Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fashion Faux Pas

With Canada’s Food Guide in my 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 so I’m moving on.”

I finally spotted a guy working in the baking aisle and 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 and 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 and 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 Goodwill store. I was just going to look around a bit but I found the most beautiful dress I had 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 that 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 freshly 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 it 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 and 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 arm pits 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. 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 do 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 incredibly 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. I felt so guilty for having those same thoughts the first time I saw him.

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

I followed the nurse to the same room I had been in a few times before; it was getting to be so familiar.

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 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 and 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 earlier.

The nurse continued, “How about I tell her you will come on Tuesday morning to get started?”

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 that nurse. She made me feel like I was so important. I felt that I just might be okay. Each time I visited her, that feeling I had, that this world would be better off without me, disappeared a little further. I thought, “If she thinks I can figure this out by going to school, I have to at least give it a try.” 

I walked through the door with a big smile until I saw the Low German lady and reality wiped that smile right off my face. George got up and followed me out the door and there was the big white van parked right at the front door and that lady’s husband was sitting in the van smoking.

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 whose cousins they were and that they knew my family.

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

Marco Antonio Solis

I tried to explain it to him but he got all confused, lost interest, started looking through the tapes and put one of Los Bukis 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 gave George the piece of paper with the address to the food bank and asked if he knew where it was. I told him that the nurse had said to go get some food.

He said, “Sure, let’s go.”

The song Quiereme started playing as I drove off and 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.

I drove to the food bank and 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 and, on the way back to the apartment, he said, “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?”

While he carried the box of food up the stairs for me, I told him what the nurse said and that I was starting school on Tuesday. He was very happy for me and said, “That nurse deserves an award for the work she does. She has a way of caring for people like no other.”

The nurse knew right away that there was no medicine for what I needed. I just needed to hear what she told me and, because she made that first connection with the school, that made it a bit less frightening for me to take the next step.

I gave George his keys back and he said, “No, no, you can keep them in case you want to watch movies sometime again. If it’s not during work hours just make sure you knock before you walk in because I might be giving someone a tattoo sometime after work or on weekends. You can come and watch me sometime if you like.”

“Maybe I will,” I said.

“Don’t forget to eat again,” he said.

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

George added, “Oh, and one more thing before I go, if Mark doesn’t leave you alone, just tell him you have a new boyfriend and he doesn’t like it when other guys call or visit you. What you do is none of his business.”

“Okay,” I answered.

I started unpacking the food and then I remembered I still hadn’t opened the box of stuff my mom sent me from Mexico.

I 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 shed a few tears while I ate a chocolate bar and remembered my family. I thought of ways I could convince my mom to be okay with me not wearing those dresses anymore. 

My phone rang and I thought, “Perfect, I am going to tell Mark that I have a boyfriend!”

My hands were shaking when I picked up the phone but, before I could say hello, I heard a lot of static in the background and my heart skipped a beat 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? 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!” (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 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.

She said, “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 told her.

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

I told her I would make it as soon as I had enough money to buy a sewing machine.  

“Okay then, and 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 are 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 in that one day.

After talking to my mom I lost my appetite for a canned ham sandwich and I was having 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 because I told her I would and I will.”

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? 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. I will ask someone at the 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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