|Picture courtesy of Ferienwohnung Hauswald|
She Told me a Story
by Laura Libricz
|Picture courtesy of Ferienwohnung Hauswald|
She Told me a Story
by Laura Libricz
What’s for dinner tonight?
Have a look in the pantry, see what you have, what you’re hungry for, and throw together something delicious. There’s a German idiom for just this situation that goes: schnell ein Essen zaubern! And that more or less means: magic me a meal! Let’s go back to the 17th century, specifically in Franconia, Germany: the absence of mod-cons, the hardship and toil and war, and eating whatever one is offered. How can we make a days-old leg of mutton or an old rabbit and some shriveled root vegetables edible let alone taste good? Magic me a meal!
Before we even think of cooking, we have to get this kitchen warm. Unfortunately, we used all the wood during the night because it was chilly and we have to find more wood. And if the fire went out altogether, we need either some embers from another fire or some dried straw, a flint stone, and a knife to get one going. Lug the firewood, light the fire, sit by until it’s burning. Once the fire is going we need water. The buckets are empty. Lug the water from the well, enough to cook with, and for whatever else we may need water for.
Looking in the cellar, I have carrots, onions, and some parsley root that has been stored in dry sand since September. They have shriveled up but they aren’t rotten. Once they are cooked they’ll taste good. A skinned wild rabbit has been hanging here for two days. It smells a bit gamey but it still looks useable. The cellar has a constant temperature summer and winter. (If I had a thermometer, it would probably be around 8° C or 45° F.) We still have some winter apples. These apples store nicely and are also a bit shriveled. In the garden I can dig up a horseradish root. Some kale is still standing in the garden because the spring hasn’t been that warm yet. Kale can stay out in the garden all winter.
We are lucky enough to have a master who is a traveling merchant, so we have pepper and cinnamon. And salt. We would die without salt. Not only does the body need salt to function, we need salt to preserve food. Last autumn, we dried salted deer meat and carp meat. We used all the grain last week and won’t have any more for another week or more. All we have left is old dried bread and ground acorns. The wine is sour but it actually tastes good in the cooking. The chickens have finally started laying again now that it’s spring so we have eggs. Lots of eggs. And the goat is still giving milk.
The fire is burning nicely atop the open hearth and all the chores are done so we can start cooking without being drawn away. Embers are gathered under a metal tripod and small pots set on top. The large iron pot can be hung from the chain rammed into the stone wall if we needed to cook a big meal but it won’t be necessary today. The smoke from the fire goes out the open flue but our eyes are still stinging and watering. The only outside light comes from a small window on the other side of the kitchen.
Chopping onions really makes our eyes water now. We chop some dried deer meat as well and then heat some fat in the pan, throw the onions and the deer meat into the pan, and let it fry. After it browns, we pour a half a bottle of that sour wine over the top. Zisch! Fumes from the sizzling wine and onions fill the kitchen and our mouths water! We sink the rabbit into the Sud, the stock. The sour wine will hide the gamey taste. Add salt, pepper and some cinnamon. In the garden, we pick sage leaves, just a few, some lavender, and a bit of rosemary that survived the winter. And we just gathered some Bärlauch, or wild garlic. This tasty herb can only be found in April and May, so we need to make the most of it. We can preserve some for later but it tastes best when it’s fresh.
Our main course is simmering away and we can think about side dishes and maybe even a dessert! So, carrots, old bread, ground acorns, eggs, milk, apples, cinnamon. Fresh kale and horseradish. Do we have any honey left? We decide to make a savory porridge out of water, carrots, onions, and ground acorns, salt and pepper. That will fill the belly. There will only be a mouthful of meat per person anyway. We put all of it in a pot and allow the savory porridge to simmer along side the rabbit. And how about a handful of chopped kale fried in fat with a bit of salt and topped with some freshly grated horseradish and a spoonful of rare goat’s cream?
Dessert: just because this is historical doesn’t mean we have to suffer! Old bread, milk, yes we have honey, apples. Let’s make a pudding. We heat the milk and apples and add the honey. The master also knows a beekeeper who is high up in the guild so we can get honey. It seems to disappear rapidly though. (I love honey.) Whisk in two eggs and watch it thicken. Then pour it over the pan filled with dried bread, set the pan on top of the hearth in a warm spot and hope it thickens more. If we had a fire in the oven we could bake it. But the oven is outside and we only stoke that up when we’re baking bread.
The rabbit should be done by now so we thicken the stock by crumbling the old bread into it. After spending the last two hours cooking, we are tasting our dishes more than we have to. The people we are cooking for hover around the kitchen like wolves who have smelled blood. We settle at the table and after a prayer of thanks to those forces we believe in, the room quiets at the task of devouring our delicious meal! Magic *
(I wrote this article for Donna Huber’s Girl-Who-Reads blog. Check out her site!)
Medieval and early modern Nuremberg was considered a free imperial city, an independent city-state, until its absorption into the Bavarian kingdom in 1806. As an independent city-state, Nuremberg was free to rule itself without being subordinate to the surrounding territorial leaders. The only one they had to answer to was the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
In Nuremberg a closed caste of merchant families, termed ‘patricians’, ruled the city. Only members of these families could be part of the city council. These families were strictly documented and numbered between 37 and 42. The term patrician comes from ancient Rome, meaning either a member of the upper class or a hereditary title given to the aristocracy.
