Memories of my Oma’s Keller – The Wonders of the German Basement
You could blindfold me, spin me in a circle three times, and drop me through time and space into Oma’s Keller, and I would still instantly know where I was, just by the smell and feel of the air; cold, with a hint of damp, the smell of earth and laundry soap, and maybe a little oil?
The door for the cellar stairs came right off her kitchen (opposite the fridge, so it did lead to jam-ups when too many of us were in there at once!). The stairs themselves were steep, curved and risky. It is a miracle to this day that no one ever fell to their doom! My fearless Oma would charge up and down them all day long, carrying loads of canning jars or baskets of laundry, never once misplacing her feet! (I imagine that’s how she kept in shape… no Stairmaster or Pilates for her… she had housework).
I loved going down to fetch what she needed for her (like fruit for dessert), or just to look around. Remember, this is the time before video games, and children’s television programming didn’t come on until 3:15, so cellar exploration was exciting. (Sometimes I would pretend to be one of the Famous Five, but nothing sinister ever really happened down there).
My favorite room was her pantry. The walls were lined with shelves that were LOADED with the cans and jars of fruits, vegetables and preserves that she had put-up herself; Kirschen, Mirabellen, Bohnen und Gurken (Cherries, Mirabelle Plums, Beans and Pickles) and so much more. There were bottles of Johannisbeer Syrup (Red Current Syrup) that she had made herself (we would pour it over pudding or mix it with water to make juice). Crates under the shelves were filled with bottles of soda and beer. Remember, in Germany, you didn’t buy six packs; you had crates of bottles that were returned and refilled! And of course, the deep freeze that scared me just a bit… I feared falling in.
The laundry room was next door. I admit, I never did figure out how to use the washer. There were settings to preheat the water, and it was an all-day event to wash…. The wringer was fun to play with though. There was a dryer, but it was NEVER USED! There were racks indoors (in the Heizung Keller), and a line outside!
Other rooms had furniture, trunks, bits and pieces. Not trash or junk, these were useful but unused objects that just weren’t thrown away. Everything was neat and organized, and nothing was too old. There were tools and interesting gizmos, canning supplies and Christmas boxes. There were even toys left over from my Aunt. By today’s kid standards, probably not exciting… but I loved it. Naturally, I stayed out of the furnace room, Oma might get the idea that I wanted to fold the drying laundry!
In Southern California, we lived in a tract home made from wood and plaster on a cement slab. No Cellar stairs, no underground adventures…. and no jars of Mirabellen as Nachtisch for Oma’s delicious Mittagessen! Oma’s Keller will always be linked with Germany in my mind.
Bits and Pieces from Oma’s Keller
Lucky for me, some of the things from Oma’s Keller are available here…
And at the risk of sounding like a commercial, I can honestly say that Persil REALLY WORKS! I have three kids, and all are/were active in sports. I’ve tried all sorts of laundry soaps to get the stains and yucky smells out. When I stumbled across my Oma’s Persil at Home Depot (of all places) I had to try it. It works! And it smells good. They also sell it on Amazon.
Persil ProClean Power-Liquid Laundry Detergent, Original Scent, 75 Ounce (48 Loads) (Pack of 2)Bormioli Rocco Fido Storage Jar – Wire Bail – 750 mL – 12 packGerman Made Reusable Soft Cleaning Cloth 3pc Set – Super Absorbent, Durable, Washable, Lint Free (4 pk-Total 12pc)Superior Wooden Horsehair BroomWOLF Garten BW45M Patio squeegee 3903000
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