Monday, September 22, 2008

German prisoners of War

Americans had not yet invaded Europe so I suppose the prisoners were taken in Africa or Sicili. But we would see them working in the fields around town. They always had fun whistling when any female walked by. We heard very little about their deployment. And how they were free to work for people who needed muscles. They worked for a farmer who was slaughtering livestock. And we also saw them working in the fields.

One day S and I decided to invite eight or nine couples for dinner. I checked my meat stamps for I had decided to serve leg of lamb. I went to my favorite meat market and asked how many meat stamps I would need for the lamb. A leg was weighed and the price multiplied or however it was decided how rationing worked. When he told me, I knew I had to change my menu. The butcher wanted to help me and said 'how would you like to have a leg of mutton.' I asked 'how do you cook a leg of mutton?' He said a few degrees cooler and an hour longer. How much is it per pound. Conciderably cheaper. I said 'I will try it.'

We had served leg of lamb in my first job. So I knew mint was a must, and rice went well as the starch. When I unwrapped the mutton back home in the kitchen the smell of the meat gave me a feeling I had had it before. And when it began cooking I knew what it was reminding me of. My grandfather. At 90 he was a vital man with a twinkle in his eye and in winter he always wore a black cloth overcoat with sheepskin lining. He smelled like my leg of mutton.

I have to tell you about my grandfather even if he does not fit in in 1943 0r 4. He was born in 1838 and his mother died during the delivery. He had a stepmother who was not about to spoil him in any way. He was sent away to work on a farm when he was barely ten. He had to work as a man and while lifting something too heavy he was ruptured. He had to spend a couple of days in bed and the farmer's wife told him: if you are not working, you get no food. He was indentured and when the period was up, he was allowed to leave. I know I have Swedish people reading my blogs, and I may remember some of his stories incorrectly. Please let me know. He went to the University in Lund and became a school teacher. When I knew him he was about my age and he was strict, but eager to try to educate us, his grandchildren. And he smelled like mutton. He had a long white beard and his dark brown eyes were piercing.

In 1928 my mother bought a little radio, invited my grandfaather to come down the lane to listen to Admiral Byrd speak from the South Pole. I will never forget that evening. Tears were streaming down grandfather's cheeks. 'To think that I would be able to hear a voice from the South Pole! It boggles my mind.'

Forgive this aside. Has nothing to do with German prisoners.

The dinner was a success and the house smelled heavenly. Only six couples accepted our invitation. It had something to do with the fact that I told them what we were going to serve. They did not have a grandfather like mine.


Sarah said...

fascinating ..

keep these beautiful stories coming, it is such a neat insight into the past for me. Even already at 43, life is so different.

your Grandfather sounds like he was a very very strong man!

scargosun said...

The joy he had on his face listening to the radio must be impinted upon you. I loved hearing about him

Joanna said...

I visited with my 91-year-old grandmother this summer and we discussed some of the changes she's seen over her lifetime. She laughed when she told me the thing that amazes her most is indoor toilets. She never thought she'd see the day when you didn't have to make the trek to the outhouse. Heh.

Anonymous said...

"In 1928 my mother bought a little radio, invited my grandfaather to come down the lane to listen to Admiral Byrd speak from the South Pole... "
For those of us making phone calls from the South Pole on a daily basis now this is a stark reminder of how novel this was not too long ago.

kiki said...

your grandfather must've been amazing.

you reminded me of my own grandfather, who passed away when i was about 4. born in brazil to swedish parents. incredible how i remember him so well considering he died when i was at such young age.
he had piercing brown eyes too.

thank you grandma svensto for sharing all this with us.