Looking for a Holiday Treat? Try These Recipes for the Soul from New Braunfels Cemetery Committee
“She Made Great Meatloaf!” someone effused in a marble epitaph on the back of Beverly L. Lofland’s (July 22, 1932-March 10, 2006) grave marker in the New Braunfels Cemetery.
Her recipe is now immortalized in a new cookbook issued just in time for the holiday, Recipes for the Soul: A Book of Funeral Food, Tips and Stories. The labor of love was compiled and edited by Raenel Schertz and Vicki Hamel with the New Braunfels Cemetery Committee, which works to preserve the historic New Braunfels and Comal cemeteries.
“We set out to make a cookbook that is not only readable, but one that showcases our marvelous cemeteries,” Hamel said in a letter to readers. “In Texas, our important gatherings are always centered around food. It is our expression of love and caring for those we hold dear. It is our encouragement to friends who need a hand, a reward for those celebrating a first and a show of help and sympathy for our lost.”
The authors hope that proceeds from the book, published in honor of New Braunfels’ 175th anniversary by New Braunfels Parks and Recreation Department, will help offset the financial loss of the committee’s annual fundraiser, Soul Searching, which was canceled this October due to COVID-19. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the book will be used for cemetery preservation.
These annual nighttime tours of the cemeteries featured actors portraying illustrious and tragic figures from New Braunfels’ history including denizens and notables like Hermann Steele, Emma Voelker, Ernest Eiband, Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer, Heinrich T. Mordhorst and Eduard Naegelin Sr.
The long-dead can’t speak from beyond the grave this year, but their tales — like Lofland’s meatloaf recipe — live on in the cookbook, which also offers tidbits of funereal information and advice or “Connieisms” from Connie Krause, a longtime member of the Cemetery Committee, active member of the Genealogy Society, Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and a full-time rancher.
Helpful hints about assisting the bereaved, hosting a funeral reception and writing an obituary are included in the book, which also delves into the historical events shaped development of the two cemeteries.
The cookbook also commemorates some of the city’s lesser-known and long-forgotten early residents like Elise Catharina Reh Peter, the first to be buried in New Braunfels cemetery after dying on June 23, 1945 of “mucous fever.”
Her husband followed a month later. Nineteen more settlers were interred that year, but by the end of 1846, following an epidemic of unknown nature, almost 400 burials were recorded.
Many of these bodies lay in unmarked graves until ground-penetrating radar was invented.
As fascinating and macabre as many of their stories are, it’s food for the living — sometimes passed down from the dead –that’s lies at the heart of the new cookbook.
Hamel said she and Schertz joked at the beginning of the project that it might not be possible to collect enough recipes to fill a book, so they took a look at what area churches were doing.
“You could never get as many recipes as the Baptists, but we blew the Catholics out of the water,” she said.
The cookbook is replete with the recipes of former Comal residents like Doris Wurzlow Startz, who won a first-place ribbon at the Comal County Fair sometime in the 1960s for her carrot cake recipe.
Stacey Dicke, Parks & Recreation director, also includes her Nana’s banana pudding recipe, which originally appeared in the First Methodist Church of Luling cookbook but was upgraded in time for Recipes from the Soul after someone discovered a handwritten recipe card identifying Eagle Brand sweetened, condensed milk as a key ingredient.
“So my mother-in-law who was so well known for her delicious banana pudding, had two recipes,” Dicke writes in the cookbook. “One that she shared with others (i.e. the First Methodist Church cookbook) and her secret recipe that included Eagle Brand. And now we know why no one could ever make banana pudding as good as her. Just like Nana to get the last laugh.”
Three other recipes featured in the book were used to bake molasses cookies for the German-Texas Heritage Christmas Markt that began over 25 years ago in Austin.
“These cookies were chosen as they were favorites that many Germans and German-Texans remember their Oma baking at Christmas time,” said Elora Schneider Schneider. “Our choices were well-received as many varieties were gone within two hours and the remaining by the end of the day. I eventually put them all in a book we call ‘Omas Cookie Buch’ that also was a bit hit at the Markt as well as in Central Texas.”
Hamel, who works at the famed New Braunfels Smokehouse, shared her recipe for Brats and Kraut.
“I came up with this recipe while working at New Braunfels Smokehouse,” she said. “I wanted a way to use our wonderful brats. Using a mixture of the sweet-and-sour sauerkraut, even the most finicky eater will enjoy this German casserole.”
The Conservation Society shared its recipe for the potato soup — kartoffelsuppe — served at the Kaffee Haus for the Heritage Exhibit during Wurstfest and other functions.
Hamel said she developed an affinity for deviled eggs after turning a portion of the front part of her barn into a chicken coop.
“I have a son and a granddaughter who are vegetarians,” she said of her two recipes for deviled eggs and breast cancer awareness pretty-in-pink deviled eggs. “I also have 30 chickens, so as you can imagine, deviled eggs are always served when our family gets together.”
Recipes for the Soul offers great recipes for turning locally bountiful Mustang grapes, which taste terrible, into juice and wine using methods brought to New Braunfels by German settlers in the 1800s.
For more information or to order a copy of the cookbook, priced at $35, click here.