prohibition and milked their leftover inventory. It all was bottled and redistributed here. Remus inspired the character of Jay Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby. And he made an appearance in the epic HBO series Boardwalk Empire.

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George Remus, West Side Bootlegger.

But what’s even more interesting is that this 100 acre farm started out as one of Cincinnati’s earliest catawba vineyards. So bootlegging is tied to the history of native winemaking. Gilbert Dater (1818-1904) who was born in Germany and came to Cincinnati in 1830 with his father, Adam Dater (1782-1848), bought the farm. It would become the site of several shootouts and the mission control of Bourbon King George Remus’ bootlegging operation that made him over $40 million dollars in just three years, that in today’s dollars would approach billions.

Gilbert’s father Adam, had originally settled in Lick Run, another Germanic settled area on the West Side of downtown that was known for its creek valley suitable for wine growing. The Death Valley farm was at 2656 Queen City Avenue at Le Feuille and consisted of a two story frame house and several old barns, which date back to Gilbert Dater’s time. During Prohibition, it was owned by George Dater, the grandson of Gilbert Dater, who had originally bought the farm. Gilbert had married Louisa Fein, the daughter of another Westwood vineyardist, George Fein, who owned a popular wine garden off of Harrison Avenue in the 1850s, where German clubs like the Turners and the Mannechors or Men’s Choruses came on the weekends to play. So with all that German frivoility in Westwood, no one seemed to bat an eye when Remus moved in. But then most of the liquor didn’t stay in Westwood, it went to rich homes in Indian Hill.

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Gilbert Dater grew grapes and made wine with his neighbor Michael Werk, an immigrant from Alsace Lorrain in Germany, who made his fortune in soap and candles, much like Procter and Gamble, the latter who also lived in Westwood. Werk was a second career or hobbyist winemaker, but he ended up being almost as large or larger than Longworth. He was also one of the few who weathered the catawba crash of the 1860s with the use of other, more rot resistant grapes, and eventually transferred growing Concord grapes to Lake Eire. Werk and Dater made still wines and a variety of sparkling wines under the brand names Golden Eagle and Red Cross.

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Werk made his sparkling wines from the Delaware, Concord, Isabella and Norton grapes – all of which stood up to the rot that ravaged Cincinnati’s Catawba vineyards. The Werk wines earned a second degree award at Cincy Industrial Exposition – they also exhibited their Red Cross Sparkling Diana and Ives wines. The Ives seedling is a Cincinnati cultivated grape still used in winemaking today, started by Henry Ives in downtown Cincinnati, and proliferated in the 1860s by Colonel Waring of Indian Hill. M Werk & Sons also got fire degree of merit for still Concord and Ives seedling wines.

The Westwood vineyards of Werk and Dater even grew a locally raised seedling called, Werk’s Diana, which others argued was not a true Diana grape. Edward Taylor, a vineyardist, in 1863 said “Around Cincinnati there is a variety called Diana, generally called Werk’s Diana which I am fully persuaded is not true, and by which by the by, I have been pretty badly bitten and which you were still inclined to think a year ago was the true. The true Diana I think very variable, this season I thought mine almost equal to the Delaware, last season I thought them hardly second rate.” Needless to say, whatever the Werk’s Diana grape’s origin, it didn’t make it into the mainstream winemaking industry or last in vineyards.

Werk moved his vineyards and winery to the shores of Lake Erie where he cultivated the concord variety of grapes and established the Golden Eagle Winery in 1861. The Golden Eagle Winery was situated on Middle Bass Island and, by 1875, was reported to be the largest winery in the United States. In addition to the winery, by 1865, Werk together with his son, Emile, established M. Werk & Son, distributors of wine and spirits in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The LeFeuille Road that the Dater Death Valley farm was on was named after the family of Michael Werk’s wife, Pauline LeFeuille, who he returned to Alsace to marry in 1843. Together they had 10 children, spreading the Werk name throughout Cincinnati and the region. The Werk candle and wine fortunes would fund the creation of two amazing Cincinnati architectural landmarks – the Werk Castle, and the “Elsa” mansion – only the latter now standing. Werk Castle was built by Michael’s spinster daughter Eugenie in 1897, and Elsa was built by his oldest son Casimir, who married out of wine and into the Hernacourt Brewing family.

