Providing a taste of Germany on the Canadian Prairies
“Take the highway going south from Tisdale, then go west at the auctioneer’s. After seven miles, head south, then go west again after a mile. We’re the big wooden cabin, you can’t miss us.”
Burga Kaltenbach’s directions were clear enough, but I still managed to get lost both times I visited her.
I was writing a series of stories for the Tisdale Recorder about vendors at our local farmers’ market, and while interviewing Burga, she offered to show me the brick oven her husband Bernard had built for her.
The first time I tried to visit Burga, I stumbled upon one of Saskatchewan’s many gems, a church tucked away on a grid road, with the front door unlocked. I was late already—why not check it out? I had recently moved to Saskatchewan from Ontario and was eager to explore the area.
When I finally arrived, Burga graciously accepted my apologies for missing our appointment and fed me some homemade bread and jam— after showing me the brick oven.
The second time I went, however, I didn’t have time to be late. I was on my way over for supper. I was going to eat at Oma’s Kitchen.
You see, Burga, Bernard and her daughter Victoria Burger run the South Star Retreat, where they not only offer lodging on the second storey of their beautiful log home, but also serve homemade German food.
They spend many days at farmers’ markets in the summer, selling berries and homemade bread, but when you ask locals about them, they’ll tell you about one thing: their tiny restaurant known as Oma’s Kitchen—and with good reason.
The Kaltenbachs designed their home and built it with their bare hands, from cutting and stripping the logs to stacking, numbering, taking apart and then stacking again with holes in place for wiring and plumbing. They built it with one goal in mind: to share their space with people, to feed them and make them feel at home.
When I arrived at Oma’s, the cat was tucked under the woodstove, the table was set and the trio was working casually in the kitchen. In a few minutes, 20 guests would arrive, but no one was stressed.
“It doesn’t bother me,” says Burga from her spot beside the stove. “Even in Germany, lots of the old restaurants, they are in the same house as where the people are living.”
The Kaltenbachs slight accents, but more importantly, their cuisine, give away the fact that they are from Germany. But from a young age, Bernard wanted to move to Canada.
“I wanted to go to Canada when I was still in
school,” he told me. “It was somewhere I wanted to be. I was 16 and my dad said there’s no way you’re going anywhere. I had to wait for a while.” It did take them a few years to get here, but they’ve settled in. Remember the way Burga gave me directions? In miles—like any proper rural Saskatchewanian.
And they appreciate the same thing locals do: wildlife in their backyard, Prairie sunsets and the beauty of bright-yellow canola at the end of the summer.
But they haven’t left their heritage behind. Oma’s menu boasts delicious meats and beautiful salads—think purple potatoes—but I’ll remember her German noodles more than anything else.
I’ll also remember how Burga, Bernard and Victoria sat with their guests once supper was over. They sent the kids to the playroom tucked away in an alcove upstairs and chatted with their guests like old friends.
Having lived in my adoptive province for less than a year, I finally felt at home, in someone else’s house, at a table surrounded by strangers.
The Kaltenbachs have a gift, beyond their homemade bread and delicious German cooking—the gift of friendliness. Thanks to the warmth of their log house and their smiles, they make you feel welcome... welcome enough to put your feet up by the fire and stay a while. ■