My parents, Horst and Gertrude Kertscher, fell in love with Mrs. Eden’s house on Castle Rock Road across from the historic Glimpsewood Cottage and next to the Phi Sigma Club.
It was the spring of 1963 and I was in the third grade. On the east shore of the lake, the house sits high up on a rock and has a great view down to Nolan’s Point – maybe one of the best views on the lake.
It was our summer house at first. My father put in the gardens, my older brother, Harry, made lots of improvements renovating the kitchen and insulating everything. We finally converted the upstairs attic into two bedrooms and moved up from Montclair for good in the winter of 1965. I think we were one of three or four families on our end of Castle Rock Road living at the lake full time.
It sure was different from the city life that I was accustomed to. There were no sidewalks, city blocks or a candy store within a good mile of the house. There were no kids around – things were kind of lonely.
Once summer rolled around, though, everybody wanted to come to the lake and visit. Our pals from Montclair couldn’t wait to come up for weekends; life at the Kertschers’ was more fun than summer camp. Our German relatives would come and stay for weeks on end.
They came for summer fun on the lake, but returned for the food. I have to say my mother was quite a champion in the kitchen. Cooking for lots of people was one of the things she enjoyed most. In the kitchen, she was in her element.
Getting ready for company meant grocery shopping, baking, making salads, cleaning the house top to bottom, and mowing the lawn. When we finished our chores, my younger brother, Frank, and I would run up to my room to look out the window and up the road for the first glimpse of who was coming, anticipating all the fun we were going to have.
I grew up cooking side by side with my mom. I’m grateful that she didn’t shoo me away when I tried to help and insist on doing everything herself. She watched me, critiqued and made sure my cooking skills were up to her standards. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to peel and core an apple in under a minute like she could, but my skills have gotten pretty good.
She never consulted a recipe or measured anything when she cooked. When I realized I had to preserve her recipes for posterity, I chased her around the kitchen with measuring cups and spoons and wrote everything down. Looking at my archives, I am confident that I can now make everything she used to make, and pass the recipes on to future generations. It’s taken me a lifetime to learn everything she taught me.
Now I think I can say I’m just as good a cook as she was.
Gertrude’s Chicken Soup
1 chicken, 4 to 5 pounds
3 and 1/2 quarts cold water (14 cups)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 large clove garlic, smashed
1 cup chopped leeks
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 regular sized stalks celery w/ leaves, cleaned, trimmed and diced
1cup small pasta or rice
Prep the chicken:
Remove the neck and gizzard packet from the chicken, set aside for another use. Pluck out any pin feathers from the wings and tail. Rinse well and pat dry. Remove any excess fat. Fill a large stock pot with the water, add the salt, the leeks and garlic. Bring the water to a boil, add in the carrot and celery, and then lower to a simmer and cook, covered, for two hours.
With a large slotted spoon, take the chicken out of the pot and put it in a colander set over a large bowl. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, take the meat off the bones and discard the bones. Remove the skin and cartilage and discard, unless you have a dog or cat that would appreciate a tasty treat. Chop the chicken meat into small pieces, set aside.
Raise the heat and bring the soup back up to a boil. Add the pasta or rice and cook until it is al dente. Brown rice takes 35 minutes, white rice takes 15 minutes, and smaller pasta takes 5 to 10 minutes – check the cooking times on the package.
Before serving, add the chopped chicken meat back into the soup and heat through.
Serve with good rye bread and butter.