My great grandmother, Henriette Schumacher came to the United States reluctantly, with her sister, brother-in-law, and their two young children. Henriette’s mother had insisted that she go to help with the children. She was worried about the immigration to a new land so far away, and she figured that if both girls went, they could protect each other, and be company for each other. I think my great great grandmother knew her girls pretty well, and thought that the loneliness might be too much for either of them alone, and so going together would help to alleviate that loneliness. It was in the United States that my great grandmother would meet and marry my great grandfather, and would never again be sorry that she had come here.
When the family moved from Minnesota to North Dakota, they bough some land, and would later move to a better piece of land, with a wonderful artesian well, that worked so well, that it formed a ten acre lake right near the family home. During his courtship of my grandmother, Anna, my grandfather, Allen Luther Spencer stocked the lake with a dozen small catfish from the river. For some years, the catfish were forgotten, until Carl and Henriette’s son, Fred noticed them. My great grandfather, Carl Schumacher built a flat bottomed boat for the three youngest children, who were the only ones living at home then, and they went fishing. By this time, the lake was teeming with catfish, and they practically jumped into the boat voluntarily. Great Grandma Schumacher would fry up those fish, and the family would have a feast. It was catfish that was fed to the threshers when they came too and Aunt Bertie says they tasted so good, that she can them from memory. Great Grandma rolled them in cornmeal and fried them in country butter, like only she could do. Aunt Bertie said she has never had catfish that could beat her mother’s. Great Grandma Schumacher was also the first one in the whole countryside to make fried chickens from young chickens. Before that everyone used mature chickens, which can be tough, they were stewed with dumplings.
When my great grandmother was in her early fifties, she got rheumatoid arthritis. Before very long, she was unable to do the things she used to do. A very short time later, that she was no longer the person who did the cooking, and while the girls tried to make those most loved foods taste the same as their mother had done all those years, they could never match the taste. It’s always sad when that happens. You can follow the recipe, but somehow, it just doesn’t taste the same. I think that is because, try as they might, most of those great cooks didn’t use a recipe, and writing it down is really their best guess at the quantities they used, and the person following the recipe is hard pressed to figure out the exact combination. I feel sorry for my aunts, uncle and great grandpa, because they remembered the way things used to be, but knew that they could never be that way again.