Thursday, May 7, 2020

Pieces From The Past - Basket of Diamonds

Typewritten, but in German...

Albert Baldauf Wiesbaden, Aug. 14, 1946
Wiesbaden-Biebrich (16)
Bunsen Street 9

Dear Mr. Schleich and family:

Today I am keeping my promise and writing to you.  At our parting, I promised to write and tell you how our trip was and how things now fare for me at home.  You’re sure to still remember the POW, who helped you last year with the turnip harvest.

For me, much has changed since then.

As you know, Camp Trinidad was closed this past January.  We traveled by train to San Francisco and there boarded a ship.  We were at sea 4 weeks.   We went through the Panama Canal, the Caribbean, past the Azores toward France.  The trip was wonderful and a great adventure.  We stayed in France another 3 weeks, then we went to a camp in Germany.  I was finally released on March 15th.

With uneasy feelings I traveled toward Wiesbaden, because I knew nothing of my wife and relatives.  Thank God, I found my wife safe and sound.  But my apartment was no more.  It was lost due to the effect of the war.  Thus we had nothing left and had to start all over creating our household.  It is very difficult because today in Germany one can’t find anything, no furniture, no household appliances nor anything necessary for life.  First the factories will need to start operating again and that will take quite a long time.  In the meantime, I have obtained a position with the American military government and I am very pleased about that.  That way at least I have some work. 

Now I firmly intend to carry out my plan (which I made while still in America) and to immigrate to America at any possible opportunity.  We spoke with you at the time about this possibility.  I would now like to ask you if you be able to find me a position there, as soon as an entry permit can be obtained.  You indicated last year that this would not be difficult.  We could discuss this topic in more detail in upcoming letters.  Today I have a big request, which is very difficult for me.  But need presses me to ask you.  

Couldn’t you send me some times a care package?  Our situation is truly very serious, particularly since I must take care of my mother-in-law and sister-in-law in the Russian Section, for whom it is going very bad since they have almost nothing to eat.  We would be very grateful to you, if you could help us.  We would be especially grateful for (cooking) fat.  As soon as the currency exchange with the U.S.  is working again, I would obviously settle up with you.  

Here and now, one can only expect the most primitive of living conditions.   We receive weekly 1000 grams of bread, 100 grams of fat, 200 grams of meat, 100 grams of cereal products and 3000 grams of potatoes.   Through the military government we sometimes receive a special allocation of dried milk and egg powder.  These are a very great help, for which we are especially appreciative.

Please forgive me for sending you this request for help, but the need forces me, and besides you told me that I should write to you if we need anything.  

It is also important to me to know if you would be able to help me find a job there and would be able to sponsor me in my attempt to travel there. 

I would do any kind of work and you saw last year that we can work together.  I would make myself useful in any area.

First of all, I ask that you share your position on this point.  

For now, I send my thanks, and hope to soon receive a letter from you.

Best regards,
Albert Baldauf 

Let's talk about the ration amounts...

1000 grams of bread = 35 ozs... just over 2 lbs.
100 grams of fat = 3-1/2 ozs... this is equal to 6 Tablespoons of butter
200 grams of meat = 7 ozs... not even 1/2 pound 
100 grams of cereal products = 3-1/2 ozs... approximately 1/2 cup of oats
3000 grams of potatoes = approximately 6 pounds 10 ounces

Mr. Baldauf indicates that these are weekly rations.... would that be per person?  per family?  Probably per person, but by all means, if someone has better knowledge of this, please let me know.

Carbs!  Is one of the first things to come to mind...

I am a potato lover... baked or fried are my preferred choices, but mashed are good too.  I made the switch to sweet potatoes a few years ago when I made a radical diet change for the health of my thyroid.  I had never liked them much... but then again it was always on holidays when they were on the table and covered with marshmallows.  Even with my sweet tooth as a kid, I skipped them.  I recall that my Dad loved them.  

I think I told you about the time Katie tricked my Mom with the sweet potatoes over on Pumpkin Patch...  You can jump over there to get the whole story if you are interested, but the short version is that Katie served "Pumpkin Pie" that was actually made with sweet potatoes.  WHAT???

Yes!  I have done the same, minus the trickery, before I developed a taste for them.  I was raised with the mind-set of "nothing goes to waste"... I had the sweet potatoes and needed to do SOMETHING with them... That was when I realized I actually enjoyed sweet potato pie even more than pumpkin pie.  

But seriously... 6 lbs of potatoes in a week? Can you see a scene similar to Forrest Gump and Bubba??? 

You can boil 'em, broil 'em, bake 'em, saute 'em... you can hash 'em, you can make dumplings, you can make potato and onion pie... cold potato salad or warm potato salad... The list from the German cookbook that I have on hand goes on and on! 

Potatoes for breakfast, potatoes for lunch dinner, potatoes for dinner supper.

Side note... My Dad referred to lunch as dinner if it was the largest meal of the day, and dinner as supper because it was a less formal, simple meal.  And breakfast was breakfast and always consisted of bacon (sometimes sausage), two fried eggs and toast.  And a holiday meal was always dinner no matter what time it took place.

As I considered the ration amounts I wondered what sort of meals would be prepared to make the small portion of meat and fat stretch as far as possible.  With the addition of assorted seasonal vegetables, stews and soups, served along with the bread were probably very tasty.  

Baskets were often used to gather vegetables from gardens and eggs from the hen house or barn... and this little Basket Of Diamonds is an easy block to piece.

The original pattern was missing templates and I had tried out another "harvest basket" but realized (after I had the other block pieced and quilt top DONE) that I could easily make this block using half-square triangles.  It was all worth the extra work since it looks like the original block!  This block happens to feature some fabric that had once been an apron worn by my Maternal Great-Grandmother.

