A Twist on a German Recipe for Buttermilk Soup

I added fish to a German recipe for Buttermilk Soup with green beans and potatoes. In Germany, you can call the original: Bohnensuppe mit Buttermilch.

Mine became a Buttermilk Soup with Potatoes and Fish and Green Beans, because I was looking for a way to use up some buttermilk, and some cod that I had on hand. I found recipes for chowder made with buttermilk that called for several kinds of fish.  I found recipes for fish soup without buttermilk.  Then I spotted the Bohnensuppe mit Buttermilch, and thought, Why not?

Unlike most of my food posts, you are seeing no illustration here.  White soup with white potatoes and white fish just is not the most photogenic dish in the world. Besides, we ate it too quickly to take pictures.

 

German Buttermilk Potato Fish Soup

Serves 6
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 20 minutes
Allergy Fish, Milk
Meal type Soup
Misc Child Friendly, Serve Hot
Website Kitchen Project
A traditional buttermilk soup recipe from a website is adapted by adding fish.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup raw green beans (Stem and cut bite-size)
  • 4 cups Red or yellow potatoes (Peel unless thin-skinned, chop into bite size pieces)
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, grated
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill weed
  • salt and pepper
  • 3/4-1lb cod or other firm fish (cut in 1" pieces)

Optional

  • medium onion (chopped)

Directions

1. Cook the potatoes and ginger in the broth until tender. (If using onions, add them and cook a few minutes.
2. Using a slotted spoon, take potatoes out and put in blender or food processors (or a bowl is you are using a stick blender). Puree until smooth.
3. Meanwhile, cook the green beans in the stock you used for potatoes, just until barely tender. Blend in the potato puree and cook 5 minutes.
4. Stir in the buttermilk and dill. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Add chunks of fish and cook another 5 minutes, until fish is done through, but not overcooked.
6. Serve with a sprinkle of paprika or a sprig of dill on top.

Note

The German name for buttermilk soup with green beans and potatoes is Bohnensuppe mit Buttermilch

I took several liberties with the recipe I found on the Kichen Project website.

The biggest change is that I added fish, which is not part of the original recipe. I also reduced the quantity of green beans to compensate for the added bulk of the fish, and more than doubled the amount of chicken broth (they called for chicken stock). If you follow their recipe exactly, I believe you will have more of a stew than a soup, and definitely the taste emphasis will be on the green beans.

The recipe specifies waxy potatoes like red, yellow or Yukon gold (my favorite for cooking). You don't want to use baking potatoes in soup because they will just fall apart and you won't get the nice smooth base that you get by pureeing the other kinds.

I freeze fresh ginger root so I always have it on hand. That makes it easy to grate into recipes and it lasts a very long time. If you do not have fresh ginger root, use powdered ginger, but cut the amount by about a third.

The original recipe also suggests adding a dash of hot sauce, which would be okay, but I wanted the ginger and dill flavors to predominate, so left it out.

It made a delicious fish soup, but I'm sure would also be delightful with just green beans and potatoes.

 

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Mother’s Death Causes Family Conflict–A Letter from Will Stout

The Cast of Characters in a Family Conflict

William Morgan Stout (1873-1944)  intrigues me. He seemed to attract family conflict.

William Stout

Ancestor Great Uncle William Morgan Stout (1938) 65 years old.

I don’t believe I ever saw Will Stout. If I did meet him on one of his brief visits to Killbuck Ohio, I was too young to remember. My great-uncle, older brother of my grandmother Vera Stout Anderson, lived in New York City during the Gilded Age.

Recently I found a letter that he wrote to my grandmother, Vera Stout Anderson in 1937. This one letter to my grandmother is the only thing that I have in his own handwriting. It nicely fills in the personality of my elusive great-uncle Will.

