Oodles & Oodles of Noodles!
Erna Patschke has been making homemade German noodles for more than 40 years. In fact, she still makes noodles almost every day. That’s quite a feat when you consider the fact that she is 96 years old and likes to make them!
“I cook noodles every day because people want them,” she said. “There are benefits and weddings and reunions that always seem to want noodles or potato salad or cole slaw or brown beans. So I make them,” she continued.
Erna Dube grew up in Fedor, one of six children. Her father was a farmer and a rancher and her mother was a homemaker. Erna learned German before she knew English. She and her siblings attended school in Fedor, usually riding on the backs of donkeys to get to class.
When she was 16 years old, she went to Houston to work as a nanny and a maid for $2 a week. The family Erna was working for had George Brown, of Brown and Root fame, as a guest to dinner one evening and Erna was the cook for the dinner party. That’s the same George Brown of Brown and Root fame!
It didn’t take long before her cooking skills, as well as her other housekeeping skills, were recognized as being superior to others by her employers in Houston. Within six years, her wage increased six-fold, to $12 a week!
She and her family were members of Trinity Lutheran Church in Fedor, where she met her future husband, Adolph Patschke. While she was in Houston, she and Adolph wrote letters back and forth for years. She didn’t get to see him very often, but the relationship blossomed and, when she returned to Fedor in 1940, it was to marry Adolph. Together they raised five children, the fruits of which have produced 15 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren, and 5 great-greatgrandchildren! Many of those who live in Lee County still attend church at Trinity Lutheran.
Erna began making noodles at the request of her husband, who was “the chief BBQ cook,” Erna said. “All the people asked me to make the sides when he was barbecuing, and Buddy Wren always wanted noodles, not just potato salad and brown beans,” she continued.
In those early years, when the demand for her cooking for various occasions began to grow, she was the head cook, and the host would furnish helpers-usually friends. Eventually, a team of three friends was formed- Erna, Irma Melcher and Selma Kaiser. They cooked together for many years. Then it became Erna, her daughter Linda, and her son Kenneth cooking together.
Erna started out hand rolling and hand cutting her noodles. After many years, she began to use a hand-cranked noodle rolling machine. She wore three of those out before her children bought her a high-tech Kitchen Aid mixer with the noodle making attachment. That was just five years ago. She is now on her fourth set of rollers and cutters for that machine!
Erna will tell you she officially “retired” two years ago. She doesn’t do some of the larger events anymore, like the Lexington Volunteer Fire Department and Lions Club fundraiser that happens every July. Her daughter Linda, and sometimes Kenneth, step in to cook for those occasions. But she still makes noodles, and she still makes them for other people.
Besides making her noodles, Erna enjoys her garden, which her daughter Linda helps her tend. This year Erna had potatoes, radishes, kohlrabi, okra, squash, cucumbers, eggplant, corn, beans, yellow beans, butter beans, green peppers, tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, peach trees, and zipper peas. Whew!