Family Fear Factor

I ran this post early on and only 15 folks read the story, so I’m reposting this as well as a recipe I scanned yesterday from one of Carmen Rath-Wald’s cookbooks. I believe it was a piece of paper in a notebook. There were many other treasures including a recipe on the back of a receipt. I wrote the following piece for the Mandan News after a family dinner at Uncle Ed and Aunt Alices’s house.

Family fear factor

Even if you don’t watch the popular television show called “Fear Factor,” you may have caught the commercials or just tidbits of what happens on the show. There are people who actually admit to watching it.

There’s Fear Factor Teen, Fear Factor Siblings, Fear Factor Couples and plain old Fear Factor. There may be more, but I can’t stomach the show myself.

It is a program where people are asked to stick their heads into boxes filled with spiders or eat slugs or other very obscene things. The announcer always tells the audience you can’t show people throwing up, but they show everything else.

Imagine that, people getting paid to eat weird and unheard of things. Obviously, these folks have never been hungry or German.

In this day and age of abundance, I was gently reminded of the way things used to be and the things we ate because we were hungry and didn’t have many choices.

You guessed it, I went to a family Christmas gathering last week.

My daughter, my mother and J.C. were standing in front of the pantry doors watching some of the cousins place heaping plates of food on the island in the kitchen.

The table was covered with a beautiful red cloth, and candles perched on top of vintage glass cups and bowls. There were decorations and relatives strewn about the rest of the house with many rooms belonging to my cousin in Bismarck.

“What’s that?” JC said.

“I don’t know,” daughter said pointing to a large crockery bowl being filled with grey and white flesh covered with wriggling cloudy gelatin.

“Pig’s feet,” my mom said.

“Wow,” I said, “I haven’t had pig’s feet in ages.”

“No way,” JC said. “People don’t eat pigs feet.”

Maybe not people, but Germans do.

After our first plates of ham, salad and Jell-o, Uncle Ed sat down in the vacated chair at the end of the table and asked how we liked the pig’s feet.

“I wasn’t impressed,” JC said.

“I didn’t like them,” the daughter said.

“Well, what side of the table did you get them from?” Uncle Ed said. “Mine were on this side of the table.” He pointed.

“Oh, I must have missed those,” I said hopping up from the table. I found a small “foot” and brought it back.

There were groans and faces as I sampled the spicier of the two batches of pig’s feet. “I like these better,” I said. “More bay leaf.”

“How can you eat that,” my daughter asked?

“Hey, it’s our own family fear factor.” I scooped the rest of the gelatin with my fingers and slurped it down.

Louder groans.

That’s not the end of it either. We got to talking about the other foods we don’t eat very often, but remember from our younger years. Things like pigs in the blanket, halupsi and potato pie. Of course, Uncle Ed said if you make pigs in the blanket with beef, you have to call them “cows in the sheets” instead.

Although I haven’t seen any in years, my mom loved to eat the chicken feet. That’s the yellow part, not the drumsticks by the way. We also enjoyed things like Halvah and St. John’s bread for holidays. After butchering, there was blood sausage and head cheese.

Some of the things we considered “treats” as youngsters were foods like the garlic from the jar of dill pickles, a slice of bread soaked in the drippings from cooked sausage or dipped in fresh cream with salt and pepper. Before bed, we ate tomatoes sliced with sugar and if we were really lucky, strawberries from my mom’s patch. One of my grandmothers made the very best canned crab apples.

My mom made breakfast juice from all the rhubarb we couldn’t eat as pie or freeze and Jell-o for flavor. We ate ice milk sometimes because we couldn’t afford ice cream. At that time something without fat was considered the “cheaper” choice.

Fresh fruit was most abundant at Christmas and usually came from the grandparents if it wasn’t grown on a tree.

I have an aunt from California that sent dried fruit trays to my grandparents. Oh, how I love dates, figs, apricots and prunes. That’s right. I think Germans are the only people I know that eat prunes because they love them and not because they have to.

It amounted to the simple fact that back then (doesn’t matter if it’s 30 or 100 years) resources were scarce.

Not just every animal part, or vegetable from the garden, but everything was used and used up. Grandma’s dresses became our dresses and eventually rag rugs, woven or sewn. Buttons were cut off and reused, jeans were patched, quilts were made from worn clothes, shoes were handed down until the soles fell off.

Designer labels were unheard of and in their place was grandma’s spidery scrawled name on, you guessed it, recycled pieces of paper. Some of them I still have in my children’s keepsake boxes.

It was a simple life.






About spidersue

Working on books, working, gardening, baking, canning, knitting, crocheting, reading, walking, getting older, getting wiser, love my children, love love love my grandchildren.
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5 Responses to Family Fear Factor

  1. Nothing went to waste, and thankfully, because throwing the pigs feet, or chicken feet or unshelled eggs from inside the butchered chicken would have robbed the table of tasty treats.


  2. Adena Bauer says:

    I missed the article before, it’s nice to bring back memories of food we ate when we were young and kids don’t like now. Thanks for sharing the story and the recipe.


  3. El Moldenhauer says:

    I miss the simply things. In this very fast paced life we live in today, we forget those simple things. Creamed chicken feet are one of the things that I remember having many times. I remember as kids we would argue on who would have the chicken feet as they were so good. Thanks for sharing your story. I love to read these kind of stories as they bring back so many memories of days gone by.


    • dasguteessen says:

      I would be very interested in hearing about how you prepare chicken feet, my mother loved them… were they just washed and cooked, steamed? There doesn’t seem to be too much to eat on there…


  4. Marlyn Kauk says:

    My dad loved pigs feet. We should do what we can to preserve these old recipes and skills. Germans who came to the U.S. with nothing had to be resourceful and nothing went to waste. I am proud of this heritage and wish more people in this country knew about it. We need a day to recognize what the Germans contributed to this country as some ethnic groups have.


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