Memoir Contest Winner: Honorable Mention for Meat Rolls and Memories by Grace Ann Neuharth

by Matilda Butler on September 2, 2010

catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #53 – Women’s Memoirs, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

Kendra and I are pleased to publish Grace Ann Neuhart’s story and recipe that received an honorable mention in our April Memoir Contest–KitchenScraps Category. This is a story that will tug at your heart. Grace Ann is the co-author of Family Secrets: Letters to My Granddaughters.

Congratulations Grace.

Meat Rolls and Memories
By Grace Ann Neuharth

As the bread dough was rising, the sun poured through the kitchen window basking it in a stream of light. It was an everyday occurrence, but for me it was a sign of hope. I had a lot riding on this meat roll recipe, maybe too much. I wished that this one meal would clear the fog so that all my suppressed memories could resurface. I had read that of all of your senses, the power of smell was the one most likely to arouse a remembrance.

I thought about the leap of faith that had brought me to this house. The note that I sent was written on very ordinary paper, nothing special about it except for the content. It was by all accounts a plea for an invitation to spend a few hours with this lady. When you write a note to a stranger you never know if you will get a reply but you place your hope on curiosity if nothing more. Tears stained the pages as I wrote:

Dear Elaine,
I just found out that you are my sister. I cannot say that I remember you because I was taken away at a very early age right after our parents’ death. I was hoping that we could get together for a couple of hours to talk?
Your sister,

The minute I saw the reply, I clinched the envelope close to my heart, the shaking of my hands made it difficult to open. Holding back tears I struggled to read the words. It was cordial, but lacked the personal touches that only someone who knew you well could invoke. I was invited to come and given the necessary directions to her house.

It was a 1,200 mile car trip for me and I had plenty of time to think as the miles rolled by. Since my husband was driving, I had plenty of time for my mind to wander and to figure out the possible scenarios of the encounter. How does one start a conversation with a close relative that you do not remember at all? Maybe, “You don’t know me but I am your long lost sister, ta-da.” Or how about, “So I hear that you’re my sister. I’m hoping you can feel in all the blanks about my past.” Nothing I could think of came out right, everything came out so planned, so contrived that it would put both of us on edge. How do you sound confident and sincere when you are not really sure what you want?

Sweat poured down my face as I saw the sign leading into her city. I got out the crumbled piece of paper with the directions. We tried hard to follow the directions but somewhere between the folds we got lost. We scanned the landscape for a phone booth. My coke spilled on my jeans as my husband abruptly pulled the car over.

“Look over there,” my husband said excitedly. “You see that lady walking down the sidewalk?”

I looked at her slightly plump frame and the short blonde hair that framed her face.

“What about her?” I questioned as she opened a door and disappeared into a house.

“That my dear lady just happens to be your sister.”

Annoyed at his presumption that he could pick my sister out, I reminded him promptly that we were not on her street and people just don’t open someone’s door and walk in unless it is their house. We pulled away from the curb and found a phone booth.

My sister was not home so one of my nieces answered. She gave us better directions and we were on our way again. I was glad for the little buffer of time to talk to my niece.

When I heard the screech of the door as it opened I noticed that I was no longer breathing. The anticipation had taken my breath away. Lo and behold who should enter the room but the very same woman who my husband had noticed blocks away. He gave me one of those I told you so looks. I chose to ignore him. Self-defense you know, once you admit your husband is right you’ll never live it down.

My sister greeted us warmly although I noticed her nervousness. Our conversation unfolded with me trying to discover my past and her trying to fill in the blanks, but nothing she told me rang a bell. Even when she sang a lullaby in German that our father had sung to us. I felt nothing. At the end of a long evening she urged us to stay the night and tomorrow she would bake something special for me.

German Meat PiesThe next morning Elaine began making something she called Gestapo’s. She explained that this is a German idiom meaning imprisoned. I’ve since looked for other recipes for Gestapo’s and can’t find any mention of them on the Internet nor the use of this word as an idiom. (Gestapo was the name of the German secret policy, an acronym from GEheime STAats POlizei. However, since the Gestapo had unlimited rights to imprison people without cause, I can see why someone passed on this recipe to Elaine and called them Gestapo’s.)

The name fit my mood that morning as that was exactly the way I felt, imprisoned with a memory that would not surface for me. I watched as she put the bread dough out to rise and mixed the meat filling. Soon the prepared Gestapo’s were in the oven and the scent of homemade bread filled the kitchen.

That morning I tasted our mother’s recipe for the first time in my remembrance. My childhood memories did not magically return. But the taste made me crave more. I had begun the journey of self-discovery.

German Meat Pies

Gestapo’s (usually called Bierocks, a German meat turnover that often has cabbage as an additional ingredient.)

1 loaf of bread dough
¼ lb ground beef
¼ onion
¼ green pepper
Cheddar cheese, grated

Let the bread dough rise according to instructions on package if using frozen or fresh.

In a skillet brown the ground beef, onions and peppers. Season to taste. Drain off grease.

Take 1/6 of the bread dough and pat it out in your hand. Add 2 tablespoons of the filling mixture and some cheese in the center. Fold over and seal the edges.

Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes (until golden brown). Serves 6.

If you want you can add some leftover grated cheddar cheese on top during the last five minutes of baking.

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