Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fashion Faux Pas

With Canada’s Food Guide in hand, I walked nervously into the grocery store and tried to find Häw (yeast) on my own, but I found Romano beans instead. I grabbed a bag of those and got some jalapenos, onions, and tomatoes. With those ingredients, I could make a dish that would probably taste pretty close to how it did back home and it would somewhat fit the Food Guide.

I thought, “I have had it with Komstborscht! It has brought me nothing but sorrow! I’m moving on.”

Finally, I spotted a guy working in the baking aisle. I worked up the courage to tell him what I was looking for. He laughed so hard he was crying.

 “You are looking for something to make buns grow bigger?” He asked.

“Yes, that is what I am looking for.”

He burst out laughing again. He could barely speak as he grabbed a jar of yeast, handed it to me, and said in Low German, “Dü meenst Häw fe Je'backniss?” (You mean yeast for baking?)

He spoke perfectly good Low German. He had a smirk on his face right from the start. I really wanted to whack him with the bag of Romano beans I had in my hand. On my way to look for the Pine-Sol, I thought, “I really should have called him a schwein noagel!” I got all worked up just thinking about it.

I walked past the razors and shaving products. I slowed down, backed up a bit, and grabbed a pack of razors just in case I decided to start shaving my legs. I had been thinking about it long and hard and thought it was time.

On my way home I decided to stop at a local thrift store. I was just going to look around a bit but I found the most beautiful dress I had ever seen in real life. It was purple satin with black lace trim on the front crossing down to one side and down to the side of the hip where the slit began just above the left knee.

I thought, “I could put a sweater on with it and it would be perfect.” I had a pleated Mennonite dress in the exact same colour. I made a matching purple bow and glued it onto a hair clip and a black lace waistband with a bow on the back to wear with it. The colours were exactly the same.

I loved it and it was only a few dollars. I walked around the store for about an hour, nervously talking myself into buying it. The more I thought about it, the more nervous I got. I felt butterflies in my stomach just thinking about how it might feel against shaved legs.

I looked around some more and found a pair of jeans I liked and a silver top to go with the jeans. I thought, “I will buy these clothes just in case I want to go somewhere and not be recognized. Just because I have them doesn’t mean I will wear them all the time. I really, really want to buy these clothes. I am just going to buy them! I am doing it.” I slowly made my way to the cash register.

I was hoping she wouldn’t ask me anything and that I would have the right amount of change so it wouldn’t be too complicated. I really hoped that she wouldn’t ask me if I had a nickel or a dime because I could never remember which one was which.

A tall blond woman working at the register picked up the purple dress, looked right into my eyes, smiled, and said, “This is gorgeous and it’s brand new. It still has the tag on it. I can’t believe someone would throw this out. I was going to buy it, but it doesn’t fit me so this is your lucky day.”

I just smiled and held my breath. I really wanted to say something back to her but I just couldn’t find the right words to say.
When I got back to the car, I just sat there for a while and imagined George saying, “Anna, breathe. Just take a deep breath.” I did that until my heartbeat slowed down. I was so proud. I just bought a dress that I chose for myself, one that I loved.

When I got home I decided that it was time to take that nurse’s advice and start eating more. I made tweeback dough, put a pot of beans on the stove and diced onions, jalapenos and tomatoes to make my favorite salsa to go with the beans, just like I used to make at home on the colony.

Back in Mexico, we cooked beans in a daumpgropen (pressure cooker) but, since I didn’t have one, the beans would have to cook for at least two hours or so and the tweeback dough had to rise for about an hour before I could knead it again.

I figured I would have a bath and shave my legs while I waited. I lay in the bubble bath for twenty minutes before I worked up the courage to start shaving. I took a few deep breaths and thought, “What the heck! I’m doing this! It won’t be that obvious so no one will have to know about this.” As I started shaving I thought, “While I’m at it, I’ll do my armpits too!”

I got out of the bathtub and got dressed, kneaded the tweeback dough, sat there for a while, and thought, “The beans still have to cook for another hour and I can’t make the tweeback for another half hour. Why am I sitting here when I could be trying on my new dress?”

I took the scissors into the bedroom, cut the tags off the dress, and put it on. It was a bit loose-fitting, but I loved it. I felt very sexy wearing it. My closet door was a mirror. I walked back and forth past the mirror, modeling the dress. I tried a few different hairstyles to go with the dress and decided on a side bun with my hair parted in the middle.

I had brought my purple bow hair clip from Mexico, made to match my pleated purple dress. I thought, “This will match perfectly,” and put it on the side of the bun that was the furthest from my ear.

I thought, “If I am really careful, I can make the tweeback while wearing this dress. No one has to know about it.” I made all the tweeback and covered them with tea towels and plastic. I gave the beans a stir and started sautéing the onions and peppers for the salsa.

