I am a descendant of Germany heritage. My ancestors, for the most part, left Germany while the United States of America was a colony of the British Empire. In those colonial days the ability to spell was an art not a science. Our good friends at Oxford and Merriam -Webster were just beginning to attempt a standardization of spelling in English. That academic effort was at least a century away from reaching the common folk that work over in The Americas and in many cases the docks and shops of England.
Anyone that has done a little bit of digging into their background and family will realize that the surname or last name that you might be so proud of today hasn’t always been spelled the way it is now. It has not been pronounced the way that you might pronounce it either. The pronunciation of a name and how it was understood by an English speaking person working at the desk for a shipping or passage company more than likely caused it to be misspelled when your ancestor got on board to go to America or the immigration official in America when the arrived.
Either way in many cases people in America today have a hard time tracing their family back more than one or two generations past an arrival into America. I know that has been the case for many years in my family. I am told that we are making headway into “the old country” now. We are, in a literal translation old German, the Lion hards/firm/stead. I believe that the it would have been spelled something like: Lenhardt or Lanhardt or similar if my ancestors had cared when the left Germany for England. I have guessed that they were to be part of the second wave of Prussians going to the colonies but never made it before the American Revolutionary war was over. I think that they decided that America sounded pretty good compared to what they had left in Germany and immigrated in the late 1700s. My ancestor headed to the wild west of Kentucky shortly after Daniel Boone and most of the family remained there until the Great Depression sent my grandfather even further west with the Civilian Conservation Corp to work on roads in the National Forests. Grateful I am for that little adventure he set out on.
Interesting point of trivia that I learned recently, prior to the world wars (I and II) most people in America were hyphenated Americans. I had always believed that this was a recent development with African-Americans, Chinese-Americans, etc. I knew that some ethnic groups still do it in the larger cities like the Irish and others. I didn’t realize that it was common prior to the world wars. My family pretty much was German-Americans. I had always been told that was the case, we were what we were. I won’t say that we were proud, Hitler makes it kind of hard to be proud of being German after WWII, but I know that was my heritage.
I learned to count to seven in German probably right after I learned to do it in English. Sorry, but 7 was as high as it got. My mother taught me, she learned it from her grandmother and 7 was all that she could remember, true story.
I tried to learn German in college since I had felt “cheated” on my LDS mission because I was assigned to an English-speaking mission in Southern California. It didn’t take me long to realize that my GPA was more important to me than a passive desire to learn a foreign language. That German class is the only “W” I have on my college transcript. I withdrew from it before any grade would have been assigned. I am certain that it was still a passing grade but not any higher than a C- for sure. Regret sometimes not sticking with it, and then I remind myself that I won’t get much use out of it here in the Middle Kingdom even though I am just a 150KM from the German Concession of Qingdao (or Tsingdao in the pre-standardized Chinese days). That little German concession is still one of the top beer producing areas in China and continues the Oktoberfest tradition, even if they do it in August. (The 23rd Qingdao International Beer Festival (青岛国际啤酒节) to be held August 10th-25th, 2013 at Tsingtao Beer Passion Square (Qingdao Century Square) 青岛啤酒激情广场（世纪广场） just north of Qingdao Beer City.) The whole Oktoberfest experience is one that I don’t attend, but it looks like a party and for those that imbibe this kind of party might be one of the best.
Well I have wandered all over with this little post. I have to admit that I do love German food. I worked at a restaurant in Las Vegas, of course it was a German Restaurant. I didn’t mind the lederhosen and the funny hat; I loved working there because we got to eat from the menu and it was a good restaurant. I was introduced to a number of weird combinations for snacks that I still eat today. The weirdest snack is a combination of green beans, red cabbage sauerkraut, and sour cream. Warm the veggies and cover with a spoon of sour cream, dang tasty in my opinion.
My favorite use of sauerkraut comes from my Aunt. I don’t remember when I experienced it for the first time but recently got the recipe again. It is a chocolate cake. Yes, you read that right, a chocolate cake with sauerkraut. I would say to most of you out there don’t knock it until you have tried it. It is the moistest chocolate cake I have ever eaten. And, as a note of confession, I have eaten lots of chocolate cakes over the years. Here is another blog that is confirming what I have said about this cake.
So here it is the moistest chocolate cake recipe you will ever have. Enjoy.
makes 2 8-inch layers
2/3 cup butter
1 1/3 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups water
2/3 cup drained and chopped sauerkraut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8-inch pans, round or square.
Thoroughly cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
Sift together cocoa, flour, baking powder, soda, and salt, and add alternately with water to egg mixture.
Stir in the sauerkraut. Pour batter into prepared pans.
Frost with your favorite frosting, which in my house would have been chocolate.