Printed with the permission of the Alpine Avalanche – http://www.alpineavalanche.com
Some months ago, I walked in to Stone Village Market in Fort Davis as the afternoon regulars were meeting for coffee. I overheard part of a conversation where one fellow was talking about the Wendish people in Texas. I stopped dead in my tracks, turned to them and said, “MY people are Wendish!” and so began a conversation about the Wends in Texas.
Turns out that the man talking about the Wends, Tom Langham, had family that came over on the Ben Nevis ship in 1854… and so did I! We exchanged ancestors’ names and agreed to research each other. I later realized I’d given him my mother’s parents’ names, which weren’t the names of the brave souls that took a leap of faith to leave their homes in Saxony, Germany to travel by schooner for about four months to a place called Texas.
It wasn’t until after I lost my mother – the youngest of six children – that I discovered a yearning for learning about Mom’s heritage. Mom’s oldest brother, Uncle Fred, told us we weren’t German but Wendish – at every family reunion for about the last 15 reunions I attended – since Uncle Fred had been working with other relatives on a family history book for our Wendish side of the family. Both of Mom’s parents were Wendish, as were their parents before them and on back. I am so grateful to have a copy of the finished family history book. Our family reunions always had plenty of coffee cake (Mom was one of the coffee cake makers) and homemade noodles, and now I understand why.
My ancestors came over on the Ben Nevis and landed on Dec. 16, 1854 at Galveston in that first group of adventurers who departed on Sept. 26, 1854. On that very first ship. I honestly can’t imagine spending over three months in the belly of a schooner traveling to a rugged, frightening place called “Texas” with Indians and who knows what waiting.
A couple years ago, I joined the Texas Wendish Heritage Society, headquartered in Serbin, Texas. The president of the group shares my Granny’s maiden name. The fourth Sunday of September, the Heritage Society holds a Wendish Festival that I missed for the second year in a row after learning of it. At the festival, they have coffee cake competitions, homemade noodles served with homemade sausage, and among other things, sell beautiful hand painted eggs that are traditional Wendish art. I could go on and on but I won’t. Visit http://www.texaswendish.org if you’d like to learn more.
As I write this, I have my Granny’s coffee cake recipe in the oven. Oh, if you could smell what I smell… I feel like I’ve been transported to Granny’s house and also my mother’s home, since my mother made coffee cake for every special occasion. Little did I know back then that she was carrying on a time-honored tradition of her ancestors, passed down from generation to generation and that coffee cake baking was a competitive sport. Questions or comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Granny’s Coffee Cake Recipe
In a large mixing bowl, mix together: (in order)
½ cup warm water
1 yeast package
½ cup sugar
¼ cup melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
½ cup warm water
2-3 cups flour
Let it rise covered until double in size*. Beat it down, put it in a baking pan (greased 9×13 pan) and allow it to rise again.
*-The rising process may be speeded up by putting the dough into an oven which has been heated by setting it on “broil” for 1 minute and then turning the oven off.
For the Strudel Topping:
In a medium mixing bowl, mix together:
1 cup butter (melted)
2 cups white sugar
2 cups flour
Mix with hands till crumbly.
Make the strudel while the dough is rising the second time. Brush the top of the dough with half and half before adding the strudel to help it stick.
Bake at 325 degrees in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until edges are browned.
Note: my mother modified it by poking lots of holes with a toothpick and pouring a several generous tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk on the dough before adding the strudel top.