I put on my Alanis Morissette tape and checked on the beans. They were just about done. I was getting really hungry but the tweeback were not ready to bake yet so I did what mom always did when this happened. I made a Jiets Küak which is a flattened deep-fried tweeback. I put the oil on high and, while that was heating, I added the tomatoes and salt to the salsa, flattened a tweeback, and fried it. 

By the time the Jiets Küak was fried, the salsa was ready and the first batch of tweebak was ready to go in the oven. I put them in and served myself a plate of beans, salsa, and a Jiets Küak. I sat down and said my prayer. As the first spoon full was about to touch my lips, there was a knock at the door.

I thought, “Hey, caramba! Who could that be? I can’t let anyone see me like this. Oh no!” I heard a knock again and then a voice. It was George. I thought, “Okay, it is just George. I will open the door and explain this to him.” When he caught a glimpse of me he almost fell backward! Then he checked the number on the door to make sure he had knocked on the right one.

He said, “Wahhaahh … what are you doing?”

“Well, I went shopping. I bought food and this dress and I thought I wasn’t getting any company so I tried it on,” I replied.

“Wow, it smells amazing in here! What are you making?” he asked.

I explained what I made to the best of my ability and said, “Come in. Would you like some?”

“Ahhh … okay, yeah sure.”

I got him a plate and quickly fried him a Jiets Küak. He followed me into the living room and we sat down on the floor beside my brightly flowered love seat. I put the plates on the little table and started eating.

“Why didn’t you say your prayer this time?” he asked.

I told him that I already said it, just before he came over.

“Okay,” he replied and started eating.

I finished my plate and got up to check on the tweeback and they were done. I took them out and put the next batch in.

I turned to George and asked, “Hey, would you like to try a tweeback?

He laughed and asked, “Would I like to try a what buck?”

“No, not a what buck, a tweeback. That is what we call buns in Low German,” I explained to him.

“Absolutely, I will try one of those. Thank you, Anna" he said.

As George was eating the tweebak, my legs and armpits started itching really bad. I rubbed my legs and he noticed it right away and asked, “What? You shaved your legs?”

“Yes, I did,” I replied.

“Really? I hope you didn’t do this just because of what those assholes said the other day at the factory about Mennonite women,” he said.

“You know I heard them?” I asked.

“I had a feeling that you might have but I wasn’t sure how to ask if you did. But, you should just ignore what those guys said; they can be really nasty,” he said.

I told him that I had thought about it for a long time already and that I didn’t do it just because of what those guys said.

“Okay, good. You should put some lotion on it. That will help with the itching,” he said.

George continued, “Don’t be embarrassed to ask me anything, okay? Even if it is about shaving legs and what is or isn’t a dress and things like that. I won’t laugh, I promise. Learning all this while learning English can’t be easy and just between you and me, if I had to learn that language you speak, I would never get it. You are doing great!”

Purple satin nightgown

“You think so?”

“I don’t think so, I know so.”

I turned all red. I wasn’t used to being told that I was doing great and wasn’t sure how to react to that so I just said, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome and Ahhh… Anna, I have to tell you something, and please forgive me but I feel like I have to do this.”

I was getting really nervous and worried about what he was going to say to me. He let out a big sigh and hung his head down so low that his hair covered his face. He struggled to find the right words and I could tell he really didn’t want to say it.

At last, he stammered, “Ahh, Anna, what you are wearing … ahh … well, it is not a dress, you know. It is a nightgown.

I thought I would tell you before someone else comes over, like Mark for instance. He might get the wrong idea. I’m really sorry to ruin your happy day like this.”

Then I remembered: “Ha le dietschjat miene tweeback,” and ran to the oven to take the buns out. Click here to continue reading my story.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Fresh beans with salsa & Tweeback



1 lb (about 2 1/2 cups) dried beans
9 cups of water
3/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp of oil


Pick rocks out, rinse beans and place in pressure cooker with water and salt. Bring pressure cooker up to pressure on high; start timer 35-40 minutes. Let pressure release naturally (this can take another 15 minutes or so). When the pressure is all released open pressure cooker add oil and boil for 15 - 20 minutes so the juice thickens a bit.


Fast easy tasty salsa:

3 Jalapeno peppers
1 Red bell pepper
1 Large onion
3 Large tomatoes
2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil
1/2 Teaspoon of caldo de tomate or seasoning salt or to taste 


Dice onions, tomatoes, red and jalapeno peppers on medium heat add oil to frying pan saute all the all the diced veggies for 5 min, add about a cup of water depending on how soupy you want it and add the caldo de tomate or seasoning salt and boil for 7-10 minutes. 

Serve the beans and salsa with a tweeback or a jiets küak.

Click here for the tweeback dough recipe.  

