Sunday, November 06, 2011

Happy 5 Year Anniversary! The Making of Value Meals on the Volga.


RECAP OF MY PRESENTATION OF "The Making of Value Meals on the Volga" on November 2, 2011 at Barnes & Noble, Pima & Shea, Scottsdale Fiesta Shopping Center.

Good evening everyone. And thank you for joining us tonight at Barnes & Noble.
Our theme this evening is historical fiction and family history. These are two of my passions. I write both and dabble in fictionalized versions of true events. I also write two blogs. One “Value Meals on the Volga” focuses on family history research and tips. The other blog is Write to the Heart of the Matter, which features updates on writing, analysis of writing techniques and book reviews. However tonight I will discuss my first published book Value Meals on the Volga.

This book celebrates its five year anniversary this month. But the making of this book started when I was about eight years old.

During my childhood, other kids in school, and in my neighborhood, told me about the things they did with their grandparents; traveling, visiting relatives, celebrations and so forth. I only had one grandmother and I didn’t understand genealogy at that point, so I asked my Dad, why do I only have one grandmother?

He told me I had another grandmother and two grandfathers, but they had died before I was born. Of course, I then had a million other questions about who they were, where they lived, when they died….suddenly I was fascinated with my genealogy and a family historian was born.

Among the many questions I asked was prompted by a homework assignment. Every student in my class had to go home that weekend and find out where their families came from.
Again, I went to my Dad and asked, “Where did our family live before we came to the United States?” He immediately answered “Germany,” then paused and said, “But they lived in Russia.”

I was stunned. Russia? When I was 8 years old there was a COLD WAR with Russia. The Berlin Wall was firmly in place. How could we be Germans from Russia? My dad saw the look on my face and said, “Let’s ask your grandmother.” On our regular Sunday visit, my dad asked my grandmother about “where we came from.” She explained the story which begins with a German princess named Sophia.

Sophia Augusta Frederica was born in Stettin, Pomerania in 1729. You may recognize her by the name she used when she ruled as empress of Russia, Catherine II or Catherine the Great.
Pomerania in Prussia was one of the many Germanic states that existed in the 1700s. The actual country of Germany was not formed until the 1860s. Instead there were Hapsburgs and Hohenzollern and many different lords and princes in charge of each state. These states were fiefdoms and provinces which often battled with each other for land and serfs. Whoever won the latest skirmishes often dictated religion, language and culture of the province. Some years the official language of the province was German, a year later it could be French. Sometimes the province was Lutheran and if a Catholic prince won the land, everyone would convert to Catholicism. After the Seven Years war ended in 1760, the German people were tired of famine, death, mandatory military service and cultural shifts.

Catherine was a wise woman and a survivor. She knew the people of the Germanic states were strong industrious individuals who could help settle her vast expanse of land. She made an offer that was difficult for these people to refuse. In 1763 Catherine issued her second manifesto inviting foreigners to settle in Russia. She offered free land, freedom of religion, language, culture and exemption from military service. Many of these Germans were intrigued with her offer to farm the land. My ancestors accepted and ultimately moved to the villages of Reinwald and Mariental along the Volga River.

There are many more stories I have learned over the years about Germans from Russia…how they maintained their language, religion and culture for over 200 years. And, a big part of their culture was FOOD. It has been said that Germans from Russia do not dine, they eat! They were simple farmers, who ate simple food. The women passed down recipes from generation to generation teaching the skills and techniques via demonstration.

Value Meals on the Volga chronicles how my mother learned these recipes and how she, in turn, taught these recipes to me. I grew up with this food. I helped my mother as a child and she helped me as an adult to remember and fine tune these recipes for the next generation. Many traditions revolve around meals. There is nothing like gathering the family together around a hot oven to spur memories and conversation.

Value Meals on the Volga
not only describes my unique ancestry, but it gathers together German Russian recipes so we can re-create and savor the food our grandmothers used to make. With step-by-step instructions and full color photographs, you can create delicious meals whether you are a novice or gourmet cook. The soups, entrees, and desserts will help you to re-connect with your own past by relaxing and taking time to enjoy a great meal.

Take back time with your family. Find a way to talk with your loved ones by sharing stories of your own family history. The first sentence of this book is “How will your grandchildren remember you?” Let Value Meals on the Volga help you find the answer.
Happy Fifth Anniversary!