George Dater, a bachelor owned the Death Valley farm but had hired Johnny Gehrum as a caretaker.  Johnny Gehrum ran the farm during the operations of Remus’ bourbon empire.    Another local, nicknamed Old Mother Hubbard, gave the Prohis all the information they needed about operations to bring Remus down and get him incarcerated in the Atlanta Penitentiary.

 

A Fish Fry Branding Opportunity

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Cincinnati Fish Fry Culture is cancelled for this year. There will be no more Codfather and his Holy Haddock at Queen of Peace in Kentucky, no more De Sales Slammer sandwich at St. Francis De Sales in East Walnut hills. And finally there will be no more Magnificod, at St. Williams in Price Hill. The last one is my favorite – it’s a take on the Magnificat, the latin word for the Canticle of Mary which proclaims, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”

Of the over 200 Lenten fish frys, only three – that’s right only three – brand their sandwiches religiously – the Holy Haddock , Magnificod, and the De Sales Slammer. And, as a marketing person, I think there’s a tremendous branding opportunity they’re all missing.    As secular as our fish fry culture is, it’s at least based on the Christian Lenten Fast.   What does Marketing 101 tell you to do in a flooded market like our fish frys– – DIFFERENTIATE your product. And what’s one of the best and most fun ways to do that – branding! Come on – we are a P & G marketing town!

OMG the possibilities are endless – starting with the type of fish used. What about Golgatha Grouper, named after the place where Jesus was crucified. And to reference the miracles what about Walk-on- Water Whiting (or Whaling Women of Jerusalem Whiting if you want to reference the stations of the cross). How about St. Paul’s Polluck or Passion Play Polluck. There could be Judas Jumbo Shrimp and Simon of Cyrene Salmon. For the macabre there could be Crown-of-Thorns-Cod, or Stigmata Salmon. There could even be, wait for it – Pontius Pila-tilapia. There could be St. Maximilian Kolbe Klam Khowder. Another low hanging fruit win could be a sandwich called the Big Jonah. On the happy side there could be Resurrection Roughy. There could be Salvation Sliders and Crucifixtion Catfish – man the list goes on.

And the branding could be taken to the sides too. What about Sorrowful Mother Mac N Cheese, or Gethsemani Green Beans, or Veronica’s Veil Veggies. Christ the King in Mt. Lookout could use Cardinal Pacelli’s Cole Slaw, after their grade school. Again, the branding opportunities are limitless.

Churches could even brand the name of their frys. A Sea of Galilee Fish Fry would make a lot of sense. Or one called Seven Loaves and Two Fish would be appropriate.

So maybe this fish fry pause could give all the fish fry planners time to give thought to some fun branding for next year. I am available for consultation – by Webex, not in person!

 

 

 

 

Fifteens: The Irish Confection Unknown Outside County Donegal

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When we think of Irish desserts, we may think first of bread pudding, or soda bread with jam.  But, while researching Irish foods on St. Patty’s Day I came into contact (virtually, not socially, of course) with one I’d never seen – it’s called Fifteens and is most commonly found in Ulster, in County Donegal, in Northern Ireland. It opened up a whole new world of confections from Northern Ireland called traybakes.

It looks super delicious and it’s no bake, so sounds easy to make too – and probably why it’s never been shown on the Great British Baking Show on BBC. It might be something fun to make with the kids or grandkids during our hankering down. It falls into the family of rolled log confections like a pecan log or something of that sort. In Ireland it falls into the family of what they call traybakes, which are refrigerated no-bake confections. People from Northern Ireland treat traybakes like the rest of the world treats cake.

It gets its name because it requires fifteen of each of its key ingredients – crushed biscuits or ‘digestives’ (what we’d call shortbread cookies in the U.S.), candied or maraschino cherries, and chopped marshmallows. The ingredients are mixed together with condensed milk, rolled into a log and then rolled in dried sweet coconut flakes and then refrigerated and sliced.

There are maybe hundreds of different traybakes in Northern Ireland, but saying Fifteens is your favourite (I’m using UK proper spelling!) is like saying your fave music is the Beatles, or that your fave architectural style is Gothic Revival, because obviously it is. Something called Malteaser Squares are usually a close second with the Northern Irish. It’s a no-bake square using golden syrup, condensed milk, biscuits and melted chocolate.

