My grandmother, Barbara Noreika, hailed from Lithuania and she and my grandfather established a farm in North Central Michigan in the early to mid 1900’s. Our family changed the name to Norris in the 1940’s to sound more American but my grandmother maintained the true family name. She was a superb cook in her little farmhouse kitchen that was mostly wood with an old fashioned stove. She had a circular table in that kitchen that we ate from. Her specialty was pasti which is a meat pie with a thick salted crust. It is an unsweetened pastry but full of great things to feast upon. For all you chef’s out there I have an unofficial recipe for this gourmet dish.
4 Cups of Flour
One-eighth Teaspoon of Salt
1.5 Cups of Lard in one-fourth inch cut cubes
8-10 Teaspoons of ice water
1 egg (beaten)
1 Cup coarsely chopped White Rutabaga
2 Cups finely diced boneless beef or steak
1 Cup coarsely chopped onions
2 Cups finely diced potatoes
1.5 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of pepper
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Rub together the flour and fat to make a coarse meal and then add in the 8-10 teaspoons of ice water all at once. If the dough crumbles add more ice water. Then refrigerate the dough for about one hour.
Then roll the dough into a circle about one-fourth inch thick and cut into six inch rounds. Re-roll.
As for the filling cut the ingredients into small pieces making sure to cook the meat and the potatoes together. Combine in a bowl and combine one fourth of the mixture into the center of the rolled out pasti. Moisten the pasti edges then fold in half making sure to crimp the edges to seal. Place the pasti on a buttered baking sheet and brush lightly with the egg wash. Make two slits in the pasti to allow steam to escape. Place in the oven for 15 minutes at 400 degrees then reduce heat to 350 degrees until the pasti is golden brown.
For best results serve the pasti with Cole slaw and you are in for one tasty meal. If the pasti dough is made just right you will never forget this recipe of my grandmother’s. To be honest, I haven’t tasted pasti the way she made it since her death in the 1970’s. The Upper Penisula of Michigan has many pasti restaurants but none with her recipe. Bon apetite!
I should also let you know that when I was taking camping trips into the area with kids I would always be treated to this marvelous pasti at least once per trip. It was the best meal ever!
Before he became a blacksmith (See Page- Big Bass Lake History), my grandfather, Joseph Noreika, was a bartender in Sheyboygan, Wisconsin, and this is a picture of that bar. My grandmother Barbara Noreika is seated. That little boy was my father Adam and this pose is almost prophetic of his life as he spent a good deal of his time in taverns, much to the displeasure of his mother.
My grandfather spoke very little English being from Lithuania. Even in conversations with him while I was very young he spoke broken English at best but seemed overjoyed to have grandchildren. He had a hard life as when he got to our farm there was much work to do putting up outbuidlings and providing for his wife and soon to be children. That didn’t count the painstaking hours he spent pulling up tree stumps that were all over the family field after he chopped them down to get the land ready for farming.
About 16 years ago I went to the Humane Society in search of a dog with a friend, The one I liked seemed to enjoy snapping at people so that was out. As I was getting ready to leave, my friend suggested that we visit the cat section to which I stated that I hated cats because they bite and scratch a lot. Reluctantly, I went into that area and the first cat that came to my attention was the one I have had the past thirteen years. His name is Jeremiah and we have become fast friends.
He curled up in my arms initially as if to say, “Take me home with you” then, once home, he disappeared from sight for almost two full days. These days I don’t need an alarm clock because Jeremiah wakes me up each day around 5:00 AM to get ready for work. He patrols my desk as I type these messages. Right now he abandoned my desk in quest for his food dish below. He still enjoys chasing string even to this day. All those expensive toys he got bored with quickly but string is another matter altogether. So before you shop for expensive cat toys, try a little string as a cost saver.
Sadly, Jeremiah passed away today at the age of 15 in Gambier, Ohio. He had developed kidney problems and my friend Angela took him in on October 20, 2010 as I was unable to foot the financial bill. On top of the kidney problems he had developed a thyroid difficulty which seemed to make his kidney problem worse. He will be sorely missed and be laid to rest on Angela’s property today. He had been with me for the past 15 years and was one great cat.