To make a jiets küak take a raw tweeback, flatten, stretch, press some whole in it and deep fry it in vegetable oil until golden brown.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

New Branches from Old Roots

Continued from Life is so complex here!

The oldest girl asked her mom in Low German, “Who is that?”

Her mom whispered something in her ear. She knew exactly who I was and told the girl to sit down but not too close to that long-haired schwein noagel (pig nail). This term was often used to describe men that didn’t groom on a regular basis or anyone that had a distinct look to them.

That made me really angry because I knew how rude and disrespectful that was, but I couldn’t do anything about it.

George looked at them, then turned to me with a raised eyebrow and smiled. At that moment I felt so much guilt for having those same thoughts about George the first time I saw him.

My favorite nurse came and called my name. I got up and looked at George, “Good luck. I’ll wait here for you,” he said.

I followed the nurse to the same room I had been in a few times before. We sat down and she told me about the tests she had done. “Anna, you just need to eat more, sleep better, and not be alone too much.” She gave me Canada’s Food Guide and an address to a food bank and said, “Go get yourself some food and start eating.” 

I was relieved and happy to learn that that was all that was wrong with me.

She said, “I think if you would go to school and learn how to read, it would help you understand what is happening to you, your nerve problems and all. The schools here in Canada are very different. I think you would like it. You should just give it a try.”

“I know the principal at that school and I have already told her about you. She is excited to meet you. She will help you get started. I think you would like her.”

That was starting to sound really tempting, especially after the conversation I had had with George a few minutes earlier.

The nurse continued, “How about I tell her that you will go and meet her on Tuesday morning?”

I thought, “Alright, I will give it a try,” and told the nurse that I would go. I got up, grabbed all the papers she gave me, and thanked her.

She hugged me and said, “Good luck and take care of yourself. Call me if you need to talk to someone.”

I felt so good after talking to her. She made me feel like I was important. I felt that I just might be okay. Each time I visited her, my depressing thoughts disappeared a little further. “If she thinks I can figure this out by going to school, I have to at least give it a try,” I thought.

I walked through the door with a big smile on my face until I saw the Low German lady. My reality wiped the smile right off my face. George got up and followed me out the door, we walked past the big white van parked in front of the front door and saw that lady’s husband sitting in the van smoking while he was waiting.

He was staring at us as we got into the car. I put my hands on the wheel and let out a frustrating sigh.

“Who are those people?” George asked.

I explained who the family was and that they knew my family.

“Why isn’t he in there helping his wife with all those kids?” George asked.

I tried to explain it to him but he got all confused and lost interest. He started looking through the tapes in the glove compartment and randomly picked one of Los Bukis and put it into the tape player.

I loved that tape. Ever since I first saw Marco Antonio Solis, the lead singer of the group, on the cover of the tape box. I thought that he was Jesus and he had the most beautiful voice I had ever heard.

I handed George the piece of paper with the address to the food bank on it and asked if he knew where it was. I told him that the nurse had said to go get some food.

“Sure, let’s go,” he said.

The song Quiereme started playing as I drove off. George smiled and waved at the Low German man in the white van as we passed him. The man looked away quickly and shook his head at the sight of us.

At the food bank, George came in with me and helped me pick out some food. I picked some bread, flour, canned beans, and ham. George carried it out to the car for me. “I don’t mean to be so nosy and you don’t have to tell me the details if you don’t want to but I am curious. Are you going to be okay?” George asked as I drove back to the apartment.

I explained what the nurse told me and that I had agreed to start school on Tuesday. 

“Anna, that's awesome! I'm so happy for you. That nurse deserves an award for the work she does. She has a way of caring for people like no other.”

Thanks, the nurse knew right away that there was no medication for what I needed. She told me exactly what you have been telling all along. I just didn't want it to be true. It's just so different from how I grew up. But everything is different and I am going to have to get used to it if I want to continue to live outside of the Mennonite colony in Mexico.

“Anna, you are so wise to recognize that.

“I guess I just needed to hear it from a few people before I realized that you were right all along. She went ahead and called the school to tell them about me, that's what made all the difference and a bit less frightening for me to take that first step,” I explained.

“I'm so proud of you! he replied.

I turned red like a tomato because I wasn't used to that kind of support, especially from a man. After the awkward moment passed I turned to him and said, Thank you,” He just smiled. 

I parked the car at the apartment and handed George his keys back. 

“No, no, you can keep them in case you want to watch movies at my place again sometime. 

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yes, I want you to keep them. I mean just keep in mind my work hours because I might be giving someone a tattoo sometimes after work or on weekends. Just so you know, but feel free to come and watch me sometime if you like.”

“Okay, maybe I will.” 

“Don’t forget to eat again,” he reminded me on our way up the stairs.

“I will have a canned ham sandwich, okay?” I replied.

