by Sara Brunsvold
When I think about my Grandma Kaden, I think of her warm farmhouse kitchen and the butter-drenched scalloped cabbage she would serve in her favorite Pyrex dish. To this day, her scalloped cabbage remains my ultimate definition of comfort food. It will forever have my heart, as will the family stories she dished up alongside her meals, and the wisdom she tucked inside them. Because of her, I know why she and her siblings found such great joy in simple Christmas cookies—and why a small clapboard church in the middle of the Missouri countryside is indivisible from our ancestral line.
The inheritance I received from Grandma includes more than memories and stories, though. It includes heirlooms like recipes. In Grandma’s storehouse of recipes were ones her own mother passed on to her, written in trim, slanted cursive, and some translated from the original German. On her shelves were her mother’s German-language discipleship books that my English-only grandmother couldn’t understand but treasured all the same. And on her ready lips were the words of Psalm 23, the Lord’s Prayer and “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep,” all of which she ensured I committed to memory.
As a young girl, I gobbled up everything my grandmother put before me: food, tales, instruction and faith. I didn’t know it all those years ago, but in the midst of this generation-to-generation teaching was where my novel The Divine Proverb of Streusel began to take shape.
In The Divine Proverb of Streusel, Nikki Werner seeks solace during a family crisis by cooking her way through the collection of German recipes she finds among her late grandmother’s belongings. Each recipe, titled in both English and German, is paired with a life lesson that comprises both the writer’s own experience and wise sayings quoted from the book of Proverbs. The process of resurrecting long-forgotten dishes reveals to Nikki hidden pieces of her family’s history, and how they have contributed to—and hold the resolution for—her current situation.
“Family history is one of the most intimate object lessons we can receive,” one character observes, and that is the truth. Understanding where we come from helps us discern the path ahead.
Without question, the novel is in part a tribute to my own family. In a broader sense, though, it is a tribute to all families who have come to understand the incomparable value of sharing a history, a heritage, a faith and a love that, taken together, feel like home.
Though my grandmother has been gone from this world for decades, her mark on my life is as vivid today as it was when I was sitting in her farmhouse kitchen with a plate of her scalloped cabbage under my eager fork. Her name carries forward with my daughter, a nod to the woman who spared no opportunity to help train me up in the way I should go.
Those German-language discipleship books that belonged to her mother now sit on my shelf. Many of Grandma’s butter-heavy recipes are housed within my collection—some make a cameo in the book. And the Lord’s Prayer is on my lips every morning.
By God’s grace, I will leave a similar legacy with my children and their children, as Proverbs 13:22 says: “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” By God’s grace, The Divine Proverb of Streusel will inspire others to do the same.
About the Author
Sara Brunsvold is the author of Carol Award-winning The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip. Her stories speak hope, truth and life, and point to the sweet grace of God embedded in intergenerational connections. Find more inspiration at www.SaraBrunsvold.com.
About the Book
Shaken by her parents' divorce and discouraged by the growing chasm between herself and her serious boyfriend, Nikki Werner seeks solace at her uncle's farm in a small Missouri hamlet. She'll spend the summer there, picking up the pieces of her shattered present so she can plan a better future. But what awaits her at the ancestral farm is a past she barely knows.
Did You Know?
During WWII, there were thousands whom we now call “Righteous Among the Nations”—Gentiles who aided and saved many, many Jews from a certain death. Among those courageous men and women was one young lady, Elisabeth Eidenbenz, who ran a maternity hospital in far Southwestern France.
Elisabeth was born in Switzerland in 1913, the daughter of a Protestant minister, and in her early twenties, volunteered to aid refugees fleeing from the Spanish Civil War into France. These refugees were interred at camps in deplorable conditions, so a fellow volunteer bought a run-down mansion in Elne, France, and helped Elisabeth convert it to a maternity home.
She hid the identities of the refugees to circumvent the Red Cross rules which would have excluded the Jews. Though she was threatened by the Gestapo, she fought for these women and their children, even going toe-to-toe with the head of the police. Together with Friedl Bohny-Reiter, who lived and worked in the Rivesaltes transit camp, they rescued hundreds of women who were about to give birth.
About 600 children were born and saved because of Elisabeth and the Swiss Maternity Hospital. In 2002, sixty of those children reunited in Elne to honor Elisabeth. She was declared Righteous Among the Nations in the same year and received numerous other awards for her work. She never married but considered each one of the children she saved as her sons and daughters. She died in 2011, just shy of her 98th birthday.
-Liz Tolsma, What I Promise You
Why I LOVE My Local Christian Bookstore
“Bookstores, like libraries, have a unique smell. It's like the first day of school when all the textbooks are brand new. The smell of new books takes me back to my childhood.”
-Jane Daly, The Girl in the Cardboard Box