Characters in Depth:
Emma Schmidt

First Trilogy
All Manor of Yarns

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  I. Prussian Yarns

 II. A Stitch in Time

III. Tinctures & Tantrums

Second Trilogy
The Snow Queen and
The Caterpillar

IV. There is a Season
 V. Viennese Yarns
VI. Orchids

Third Trilogy
Taffeta Tales

 VII. British Yarns
VIII. Polish Yarns
  IX. Threads of Strife

Favourites Writers
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Lorraine Stanton
Vicki Wootton
Shalanna Collins

Emma Schmidt is Helmuth’s wife, and the Schönwald cook.  She was born Erzjhickah Szabo, the daughter of a Hungarian tailor.  To earn a living, the teenaged Erzjhickah walked across the vast Hungarian plains all the way to Vienna, then capital of the Austrian Empire.  She found kitchen work, sending every pfennig home to her family that she could.  Over the years she learned to make pastry, discovering that she had a talent for making the light, cream filled pastries that the Viennese loved.  It was a talent that was sought after, so she managed to find work in better and better establishments, working her way up to being the pastry chef in some of the more fashionable villas of the upper class.

When Erzjhickah was hired by Adelheid von Rechberg, she was informed her name was from then on, “Emma.”  Her protests that she didn’t wish to change her name were ignored.  “Emma is not my name,” she told the butler as he showed her the way from Adelheid’s study to the stairs to the kitchen.  “If you want to work here, it is,” he told her, and from then on her name was Emma Pâtisserie; Emma Pastry.

When young Otto von Goff stopped in Vienna to visit his eldest sister, Adelheid, on his way back up north after his adventures in India, he pronounced Emma’s pastries to be the best he’d ever tasted.  Always delighted by a chance to appear to have the very best of everything, Adelheid boasted to him that Emma could cook a lot more than pastries.  Otto remembered Adelheid’s boast when the Schönwald cook was lost in the epidemic of 1846.  Taking a cue from Adelheid’s complaints in recent letters that the pastry cook had too high an opinion of her financial value, Otto saw a chance to have a trained cook in his kitchens at very short notice if he asked Adelheid if he could borrow Emma for a short time.

Emma was only too pleased to have a trip to a foreign country paid for by someone else, and intended to visit Prussia, then return home as soon as a Prussian cook was hired.  What no one could have predicted was how nasty the Schönwald household staff were to someone who they saw as a foreign interloper.  The kitchen staff soon realised that Emma knew nothing about cooking Prussian style meals, and scorned her.  The Prussian-style German was so different from the Viennese-style German, which was itself not Emma’s native language, that she had no idea what was being said most of the time.  As well as mocking her ethnic background, and her lack of cooking skills, the Schönwald staff jeered at her language problems.

Not knowing where to turn, and not having the money to take herself home, Emma hid herself and wept.  One of the places she found to hide was in the Gutshof, the square yard at the back of the house where she went to gather eggs, vegetables, and herbs because she could get no one to do it for her.  The stableman, Helmuth Schmidt, found her there one day, and comforted her.  She was a middle aged woman by the time she arrived at Schönwald, but age had never been a barrier for Helmuth.  Any women who was willing was beautiful in his eyes.  Although Emma had been a good girl all of her life and was still a virgin, she was so lonely and desperate, and so much needed his tenderness and comfort, that the next thing they knew they were sneaking around to meet each other.

As soon as Emma confessed to Helmuth that she was afraid she might be pregnant, and would be put out on the streets of this foreign country, and could never go back to Vienna, nor home to Hungary, he did the honourable thing and married her.  He also had her spend time with the stable cook, from whom she learned how to cook Prussian style and to speak the Prussian German language.  Helmuth took to eating in the Schönwald kitchens, since he was married to the household cook, which brought a lot of the jeering at Emma to an abrupt halt.  Nearly everyone who worked at Schönwald was related to everyone else in one way or another, and no one wanted Helmuth or his family to be at odds with their family for the way they treated his wife.

Emma proved to be a good step-mother to Helmuth’s motherless sons, and, over time, earned respect and affection for her own sake.  Some of the senior staff at Schönwald continued to make life miserable for Emma, and for her children, but in the long run that served to develop allies for her among the staff who worked with her.

In time Emma came to be the backbone of Schönwald.  She proved to be a good manager and kept the household running from behind the scenes, she mothered all the children including the master’s daughter, and she expanded her cooking talents to encompass all manner of meals and snacks, not just pastries.  An illiterate peasant, she lost touch with her own family in Hungary so the people of Schönwald became her family.


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