Will Stout’s Life

Very little factual information about Will Stout survives. For instance, it took me years to discover that he died in Palm Beach Florida rather than New York or New Jersey.  I expected to find him still near his relatives in New Jersey in the 1940s.  I only recently was able to uncover Will and Jean’s marriage record. There I learned her last name and that she was a widow rather than a divorcee.

He did not quite have the distinguished career that my mother described as “a railroad attorney”. Nevertheless Will lived in magical Manhattan. Actually, he was one of many lawyers who worked for the New York  street car company, the Interborough Rapid Transit Company.

Will left Killbuck Ohio for school in upstate New York, and then law school in New York City after his father Dr. William Stout nearly disowned him for what Doc Stout saw as dissolute living. This may have been the first of his involvement in family conflict.  His life turned far away from small town Mid Western living and values.  He married a widow several years older than he was.  She had a daughter who he reportedly adopted, but the couple never had children of their own.

  The Interborough Rapid Transit Company opened the first New York subway line in October 1904. Previously, they owned the first elevated lines (The El).  The city bought the IRT in 1940, and the IRT originally ran the subway lines that today are the numbered lines in the subway system.In 1929, Will would have been working for the company when they took a fare increase appeal to the Supreme Court. They asked to raise their fares from the 1904 rate of five cents to seven cents. They lost, which probably played into the end of the company in 1940.

When he wrote the letter in 1937, Will still struggled through the Great Depression. His company had some serious problems, which probably kept their army of attorneys quite busy.

Maude Stout Bartlett’s Life

Maude Bartlett at Stout-Anderson house, Killbuck (c.1952)

Maude Bartlett at Stout-Anderson house, Killbuck (c.1952)

No one every used my great-aunt Maude’s real name, Mary Emeline Stout (1875-1963).  From family letters and the family picture, I suspect that Hattie Stout favored Maude above her other children.  This made perfect sense because Maude was studious, well-behaved, musical–all the things that my rambunctious grandmother and rebellious great-uncle were not. In this picture you see Maude standing at Hattie’s shoulder and Vera beside her father, while Will sits alone.

 

Stout Family Home in Killbuck, Ohio

Dr. William Stout and family in front of family home, circa 1885

Maude married at the age of 23 to Carlos Bartlett, and not long after their marriage, the couple moved to Buffalo, New York. She lived a social life their, filled with books and music and entertaining.

Sadly, Carlos died in 1915 at the age of 42.  For the rest of her life, Maude mourned her “dear Carlos.”  She remained in Buffalo, took in a boarder and taught piano lessons, until in the 1950s she moved back to Killbuck, Ohio.  She and my grandmother Vera had a prickly relationship, (more family conflict).  Though as my mother said, they still cared for each other. They lived at opposite ends of the small town, about 1/2 mile apart. In their later years, they  called each other on the phone on days they could not visit.

When Will wrote the letter to Vera in 1937, Maude was still living in Buffalo with an Englishman boarding in her upstairs to supplement Carlos’ Railroad Stocks income.

Vera Stout Anderson

I have written extensively about my namesake grandmother.  In 1937 when she received Will’s letter, she and my grandfather Guy were running a restaurant in their home (see the picture at the head of this blog).  A short time before, they had been running a boarding house.  Guy may have already been showing signs of the heart trouble that forced them to close the restaurant in the early 1940s.  Her youngest son Herbert had married ten years earlier when he was 19, and he already had four children.  Her oldest child, William J. Anderson had one child. her daughter, Harriette was dating a man she did not entirely approve of.  In other words she had troubles of her own.

Harriette (Hattie) Morgan Stout

Hattie Stout in Buffalo

Hattie Stout and Maude Bartlett in Buffalo Circa 1910

I have written about Hattie Stout (1842-1928) who was a school teacher during the Civil War. She was a woman who was widely read and curious about everything.  She explored life to the fullest. My mother said that she even smoked a cigarette in the teens when women were expressing new-found freedoms, just to see what it was like. Her desire was to live long enough to vote, and she did indeed live to see Woman’s Suffrage.

