Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Stammtisch, German for regulars table, is a table for a social group that meets in the homeowners bar, basement, restaurant, or out building for a cocktail hour and social conversation. Sometimes a newly brewed wine or beer is sampled.
Traditionally, the meeting table is marked with a somewhat elaborate sign reserving it for regulars. Historically, such a meeting might involve socializing
 card playing (such as skat), and often political or philosophical discussions. The words "Stammtischpolitik" (Stammtisch politics) and "Stammtischniveau" (Stammtisch level), describe the simplified nature of Stammtisch discussions, and have an established metaphorical usage in describing simplified political and social discussions beyond the Stammtisch itself.

Today a Stammtisch is not connected to a specific social status. It is now all about community, intimacy and common interests.   

Monday, April 27, 2015

German Apple Fritters...

Apfelkrapfen are often considered a Bavarian specialty, although everyone knows them and fries them up at home. Slice the apples in the round, cover them with a batter and deep fat fry them for some instant comfort food. This batter has egg whites providing the airiness but yeast dough and puff pastry versions are also known. These are popular at the Amana Arts Guild Art Festival in August, a very special treat for a sweet-tart bite. These will be at other local Amana festivals.

  • 2 - 3 baking apples
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 c. flour plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 T. sugar or vanilla sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • Oil or fat for frying
  • Sugar and cinnamon for serving
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 minutes

Saturday, April 25, 2015

German Potato Pancakes...

Popular in the Amana Colonies restaurants, festivals and homes are the thin, crispy, golden-fried potato pancakes. They can be made with store bought hash brown potatoes or garden, grated potatoes. The recipe has been made in my German family many years, always served with applesauce. The hot pancake and cool sauce make a wonderful combination. The recipe includes onion, parsley, eggs, and grated potatoes prepared for a hot, oiled griddle or pan. They are a great side to pork or beef or by themselves with applesauce.


A popular MAIFEST attraction is the Heritage Museum's homemade Kuchen booth and its Kuchen or cake. BcSlices of delicious cakes are sold in the old barn Festhalle to be enjoyed by all who will come visit the colonies during this most festive celebration of spring. This is one of the popular local recipes.
2.5 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 cup lard, 3/4 cup milk, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 cup sugar, fruit,-fresh or canned peaches, apples, cherries or plums, 1 cup  sugar, 2 heaped tablespoons flour, 1 cup thin cream, 3 eggs
Combine the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Cut in the lard, then add the milk and form it into a ball. Divide the dough into equal parts and roll out on a floured board to fit bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan. Now, arrange a layer of sliced fruit in circles on unbakedd crusts. Beat remaining ingredients together and pour over fruit. Bake at 425° for ten minutes. Then, reduce heat to 350° and bake until fruit is cooked and custard well set.  ENJOY!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hand Painted Eggs...

"Art in the Round" ..or Oval in this case of the egg, was done by talented local artist, Ruth Schmieder. (1922-2011) Her eggs are collected by many egg and art lovers. These are miniature originals of local flower garden inspired paintings in oil or acrylic. They are painted on glass or wooden eggs and preserved to a fine art. Each one is done with fine detail and precision of brush strokes. These eggs help us celebrate the special Easter holiday and art in Amana , and elsewhere. It is a great way to embellish and highlight this symbol of renewal and rebirth.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Stifel Calico

In my collection of indigo CALICO prints, I have found several pieces with a boot stamped on the back of the fabric. These pieces are from the Stifel Calico Works of Wheeling, West Virginia. The mill operated from 1835-1957, producing classic calico fabrics including various weights of indigo dyed cotton and twill woven fabrics. The plant shifted to war production during both WW1and WW 2 while the Amana Printworks was shutting down in 1917. After WW 1 the Amana Colonies purchased fabrics from the Stifel Calicoworks in Wheeling. By  the late 1940's the dyeing and printing of indigo was discontinued in Wheeling where newer sportswear fabric was emphasized. In 1897 synthetic indigo was discovered and used in dyeing jeans all over the world. It made printing and dyeing of fabrics easier. The Amana calicos are now rare and collectible.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Amana Sportsmen Club