One family name that has survived this time period as more than just a street name or a plaque on a monument is the name Tucher. The Tucher family can trace its roots back to the 14th century and are still present in the Nuremberg landscape today. The first Tuchers were probably in service to the count of Castell and the first documented family member joined the Nuremberg city council in 1340.
A couple of good marriages here, a few successful business decisions there and the stance and the assets of the family grew. The early modern period saw the Tucher family as one of the most influential and richest families in Nuremberg, their businesses spreading throughout Europe.
During this time period, many of the merchant patrician families in Nuremberg withdrew from their businesses, opting for the lifestyle of the landed nobility. The Tuchers also owned quite a bit of property around Nuremberg but the Tucherschloss in Nuremberg was the main residence.
Built between 1533 and 1544, this Schloss on the Hirschelgasse is the inspiration for the home of the fictitious character from The Master and the Maid, Sebald Tucher. The building was for the most part destroyed in WW2 but was rebuilt in the sixties and now houses a museum. It is open to the public. Here’s a link to their website: Museum Tucherschloss
Here’s the book trailer for The Master and the Maid: #booktrailer The Master and the Maid #historicalfiction
Sichartshof, eine verschwundene Ortschaft
At the base of the low mountain range Steigerwald, in a fertile little hollow called the Edelgraben, there once stood a sheep farm. The first inkling of this farm appears in the Dachsbach registry in 1450 as ‘Sigartzhoffe’ belonging to a man named Peter Sighart. The good man paid a chicken and some grain to settle his taxes.
Over the years, thorough searches in the archives have produced a few registry entries, a sentence here, a mere crumb of information there, regarding this mysterious farm: Sigartshoff, Sycharczhoff, Sichartshof. According to an undated entry in the Dachsbach registry that is believed to be before the Thirty Years War, around the year 1600, the little farm had grown into an accumulation of acreage of farmed fields, grasslands, and ponds for farming fish.
A patrician from Nuremberg named Sebald Tucher is then documented as having owned Sichartshof in 1629. He bought the farm from the widow Margarethe Hansen and had acquired more land to work. By this time, Sichartshof lay unprotected in the Aisch River Valley, the valley a well-travelled route for mercenary troops involved in the Thirty Years War.
Why would Sebald Tucher leave Nuremberg, a city protected behind massive, impenetrable walls, and move out to a country manor amid this time of agitation? Did he want to hunt? Did he want to drink? Did he need the products that the farm could yield for his family in Nuremberg? How did he live? Who lived there with him?
This forgotten hamlet is the inspiration for the farm named Sichardtshof in the historical novel series Heaven’s Pond. For the answer to these questions and more, read the historical novel The Master and the Maid. The forgotten hamlet comes alive again, its story just waiting to be told!
The Thirty Years War. Known as The Great War in Germany up until the 20th century. Still regarded as the most devastating era in Germany history. We know what the history books say. We know what the church fathers say. But what really happened?
Imagine life in the 17th century, through this revolutionary time in history:
1600 years after the dawn of Christianity, 200 years after the invention of the printing press. 100 years after the protests of Martin Luther. Nuremberg, Germany was the center of European trade in the middle ages. A flourishing city built on the strength of diverse and superior craftsman. A free city state. Independent of the Holy Roman Empire. Imagine the year 1616. Mankind had made leaps in terms of science, humanities, language, learning. The Renissance was giving birth to the early modern age, but there was a dark side to this period. Not everyone wanted this revolution of thought and practice. Some forces were fighting to keep progress down. A war was brewing.
But people were trying to live their lives as they saw fit. Women wanted to live their lives. A young woman named Andra-Angela refuses to obey. She is executed for witchcraft and leaves a newborn baby behind. Another young woman named Katarina is traded to a rich patrician in order to pay her fiancé’s debts. Katarina is forced to relocate to the patrician’s country manor. There she meets the newborn baby’s father, a crazed archer who forces the care of the child on her at sword point.
Protecting the child puts Katarina at risk. She could fall into disfavor with her master. She could be hunted by the zealots who killed the archer’s beloved. She could be executed herself. Can Katarina’s love for the baby and Sebald Tucher’s desire for her keep the wrath of the zealots at bay?
A look into the city of Bamberg, Germany: The Early Modern Witch Burning Stronghold
Today I would like to extend a warm and hearty welcome to Laura Libricz, with my first ever guest blog post. Thank you to Laura for taking the time to write this wonderful article on witchcraft in Germany. Over to Laura:
Throughout the dark ages, Christianity had difficulties setting down roots among the Germanic tribes. Stories are told of saints who came to the German people and destroyed sacred trees and mystical places in order to show the people that their gods had no power. Even after Christianity took hold and the Catholic Church was established in the Germanic territories of the Holy Roman Empire, evidence shows that the Germanic people held onto their beliefs in goddesses, magic, herbal remedies, and pagan practices.
Persecution of heathens and witches was regular but not widespread in Germany in the medieval period…
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I can go on for hours and hours when I’m writing about a character and spilling all of their secrets. But when it comes to writing about myself, I am reluctant. The traits that make me a writer are those same traits that have given me problems over the years; problems with relationships, in the workplace and general miscontent. I have been blessed with, or cursed with, an inquisitive personality, borderline nosey-busy-body-syndrome, a sharp memory for mundane details and word-for-word recollection of conversations and arguments. Add a tendency to take all of this and twist it into whatever type of story I need to entertain my bored mind and a overdeveloped drive to turn a job into a major project.
Did anyone influence you / encourage you to become a writer?
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