Hattie served as her husband Doc Stout’s assistant, keeping the house and his instruments spotless. She even took care of patients who had to stay in the Stout home in Killbuck for a brief time while they recovered from some illness.  The couple loved to travel, and Hattie accompanied her husband to medical conventions, went to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893  and visited her son in Manhattan and rode on a double-decker bus.

When Doc Stout died in 1910, Hattie had Vera’s husband take over managing the farms she inherited. She moved into a small house so that they could occupy the large house Doc Stout had built in the center of town.

Hattie visited Maude in Buffalo after Carlos died. By 1920, her health failing at age 78, she had moved to Buffalo to live with Maude. She died in Maude’s home in 1928 at the age of 85.

Cause of Death

Hattie Stout Death Certificate Cause of Death, 1928

The family story ran that Hattie had turned away from the medicine practiced by her late husband Dr. William Stout and her belief in some alternative treatment contributed to her death. When her son Will Stout wrote a letter to her daughter Vera in 1937, Hattie had been dead ten years, but he was still angry.

I was curious about her cause of death. Because she was in New York State, I had to pay $18 and then wait about 9 months before I received the copy of the death certificate.  I have more to say about the cause of death, shown above, in a little bit.

The 1937 Letter from Will Stout to His Sister Vera

Here’s an image of the first page of the four-page letter that Will sent to his sister on April 22, 1937, revealing another family conflict involving Will. As you can see, it is not the easiest handwriting to transcribe, but I have transcribed pertinent parts of the letter below.  Here you can see the name of the company he worked for.

family letter

Letter from Will Stout to Vera Anderson, 1937, page one

…she is impossible it seems to me, & the six weeks or so that I indured (sic) during Mother’s Illness, was sufficient for a lifetime.

Dear Vera & Family,

[ He opens with a response to a recent letter and the fact Vera had not written frequently, which worried his wife. He goes on to complain about his financial circumstances. That may have seemed a bit strange to his much poorer relatives. After all, they did not live in a big city and have a job as lawyer with a large corporation!]

Fortunately for my peace of mind we have been very busy here in the office and have had little time to worry about being the under dog.

It will not be long now when we will be completing our plans for our vacation which as usual I hope to take in August. So far our idea is to drive to Ohio for a day or so & then skip back to a little cottage on a nice little lake upstate where we were for 3 wks last year. It is very unpretentious, very quiet, & cheap & the best place for complete relaxation & rest that we have found yet, so if nothing happens to disrupt our programme (sic) We will start the last Friday or Saturday in July & ought to be in Killbuck the following Monday & Tuesday Aug. 2nd or 3rd, but don’t make extra plans for us we can not stay long for which you should be thankful,

[Here Will mentions possible visits to relatives along the way]

…  the time will be short enough, in fact too short so that we will get ourselves disliked all along the line, but that seems to be the best we can do for I have engaged our cottage starting the 10th of Aug. & so what we are thinking of doing before that date means that we will have to hustle.

[Then he gets to the matter of avoiding his sister Maude. I have bolded the significant statements.]

I don’t suppose you know what Maud is going to do this summer as yet. So when you find out let me know. I have not heard from her in year and I don’t intend to have any Part of my vacation disturbed by a possible scrap, so if she is going to be at Killbuck the 1st week—Aug that will change our plans Of course if she is in Buffalo when we drive thru I will stop & say hello. But that will be all as I recall it she was not at Home the last time we stopped and I suspect she was just as pleased as we were. The last time we did see her she never asked us in the House. But that is all right by me, I am not mad about it & Jean [his wife] is very sorry for her & about the whole thing & gave me fits for not trying to placate her but she is impossible it seems to me, & the six weeks or so that I indured (sic) during Mother’s Illness, was sufficient for a lifetime. That is enough of that, So don’t fail to let me know when she will be if you learn.