This club, started in the 1930's, is a member's only club housed in a cabin off of highway 151 near the Iowa River and Homestead. It is a social club and charitable organization that hosts skeet and trap shoots, picnics, monthly club meetings, and supports youth hunter safety programs for Iowa City West and Clear Creek-Amana High Schools. Hunting, fishing, bow hunting, are some of the leisure sports shared. The club once met in a huge log cabin off 151 just up the hill from the Iowa River where I used to help load the trap for clay pigeon shooting. My Dad was an honorary member where the whole family enjoyed time with friends interested in hunting sports. It is still in existence today with many active members from local and neighboring towns. Membership fee is 50 dollars.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Funeral Procession..

Always horse drawn, the beautiful locally-made pine wood casket, was placed in the back of the horse wagon and proceeded to the person's hometown cemetary where the village Elders and family planned a funeral with a luncheon and cakes to follow.  The driver, a very devoted worker, was ready whenever called. The family and friends would walk behind the wagon all the way to the cemetery in a procession dressed in black dress, bonnets, aprons, and suits. There are a few paintings done by renowned artists (John Noe) from the area that depict this scenario. A very solemn day in the lives of the Amana Church people and families. It was said that the faithful, horse wagon driver died two weeks after the motorized hearse was introduced along with the new mode of travel-the car.  Ironically, it was told, that he was the was the first person to be placed into the back of Valentine's new hearse from nearby Marengo. I am sure he rode in style as much as he drove in style. Karl Flick painting, "Amana Funeral" 1933-34, photo from AHS online

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Taglohner or Hired Hands

Taglohners or day workers as they were called, would come from outside towns and find themselves hired to help the community kitchen bosses. They did work for the locals as well, cleaning out houses, chicken houses, did painting and heavy lifting. They also worked on the farms, forests, flour, calico, woolen mills, and more. The some 300 Taglohner hired in 1891, worked for 5.00 a month. Some stayed a few days, others years because they were well liked and worked hard. Houses provided were at one end of town, in High all on the west side, now private houses. Socially, they taught the colonists about "outside world" card games, cars, and more. They did not join the church or participate in the communal system but maintained good relations with locals and liked Amana for its hospitality.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Amana Welfare Club

In 1920, The Homestead Welfare Club brought about fun, relaxed, social gatherings and movies to the Colonies. The club, which had a president, Secretary, and other officers, ushered in a new era in Amanas. Two large events were special, the Christmas party and the 4th of July celebration. I remember Easter egg hunts as well, dances to the Epics, a local band, and wedding receptions. The Amana AWA building was purchased by Ken Denzin in the late 80's, and then in 2004 by C. Burkhalter, both for antique malls.  All this was introduced by the doctors that had cars and new ideas. This club represented all the social activity  not associated with the church. National Geographic was one of the magazines enjoyed in this club, later that crew coming to Amana to feature a great story in the magazine. A club started in Amana in 1935 , in West in 1933 where they had a tennis, bowling, pool table, and reading rooms. All facets of the community could join. Eventually a Young Mans Bureau formed in 1941 and they sang at special events and church services.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Unpainted Houses...

The old Amana clapboard houses were left to weather naturally with no paint. Painting the houses was expensive and did not preserve the wood long enough to justify the additional coat of paint every few years. This made for a somber appearance of the clapboard houses in the Amanas. This is still the policy if it is not brick, sandstone or sided. Clapboard wood is replaced as needed to keep the house sound, historic, and aesthetic.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Crispy Pancake

With the start of tourism in Amana, shops and restaurants began to spring up. In 1936, 1940, 1948, 1950,1968 and one beyond.  All served family style, bowls and platters  of food refilled when empty, much like the old communal kitchens where some of these restaurants stand now. Breakfasts in Amana are very special- you must come hungry. There are platters of eggs, sausage, potatoes, bacon, fruit bowls and of course, my favorite, the crispy pancake, which is served on a large plate. This is a this, crispy pancake made on a hot, flat grill. The batter is light, made thin with crispy edges, much like crepe, served with syrup or homemade jelly. It can be rolled up or eaten as is and can be refilled if you can do it!!