When the block is pieced you will have a few HSTs left over.  No worries!  You did not do anything wrong. Be sure to come back and link up your finished block for the entry into the prize drawing for a fat quarter.

But before you go off to piece your block... here's a recipe for one of my favorite potato casseroles.  Hint::these are great with ham or pork chops!

NOTE:  Chessar Cheese = Cheddar Cheese

Now, tell me, what is your favorite potato dish?
You know I love to hear from all of you.

Quilt Happy!


Need any of the other blocks?  They are still available!

Block #1 - Signature Block
Block #2 - Lost Goslin' Block
Block #3 - Mayflower Block
Block #4 - Flower Garden Block
Block #5 - Our Country Block

Linking with:

BOMs Away at What A Hoot Quilts
What I Made Monday at Pretty Piney
Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt
Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts
Colour & Inspiration at Clever Chameleon Quilting
Mid-week Makers at Quilt Fabrication
Wednesday Wait Loss at The Inquiring Quilter
Put Your Foot Down at For the Love of Geese
Needle & Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation

Creative Compulsions at Bijou Bead Boutique


  1. Melva, this letter both made me smile for him finding his wife and relatives, and the kindness with which he wrote to your great? grandfather and seemed so appreciative of all done for him here. It also tore at my heart with the rations and how they had to stretch everything. I do hope those who wanted to migrate to America eventually got to come here.

    I guess my favorite potato dishes are just plain old boiled and well-seasoned potatoes and also my easy cheesy potato soup! And here in the south many people still call lunch, dinner, and dinner, supper (guilty at times myself as that's how we grew up!!) Thanks for another block. Maybe one day I'll get to start my quilt from them!

  2. I love potatoes, too, even the sweet ones! 'Pumpkin' pie and cold potato salad might be my favorites, but it is hard to choose!

    Thank you so much for sharing these letters...I am really enjoying the history! You are also giving insight into a new perspective of German POWs. I appreciate it!

  3. Another very interesting read, Melva. Thank you. I have been busy hand sewing Flower Garden blocks...I think I've finished 5 now. Are the centers meant to be different colours? Traditionally I mean. I've just downloaded this block and will be making it too. Thanks for the inspiration.
    I discovered that oven roasted fries using olive oil are quite good. My birth name was Murphy and one side of my family are very Irish so I say that is why I love potatoes in all their various forms. Thanks also for this recipe.

  4. This letter is so sad. I am very happy that he found his family, but the times were so hard for them.It is very hard to imagine how they even survived from day to day. I don't think we can understand everything they went through.I hope they did manage to come to America.

    I love potatoes any way they are fixed, but my favorite is potato salad. And I also love sweet potatoes. Funny story---My sister didn't like sweet potatoes and wouldn't eat them. So one day my mom made a sweet potato pie when my sister was coming to visit. She ate a big slice of it and talked about how good it was. (She thought it was pumpkin.) After she finished, we started laughing and told her it wasn't pumpkin. So now she will eat them.

    Thank you for the pattern. I really like baskets. I have been collecting basket patterns to make a quilt so this one will be added to them also.

  5. Hi Melva! Oh, these letters are sometimes hard to read. Gosh, it seems amazing to me that he found his wife!! But to start with absolutely nothing and no food. That picture of your Grandma (?) in the kitchen looks so familiar to me. And, my dad had a very similar rule regarding dinner/supper. I've got my block all made! I just need to write up a post about it. ~smile~ Roseanne

  6. Your casserole sounds yummy. Reading letters like that makes one realize how prosperous we are in comparison. I could almost feel his desperation in having to ask for help.

    Thank you for the pattern.

  7. Well, there is potato and cabbage and onions boiled, scalloped potatoes, veggie potato salad, Potato carrot and onion soup, Potato pancakes, some make potatoes into vodka (that must be an excess of potatoes), corned beef hash, hash browned potatoes... Talking of substituting for pumpkin in pie, there is a lovely winter squash that makes a wonderful pie... butternut!

  8. I so wish I knew the rest of the story. He was fortunate in the times to have a job with the American military, but look at all the things not given them - not even salt, or pepper. Lucky to get a little dried milk or eggs every once in a while. So did they eat the oats without anything - no salt, no butter, no milk? And I remember the government dried eggs and milk from the '80s when I taught on the Res. I can't imagine how terrible it tasted in the 40s! Would it make good mayonnaise, if you could find the other ingredients somehow? I doubt it! So no potato salad. No scalloped potatoes. It would be a pretty bleak table at meal time, but better than going hungry. I wonder if they could get seeds to plant gardens. I'm going to ask my friend Inge, who was 8 during the Berlin Airlift.

  9. OMG what a wonderful post. The letter, it brought on?, my me feel?, melancholy. I have no other words. So sad and appreciative at the same time. Being a proud person myself and someone who does not ask for help how that must have hurt his pride. Just wow. Thank you for linking up, your block is beautiful.

  10. I don't know why I can't figure out this linky, but here is my square on insta

    1. I've got you covered. All linked up now. Your block looks great, BTW :)

  11. Very poignant post in a lot of ways, the things we do to each other and others in the name of country. Anyhow, I don't think I have met too many spuds I don't like. But I do like potato salad... with mushrooms, spring onions, bacon and herb-mustard dressing mmmmm. Thanks for sharing at the Chameleon's Colour & Inspiration Party.

  12. What a history lesson! Kind of mind blowing how they had to live on potatoes, but the poor Irish did it for generations until the potato famine. Thanks for sharing your block on Wednesday Wait Loss. Be sure to drop by tomorrow to link up this week.