Aside from a few colds & minor bellyaches we have faired (sic) very well physically, & I can think of nothing else by way of news. We are looking forward to seeing you & those wonderful kids that a doting Grandmother is crazy about.

[Vera’s son William had a son and her son Herbert had four children by April, 1937.]

Don’t wait so long in finding time to write again.

Love to all

Jean & Will

What Happened in 1928?

Particularly, what happened in Buffalo during that “six weeks or so” that Will refers to? Of course we will never know for sure. But thanks to the doctor who signed the death certificate on January 24, 1928, we know that Hattie died of Diabetes Mellitus (commonly called just diabetes). According to the certificate, she had suffered from Diabetes for twelve years. That was not a particular surprise, as diabetes crops up in several generations in my family. My grandmother (Hattie’s daughter), my sister and one of my sons all have been diagnosed and treated for diabetes.

The most common modern treatment for diabetes, insulin, began to be used in the early 1920s, so would have been available to Hattie.  Read History of treatment of diabetes here.  Did she feel that insulin injections were unnatural?  Did she prefer to use some alternative treatment, like the treatment with high fat diet, which had some supporters at that time? Was she afraid of needles? Or did she, as my family suspected, join a religion that forbade medical treatment?

When I saw on this death certificate “Contributory” [cause of death] as gangrene of the foot I thought of another possibility.  The most common recommendation to deal with the gangrene would be amputation of the foot. She might, understandably, be reluctant to lose her foot, and refused treatment. So perhaps it was the infection that killed her.

The Death Certificate

A minor point: her birth date is given as August 4, 1842 on the death certificate, and date of death is January 24, 1928.  The calculation that she was 85 year, 4 months and 20 days old therefore is slightly off.

One more mystery popped up when I read the death certificate.  I mentioned earlier that Hattie had been living with Maude in 1920.  However, he death certificate says that she has only lived at that address for four months.  Either she had changed her address back and forth from Buffalo to Killbuck, or the census had caught her just visiting in 1920. In that case, she didn’t actually live with Maude until later.  So why would she go to Buffalo in October of 1927?

Presumably Hattie was quite ill by that time. Travel away from home would be difficult, even though she was fleeing to be with her favorite daughter. The only logical reason I can think of for the trip would be to receive some kind of alternative treatment not available in Ohio.

Whatever reason she had, it is clear from Will Stout’s letter that he was present in Buffalo when his mother died. He argued with Maude (and presumably his mother) about Hattie’s treatment.  I can picture the New York attorney descending upon the two ladies at 16 Robie Avenue, ready to take charge.  He was, after all, an attorney–used to arguing.  However, from what I know of Maude, she could be very determined. She may have decided to go along with their mother’s decision about her illness. If so, she would dig her heels in and her older brother would hold no sway. And as we can clearly see, Will lost the argument. His mother lost her life. However, William M. Stout signed the death certificate, listing his address as 537 West 149th Street, NY City.

I am glad to have this glimpse into the personality of William Morgan Stout. However, I am sorry that it is a letter that reveals a family conflict. Despite his wife’s gentle admonitions, Will did not seem to be one to easily forgive.  On the other hand, judging from her refusing to  invite him into her house, neither was his sister Maude.

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Finding Irish Ancestors in An Unexpected Place

If I were going to make a trip to a research center specifically to look for Irish Ancestors, and could not afford a trip to their homeland, I would not think first of Arizona.

  • I might think of Boston first because more Irish migrated there than to any other city. (The New England Historic Genealogical Society, gold standard of historic information stands in Boston.)
  • Perhaps you could go to New York, home to so many Irish immigrants where the New York Public Library could provide much info and you could visit Ellis Island if your ancestors immigrated during that relative brief period that Ellis island operated. (1892-1954)
  • Before you leave for Washington D.C. to visit the Library of Congress, try their Sources for Research in Irish Genealogy page.  And double up on your time in D.C. by visiting the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution.