Typically an Irish no-bake traybake uses crushed biscuits (like Rich Tea Biscuits or Dean’s Biscuits) as the ‘bake’, and then either condensed milk, golden syrup, peanut butter, or melted chocolate as the binder. There’s also a honey crunch, and a butterscotch traybake. There is a close cousin to the Fifteens called a date roll that is also logged and rolled in dried coconut flakes.  Scanning the bakeries and confectioneries in Northern Ireland that make traybakes, there’s one called the Cornflake Cake, that obviously they stole from America, because we -i.e Mr. John Harvey Kellogg– invented the corn flake cereal as a competitor to the Grape Nut cereal created by C. W. Post in 1897. Oddly enough, there is no Grape Nuts traybake in Ireland.

Ginger is also a popular flavored traybake, as is lemon, in the baked versions. Think of the baked versions of the Irish traybakes as the grandfather of the gooey butter coffeecakes popular in St. Louis in America – a crunchy bottom with a soggy top. For more Irish traybake recipes than you could make in a year go to http://www.traybakesandmore.com.

Making some Fifteens might be a good way to get rid of your stock of Girl Scout shortbread cookies. And, you could probably mix up the treat with addition of nuts, like macadamia, cashews or pecans; dried berries – blueberries or dried pineapple or even mango chunks. It’s commonly served with a good cup of tea, but outside of Northern Ireland, you’d never find it on a traditional English tea service table. They are so popular that you’ll even find them at Starbucks in Northern Ireland.

The history of the Fifteen is nebulous. In the English government, there are terms like the payment of fifteens, and the body of fifteens elected officials in the government. But it’s my theory that the name comes from the fact that Fifteens is a nickname for rugby play – because there are a combined 15 players on the field – maybe the Fifteens was some sort of early rugby power bar.

If someone decides to make some Fifteens, please drop a batch off on my porch and ring twice!

 

St. Gertrude: The Other Saint’s Holiday on March 17

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While those of Hibernian Heritage will be eating soda bread and maybe corned beef and cabbage today, or even a Skyline Chili Green Way, those of Pennsylvania German descent will be eating a bread called Datsch, in honor of their saint, St. Gertrude.

St. Gertrude of Nivelles, Belgium, (626-659) is the patroness of gardens, cats and travelers, and protectoress against rodents and mental illness. Man, that’s a huge mantel to carry for a saint, especially one whose time in this world was a short 33 years. Maybe I should pray to her to keep the mice from chewing apart my car filter. She was an abbess that led a humble life of prayer and fasting, ministering to orphans, widows, pilgrims and refugees – many of them Irish monks escaping Viking invasions. Although she was never formally canonized, two miracles are associated with her – a vision of a flaming sphere in the chapel of her abbey during her lifetime, and the saving of two sailors caught in a storm, who were doing some business for the saint’s abbey.

Even though the Pennsylvania Dutch were Protestant – actually breaking apart from Lutherans in a general movement known as the Anabaptists, their folk culture is largely informed by centuries of Catholic tradition. But it’s likely that St. Gertrude was adapted onto an older Norse pagan goddess of fertility like Frigg, at the time of Christian conversion.

The connection to the Anabaptist immigrants from Southwest Germany is likely due to the association of St. Gertrude with cats. The association happened during the black plague of the 15th century which spread from the hotspot of Southwest Germany to the Netherlands and Catalonia and believed to be spread by rodents.

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The executive director of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center blessing the garden with crumbs of Datsch bread on St. Gertrude’s Day.

Observance of St. Gertrude’s day involves the baking of a heavy cake-like bread called Datsch. It was a traditional yeast potato bread made with spelt and barley flour, with ingredients described as something black, something green and something white for her cat. You also are supposed to add things to the bread that you want to grow well that season in your garden – things like green onions, black poppy seeds, caraway seeds, flax seeds, and honey. Crumbs of the bread are then sprinkled in the four corners of your garden, starting in the East, while invoking the little people (sounds very Irish leprechauny to me) and help from the Heavens. It all sounds like a sweet focaccia bread to me. I’d save some for a schmeer of cream cheese and a dash of Pickappeppa hot sauce, but that’s just me.

Food writer William Woys Weaver, who wrote the bible about Pennsylvania Scrapple, was the first to document the tradition of St. Gertrude within the Pennsylvania Dutch communities. The Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, blesses their garden every year, citing a traditional blessing in the local dialect.