There was a knock on the door…German soldiers interrupted the last meal the family partook of in Schwabisch, Germany. Their home was taken by the Nazis during WWII. Elle remembered, “I will never forget it…we were eating Chicken and Dumplings”. Elle talked little about the horrific tales of the war. She married a U.S. soldier she met during the occupation. Her glorious life and love story post war covered the dark times with joy all the rest of her days.
Why are our memories marked by meals? Life’s tragedies and triumphs are always shared at the table. When have you been sent away from the table? Perhaps never. Don’t most of us remember being asked to come to the table? Peace talks are usually conducted at a table.
Elle suffered a series of strokes. She died this week…not before I held her and told her I loved her. She was able to mouth, “I love you”. I share a small paragraph about her today because I was privileged to have her as a dear friend and host her 90th birthday dinner and shared many happy times with her over the years.
She spoke of her German Mother often who loved to laugh. She made homemade bread and opened the window to scatter crumbs on its sill for the wild canaries in Germany. Elle’s Mother was a gifted gardener; teaching Billy how to grow everything well.
After Billy suffered a stroke she lived alone and said to me one day, “I think I would like a Canary” . That was all I had to hear and I was off to find one for her. She laughed when I brought it to her and said, “Oh Karen, I can’t take care of it”. Thus the little bird’s name became Elle’s Canary. I cared for the little bird for many years. It sang melodies that would put any music box to shame. Billy died first and the Canary slipped away before Elle. Before she died, I told her she would be reunited with Billy soon in heaven and he would be singing to her the way he always did. The “Canary” is singing in Heaven with Elle and Billy.
We should never take our meals for granted. Will one be our last together? Will we become refugees against our will and forced to leave our homes? This story is true; shortened to honor the lives not able to dictate each word.
Come to the table!
A post note: Billy and Elle sang in their church choir and answered the Minister’s invitation every time he said, “Come to the Table”.
Chicken and Dumplings
Boil one chicken until tender and meat begins to fall from the bone.
Remove from water and cool slightly. Remove meat from bones.
Reduce chicken stock to enhance flavor.
Prepare the dumplings:
1-3/4 Cups flour
Salt & Pepper
Mix with a little milk
The consistency should be thick to make “globs” – add more flour if needed.
Add Carrots and Celery to boiling water and simmer until soft.
Return Chicken pieces to the broth and bring to a boil.
Take two spoons and launch globs of egg dumpling mixture into boiling broth, pushing globs off with one spoon.
This will keep your hands clean.
Boil gently until puffy (with cover on) until cooked through. 10-15 minutes.
Serve each guest using a bowl. Take portions of chicken, vegetables, layer dumplings last and spoon broth over equally. Enjoy piping hot!