But these are all general resources, not libraries that specialize in Irish Genealogy.  For that, I only had to travel up the freeway from Tucson to Phoenix. I felt a bit like a prospector searching for gems of information as I arrived at the Irish Cultural Center and McClelland Library.

Irish Cultural Center

The McClelland Library, Irish Cultural Center, Phoenix

A Tour of the Irish Cultural Center

It was a cool and cloudy day when a friend and I visited the McClelland library at the Irish Cultural Center in Phoenix The weather added to the illusion that we were on a trip to Ireland. However, that illusion did not last long once we gazed out the windows of the castle, and peered between the stone “teeth” of the Castle Keep.  Instead of green fields and grazing sheep, we saw roofs of buildings and high-rise construction. The Irish Cultural Center’s buildings are located at the center of Phoenix in the Margaret Hance Park.

The stones used to build the buildings are authentically old and actually were imported from Ireland. And the “castle” and the “cottage” and “great hall” were built based on plans of a real Norman castle in the old country, but the structures date only to the 21st century.

You pay no admission charge, but we opted for the $5 tour led by a volunteer roughly ever hour on the half hour while the museum is open.  First we viewed An Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger Memorial). After hearing the history of the potato famine, we moved on to the cottage.  Irish farmers built a similar four-room stone cottage in the 19th century to house both family and animals.

Trivia: Did you know that the very first immigrant to enter through Ellis island was Annie Moore, an Irish Woman whose descendants wound up in Arizona? The link leads to an interesting debunking of the initial story about an Annie Moore that proved to be the wrong one.  (Sounds like some of our detours in genealogy research, doesn’t it?)  The tour guide tells the true story, illustrated on a display at the Phoenix Irish Cultural Center in the Cottage.

Annie Moore, Irish Immigrant

Display at the Irish Cultural Center in Phoenix about Annie Moore, the First immigrant into Ellis Island.

How Your Irish Ancestors Lived

After the cottage (which also contains the welcome center where you pay for tours and can pick up literature), we proceeded to the castle.  The well-stocked library (more than 8000 publications, including the genealogy collection) contains Irish literature of all ages and all types.  It includes Irish and Irish-American newspapers and other periodicals. Non members can utilize the library on a day basis, but members of the Cultural Center can check out books.  (The books belong to the Phoenix Library System and can be located in that on line catalogue.)

Another room on the main floor serves an exhibit hall, currently being prepared to show “Irish in Latin America.”

Finding Your Irish Ancestors

Next, we took an elevator to the 2nd level. There a small room houses a permanent exhibit of a gorgeous replica edition of The Book of Kells . Placards show information about the history of that illustrated 8th/9th century manuscript. The original resides in Trinity College in Dublin.

The main attraction on that floor includes banks of computers and books of family histories. We saw publications to look up Irish names and books like “How to find your Scots-Irish ancestors.”  Yep, you’ve guessed it, we were in the large, well-stocked genealogy library.  There is a small charge to use the library. One day a week that charge includes a genealogist to work with you.  I will doubtless head back up to Phoenix on a Thursday to delve into the most elusive corners of my Irish ancestors’ lives.  McCabes and Cochrans and Hendersons–I’m looking at you.

We didn’t visit the Great Hall where there are Friday evening Ceilidhs (Irish song and dance night), and various other activities.  The Cultural Center offers a wide array of opportunities  to learn about your Irish Ancestors. Choices range from an upcoming day-long Genealogy workshop to a six-week genealogy research class and instruction in the Gaelic language. [The one-day genealogy class scheduled for Nov. 17 sold out quickly, so classes must be very popular.]

The opportunities to learn about the history of Ireland and other subjects that help bring your ancestors to life make the Irish Cultural Center a real gem for researchers.

What remote gems have you found for research?

Learn more about visiting the Irish Cultural Center here.

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