First off, get y’all’s minds out of the gutter!!! Stop sniggering. I mean it. Or I’m going to turn this blog post right around!
So, in answer to your semi-snorted question, speckendicken is a meat pancake. Or, to me slightly more precise, it is a (usually) whole wheat pancake that has meat added to it during the cooking. In the case of the speckendicken that had for breakfast it was crumbled bacon and sausage. It can also have anise added as a flavoring. I’ll be the first to admit, it sounds a little disturbing when you hear it described, but it’s actually quite tasty!
Now, another question that you might be wondering about is, “why are you eating this on New Year’s Day? Why not black-eyed peas like everybody else?” So, the answer to this one is a tad more interesting. See, the bulk of the settlers that founded the town of Ackley were from a region of Germany called East Friesland (or East Frisia, depending on who you are talking to). This area of Germany has many interesting traits including a “different” form of spoken German and many different customs and traditions from the rest of the country. If you are thinking that this is an extremely localized custom to find in a small town in the middle of Iowa I have to tell you that it isn’t all that uncommon. When the plains of the US were settled, often it wasn’t done so much by individual settlers striking out alone (think Pa Ingalls going all over the plains of the Midwest with only his family) but by entire groups of people, sometimes most of a village in the old country would empty-out and more or less relocate. Sometimes one family or person would go and find a good place, write letters home praising their new home’s virtues, and the next ship coming to the states would be filled with most of the people under 40 from the old village! This was particularly true of the agricultural areas where having enough land for all the sons in a family had been a problem for many, many generations at this point.
When I was young, there were still a goodly number of older people who felt more comfortable speaking Friesland German than they did English or else a mix of the two. Apparently I knew enough of it from listening to it around me that I would answer people who were speaking German back in English. One of my dad’s favorite stories about when I was a small child is that he was talking to one of these older gentlemen one day and he said something about me being a cute little one. I had just gone to the Dr’s office for one of my check-ups the day before and was thus armed with information that this gentleman didn’t happen to know. I announced rather archly and with my dander completely up that I wasn’t little as I was in the 80% percentile in both height and weight! (Yes, to all of you who know me personally, I have always been this way:-)) Both men got a really good laugh from it and my dad got the message that speaking German around me wasn’t necessarily keeping information away from me.
It isn’t just Germans that did the entire town migrations however. North of us there are many Scandinavian towns and to the South of us there are Dutch towns. Because there was so much space here in the new world, sometimes a single village in the old country broke-up into 3 or 4 towns once they got here, usually along religious lines. It’s common to see a cluster of towns in a county that all have founders from the same area of the Old World, but each town is dominated by a single, different church. There is still a lot of “us” vs. “them” in some of these places, but a lot of that is starting to disappear as the older ones fall way. In most communities now, there are so many “new comers” (people who came after the founding group) that a lot of the old ways are falling to the side. Few speak Friesland German now in Ackley now. When I was asking questions at the Heritage breakfast about the reason that we were supposed to eat this Speckendicken on New Year’s, most of the folks there just shook their heads and said that it was probably for good luck. If any readers know any more about this, please let me know!
Outside of eating speckendicken, my New Year’s was remarkably boring. I had baby goat duty thus I was outside in the ever-increasing wind and cold feeding her at 8pm, midnight, 5am (I am NOT getting up at 4am, sorry baby), 8am and noon. So no glamorous party or rowdy drinking for me. Nope, at midnight I was freezing my bum off wearing my pj’s and a Carhartt coat with a baby goat snuggled-up inside it gulping down kid milk replacer like she was starving. I don’t honestly mind these middle of the night forays out to the goat shed to feed her. It would be easier, of course, if it were closer or lit. But really, it’s not that big of a deal to me. However, this is one of the unsexy parts of farming that most people don’t tell you about. Considering that I saw one of the Christmas Twins nibbling on some food today, I am hopeful that soon enough at least part of the little red girls food will be solids.
I hope that y’all had a wonderful and safe New Year’s no matter what you did!