It isn’t obvious in this photograph, but this is quite a large piece – more than 18″ from stem to tip. It is a very special treasure from our time in Germany just after we were married. David was assigned to Coleman Barracks, located near the Rhine River between Mannheim and Worms. We were lucky to find a small house to rent in the village of Shonaü not far from the Barracks. Our neighborhood was one of Hitler’s housing projects during the Depression. Most of the houses had been updated many times since then, but our landlords were renting to Americans until they could save enough to remodel it and move in themselves. It was small by our standards but quite livable and the small back yard was full of fruit trees and flowers.
Our garden in Shonau.
For most of that tour we were the only Americans living in the village. The neighbors were quite friendly, tolerating my butchered German with humor and grace. My vocabulary was focused primarily on eating, shopping and gardening. During the summers with their long days, we’d spend most of our evenings outside enjoying this tiny jewel. We weren’t alone – most of the neighbors were enjoying their gardens too. We grilled frequently which attracted lots of comparisons between American and German cuisine.
One neighbor raised champion dobermans which were fed with fresh meat from the local butcher. He took David with him once and both came home with some of Kurt’s “dog food”. What they called dog food is better known here as country ribs and this butcher was selling it for the equivalent of 25¢ a pound! It was absolutely delicious and became the main course at our next Labor Day barbecue – enjoyed by both our German and American guests.
In addition to the fruit trees, the garden was full of grapes, strawberries and rhubarb. Rhubarb is not something you see very often in Florida and my few experiences eating anything that contained rhubarb were not that memorable, but the plant itself is beautiful. When Kurt’s wife, Ingrid, asked if she could cut some rhubarb, I was happy to share – thinking she would be baking something. Instead, a couple of weeks later she presented us with this gorgeous plate she had made by pressing the rhubarb leaf into a slab of clay then cutting it out, modeling it and glazing it. She was taking a ceramics class and this was one of her first big projects. Twenty-five years later it still has a very special place in our home and our hearts.