Posts Tagged ‘Grandmother Elizabeth’

“Recipe for Life from a Hungarian Grandmother”

December 6, 2016


(Watercolor of a Coal Barge, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2006)

The prompt over at dversepoets pub is ‘recipe’…but not just of cookery.  There are many recipes in life.  Check out the poems this prompt has brought forth from poets. A very fruitful prompt indeed at a particular time of the Season.


How do you measure another life?

By  success or fortitude or some sort

Of battle-field glory?

Grandmother Elizabeth,

The woman I am named for,

Must have been made of steel,

Blind courage and all the above.


From Hungary on a boat

Steerage of course, in the darkness part

where air and comfort were

Paid  by donations from the village,

Where expectations of survival were bleak

If the ship sprang a leak,

Yet this sixteen year old girl made the trip

From some village in Hungary,

(and went back five times pregnant, steerage of course, 

to bring out  family , to walk the streets of gold).


Registered at Ellis Island,

She was a pretty

Young woman

Met my grandfather straight

Off the boat.


They broke the bed,

that first night of married life

And the gossips in the tenement said

She would be fruitful, with dark hair and dark eyes

A Magyar, but not a gypsy, as if that mattered.


Fruitful enough, with thirteen children born,

Enough survived to build a clan.

One son, my father, cut down his own father,

Hanging from the rafters.

Poverty and cares must have made him

Choose this over life.

Elizabeth went on

And raised her children

And no one starved

And everyone became fruitful

In the course of their own lives…


She made satin quilts,

That slipped off  beds

Braided rugs from rags

Precious cloth not to be thrown away,

To  be, as we say now: ‘repurposed”.


Sitting on the treadle of her sewing machine

going  up and down to the rhythm of her labor

Seeing her stockings rolled up beneath her knees

Tied with cloth, and that rhythm and those knees

Were the security of love that was missing from home.


Large glass jars on the floor grates in the kitchen,

Where milk was curdled for sour cream

Half lemon stopper we competed to squeeze

The smell of boiled cabbage scented the house

Like the comforting scent of an old woman

With embracing arms and a wrinkled bosom.


She died when I was twelve,

Taught me to make quilts and kiflies

A buttery pastry filled with fruit, nuts.


Every  Christmas and Easter

I roll out the dough and fill the pastry

With love remembered from an old woman

Whose name I carry and whose heart

I can only hope to match.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016


Grandmother Elizabeth’s Kiflie Recipe.


1 8 ounce package of cream cheese (full fat, please)

2 sticks of butter (don’t cheat and use margarine)

3 cups of unbleached flour (scant)

Get a good husband to knead into dough, or use a mixer. Chill.

Roll out and cut into squares.

Fill with Levar (prune paste) or apricot paste (simmer both separately until pasty)

Or crush walnuts, mix with egg white and scant sugar,

Fold over the squares and bake for 20 minutes in 350 oven (not too fast an oven)

When cool…sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Bet you can’t eat just one!

Merry Xmas and all other holidays at this time of the year!











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