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Comments from Christian Peter Johnson, New York, NY

What a terrific thing you folks have accomplished! I've been looking and looking for something -- anything! -- about the foods of the Germans from Russia, and I can't tell you how glad I am to see your show.

A few words about me: I'm a 31-year-old corporate lawyer in New York City, where I've lived for nine years and plan to stay for many to come. However, my grandmother (Edna Berg Johnson), is a true Dakota Daughter, born and raised in McClusky, the seat of Sheridan County (north of Bismarck). Her father (Fred Berg) owned the general store and served as mayor for many years. We know that he immigrated from Odessa as a small child, but we're not sure how long his family had been in Russia before that -- it may not have been long. About her mother we know even less (I'm not even certain of her first name; her maiden name was Schindler) other than that she was born in South Dakota and also seems to have been of German-from-Russia descent.

Their daughter, Edna, married a Minnesotan Scandinavian named Carroll Johnson. They raised my father in Grand Forks, and just before he finished at UND they moved to Fargo. My father left North Dakota for graduate school in Austin, Texas, where he met my mother, a local girl. They settled in Seattle, where I was born. I probably would never have spent much time in North Dakota, but my mother died when I was five, so I spent every summer for the next ten years in Fargo, and I loved it. I've lived in several places since then (Washington, DC, where my father now lives, Northfield, Minnesota, Japan for about 18 months and then New York), and I'm proud to say that a part of Dakota stays with me, a part I especially like.

Anyway, I've always enjoyed cooking, so I'm the keeper of the family sweet roll and kuchen recipes. My step-mother, bless her, has taken the kaes knepfla duties. The funny thing is that where we've lived no one else has ever heard of these foods, which made me feel a little bit crazy -- this guy with these weird recipes from god-knows-where. ("Well, they're sort of like big cheese ravioli, but after you boil them you fry them with croutons...")

It's become even more imporant more recently. This summer my grandmother was diagnosed with moderate Altzheimer's, which means that there's less and less that we'll be able to glean from her. I'm really thankful that we wrote down as many recipes as possible when I was a teenager. I'm even more thankful that people are working with others, to keep this history from disappearing as memories fade.

So, for several years I've spelunked around the internet, looking for recipes for kuchen and kaes knoepfla without finding any. Finally this summer I ran a Google search under the terms "Prune kuchen" and came upon the web page describing the video.

I'm really impressed. It's a great show you've put together, with wonderful personalities. I even found myself singing along to "Du, Du"! And when we got to the kaes knepfla -- really just like my grandmother made -- it was like coming home.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller
North Dakota State University Libraries
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
Libraries
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Director: Michael M. Miller
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