“Oh, and one more thing before I go, if Mark doesn’t leave you alone, just tell him that you have a new boyfriend and he doesn’t like it when other guys call or visit you. I think that will take care of that. He needs to stop being so nosy. What you do is none of his business,” George added.

“Okay, thanks for everything,” I answered.

“You're welcome sweetie, have a good night. 

“You too,” I replied.

As I unpacked and placed the food into the cupboards, I remembered I still hadn’t opened the box of stuff my mom had sent me from Mexico.

I dropped what I was doing and opened it. I wasn’t surprised to find brightly flowered fabric for a dress, matching thread to sew the dress, a pair of knee-length grey socks, a box of Carlos V chocolates, a songbook, and my first tea towel that I had hand-embroidered when I was eleven.

I sat down on the floor and had a few tears while I ate a chocolate bar and remembered my family. I thought of ways I could convince my mother to be okay with me not wearing those dresses anymore. 

My phone rang and I thought, “Perfect, timing, I am going to tell Mark that I have a boyfriend so he will finally leave me alone.”

My hands were shaking when I picked up the phone and before I could say hello, I heard a lot of static in the background. My heart stopped when I heard my mom’s voice say, “As dit Onn?” (Is this Anna?)

 “Jo dit as,” (Yes, it is,) I answered

“Are you sick?  she asked.


The Brauns saw you at a Doctor’s office with an awful looking man. Who was that? Why was he with you? Why are you spending time with a schwein noagel like that? Why didn’t you just come home with Izaak?” she questioned.

All I could think of was, “Ha le dietschjat! (Holy crap!) I was right. I knew this would happen. 

When she finally let me talk, I said thank you for the gifts and tried to explain everything to her but it just made it worse. Especially when I told her that I was starting school on Tuesday. She started crying and begged me to come back home.

 The dishcloth in this picture is one
of the first ones I hand embroidered  

I had already cried before she called, so I was keeping it together pretty good while trying to convince her that I was doing okay and that I believed that I was on the right track to figuring out my nerve problems. 

What happened to you? Did I hear you right? You said you want to go to school? Have you forgotten about what school was like for you?”

“No, mom, I haven’t forgotten and I don’t think I ever will but I just want to try it here. Maybe it will be better,” I explained.

“Do you like the fabric I sent with Izaak?” she asked.

I told her I did and that I would make the dress as soon as I had enough money to buy a sewing machine.  

“Okay then, we have to go now, and don’t forget to answer my letters, okay?”

“Okay mom, I will do my best,” I answered and she hung up the phone.

I just sat there for a while. I felt like I had just been slapped around by the people that were supposed to love me. I didn’t even have a chance to start convincing her like I had planned in my thoughts earlier. The way people were keeping an eye on me, I couldn’t keep any secrets from my mom.

I felt like screaming and jumping out of my skin after that but, instead, I just started breathing like George told me to do every time something was happening that made me anxious. I couldn’t even count how many times I felt happy, guilty, trapped, and sad all at the same time.

After talking to my mom I lost my appetite for a canned ham sandwich and I was beginning to have second thoughts about starting school. She reminded me that I was a hard learner  and I would have a terrible time at school and why would I put myself through that agony again?

I thought, “I have to at least go and meet that nurse’s friend at the school because I told her I would.”

While I was trying to go to sleep, I just lay in bed dreaming about how I would dress if I didn’t have to worry about people watching my every move. Since I had a bit of money, I decided that I would go shopping the next day. 

On Saturday I was going to clean and bake. I needed Pine-Sol and Häw (yeast) but I had no idea what Häw was called in English.

I thought, “Maybe George could help me but how would I explain it to him? I need the stuff that makes the buns grow bigger? Oh, man, he won’t get what I’m trying to say. Nope, I’m not asking George, and concluded that I would ask someone at the grocery store instead.” Click here to continue reading my story.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Turkey Flautas

Ingredients for the dough:

2 cups of maseca
1 teaspoon of salt
add enough water until the dough isn’t sticky and it rolls into a ball nicely 

Ingredients for the filling:

1 1/2 cups shredded cooked turkey
1 teaspoon of sazonador de tomate or seasoning salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper

For frying:

Vegetable or canola oil

Directions/mixing Instructions for the dough:

Combine 2 cups (loose measure) of maseca salt, & water. Mix thoroughly to form a soft dough. If the dough feels dry, add more water (one tablespoon at a time).

Divide dough balls. Cover with a damp cloth to keep dough moist. Line a tortilla press with two sheets of thick plastic wrap. Place each ball between plastic and press until tortilla measures 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Carefully peel off plastic wrap.

Season turkey with black pepper and season salt or sazonador de tomate.

Place seasoned turkey on the tortilla, roll it up and fry until golden brown.

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