Hanna grew up in Northern Germany, near Bremen, in a small village of approximately 100 people. It was there that she met and married her husband, Helmut Blanken. From there the couple moved first near Hamberg and then near Marburg, where they had two children, Ann-Kristen and Halker. During the mid-nineties, the couple started thinking about leaving Germany and they decided that Canada would be their new home.
They started with a four week visit to Canada. Within two years the family had moved to Nelson, where they lived for four years. Hanna said her first impression of Canada was “just, wow!” The size and the scenery was spectacular, “it’s just so beautiful, and the people are friendly,” said Hanna. The entire family fell in love with Canada, and they haven’t changed their minds since and haven’t regretted their move. Hanna says that her children adapted quickly to Canada, picking up the language easily.
While they loved living in the Kootenays, a lack of employment opportunities led them to move to Edmonton, where they would spend two years. Both Hanna and her husband found jobs that they enjoyed and although their son had to finish his last year of high school in a new place, Hanna says that “he’s easy going and he did that all pretty well.”
When the couple decided to leave Edmonton, Helmut found a job with the Nanaimo Regional District and they decided to move to Ladysmith, leaving their son behind in Edmonton for university and their daughter in Nelson. It wasn’t until Hanna started attending the Lila Music Center in Duncan that she started to feel at home. This would eventually lead to Hanna and Helmut moving to Duncan. Hanna’s daughter moved to Victoria for university and her son is planning on finding work in Victoria so soon the whole family will be close again.
Hanna and her family go back to Germay often to visit. Hanna tries to make her visits worthwhile, spending three or four weeks in Germany when she goes while her husband pops over more often on three day trips, “he’s crazy.” Both her children have gone back to visit as well, with the family as well as on their own. One thing that Hanna is not able to get in Canada that her husband loves is the Dr. Oeker vanilla sauce. Hanna remembers one story from when her son was visiting with his grandma in Germany and they went grovery shopping together. His grandma bought out the entire stock of vanilla sauce, and while checking out said to the cashier, “uh, I just want to mention that the vanilla sauce is gone now.”
Hanna still cooks the food that she grew up with in Germany, the everyday meals that the family enjoys. She remembers first coming to Canada that grocery shopping was difficult as things that she was used to buying weren’t always available. And Hanna says that in the beginning “I had a horror about English recipes. I didn’t want anything to do with them.” Measurements are still a struggle as Hanna works with the metric system. It was her children that got her over her fear of Canadian recipes, gifting her the Whitewater cookbook for Christmas with the note “I hope next time when I see it, it has a lot of stains.”
Holiday meals are not necessarily traditional for Hanna’s family. “My husband hates turkey,” Hanna laughs, and so at Christmas the family has duck. Hanna remembers her mother making ribs for Christmas filled with raisins and dried plums, but the recipe was never written down and when Hanna attempted it on her own she says it didn’t turn out exactly the same: “never as good as moms!” It was from her mom that Hanna learned to cook but more from watching than from being taught.
There are recipes that are family favorites. Hanna’s daughters favorite, Kartoffelpuffer, is a potato dish fried and served traditionally with applesauce, though Hanna likes it with the Lighthouse dilly dip. Hanna is passing along her recipes, “a little bit,” to her children, writing out the recipes when they ask how to make something but shes not sure how well that is working out.
Hanna believes that sharing food is a good way to share culture, as she puts it “everyone eats and likes food.”
Story by Felicia Jorgensen
3 large potatoes – grate
3 table spoons bread crumbs
Mix together and heat up a frying pan with some oil and put 2- 3 table spoons of dough into the pan and fry from both sides ca. 5 min. until brown
Serve immediately with apple sauce and cinnamon sugar or I like it with “Lighthouse” dilly dip
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