Julie Benish and her parents owned a cottage on Sauble Lake. The bottom was rather Rocky but the rocks eere fairly smooth. The water felt colder than Big Bass Lake but it was probably because we were used to our lake. They had us over for a picnic in my sisters and I enjoyed it as did my mother. The Benish’s were very gracious to us. We hosted them the following month at Big Bass Lake. I had a big crush on Julie in those days. Julie’s mother was Miss Michigan and all three Benish girls were quite beautiful.
This was my grandparents farmland in irons Michigan. We almost called it the family farm even though the majority of land was Forest. My grandfather Joseph cleared that large stretch of land largely by himself. He had to cut down a whole lot of trees to do that and then pull the stumps. My Uncle Joe said that was back-breaking work and I can imagine it. They used a horse team to pull out each and every stump. The Farmland stretched from Big Bass Lake Road along the left side of this photograph to Noreika Road named after my grandparents. In those days, that is the 1950’s, all the roads were Sandy ones. Now they are all black top. Our farm provided for the entire family back then. Besides Horses The Firm also had chickens and pigs. The family had to buy very little from a nearby store. Not a bad farm at all!
Now-a-days it takes about 10-15 minutes to drive from our former property on Big Bass Lake to irons in an automobile. However, when my dad was a young man, it took nearly all day to cover that distance in a horse-drawn wagon. And the road wasn’t paved as it is today. It was a sandy road full of ruts and made driving it with a wagon very tedious.
Irons must have been like a Grand Rapids to my father’s family in his day. Now it is rather small with a few churches and bars plus a couple of restaurants. It’s kind of hard to believe that it took so long to cover a distance of under ten miles even with a horse-drawn wagon. It most likely was the roads that made travel so slow.
Grandfather Noreika, no doubt, did the driving with family in tow within the wagon. I can visualize my grandmother sitting right next to him. I’ve often wondered what the conversation was like during those trips to Irons and back. Also what kind of supplies they returned to the farm with? It’s hard to imagine the Irons my father once knew as a young boy.
If anyone that reads this site grew up in Irons, Michigan, drop us a comment and let us know what the pre 1940 days were like.
Here is a picture of my grandmother, Barbara Noreika, alongside the old house with both my Aunt Barb and Aunt Beth. Barb lived with her husband Willie Baugh and son John in Enterprise, Alabama. Beth stayed with my grandmother through her death on the family farm. She had served as an agent with the CIA and spoke five languages fluently.
Aunt Barb was in much better physical condition over that of my Aunt Beth which often made her angry when Barb had to slow her pace while hiking. There was an unseen rivalry between my two aunts.
Rounding out my grandmother’s family were her two sons, Adam who lived in Wabash, Indiana (my dad) and Joe who hailed from Seattle, Washington along with his wife Mary and two sons Craig and Mark.
My dad was married to my mother, Treva, and I had three sisters. There was another Treva, Susie, and Kathy. The only time I met my cousins Mark and Craig was when our two families merged at the farm at the same time one summer.
Our family farm was located on Big Bass Lake near Irons, Michigan. But the rest of the family was scattered well around the United States and made reunions quite difficult. We saw Barb and Willie the most since Wabash was a stopping off point for when Aunt Barb picked up my grandmother each fall to bring her south for the winter to Alabama. Does anyone in our readership know Barbara Noreika?
Pictured here are my older sister Treva, named after our mother, and my youngest sister, Kathy. Even though Kathy is some eight years younger than me our birthdays are one day apart. They are pictured next to a signpost that reads, “Noreika Road” which was our original family name before my father and his brother and sisters changed the name to Norris in the 1940’s. My grandmother kept the original to the day of her death. Our field follows Big Bass Lake Road and extends to The Noreika Road where my two sisters are pictured.
This picture is taken from the dirt road that cuts through the middle of our property. For nearly one-half mile before you is our family farm field. It stretches all the way to that one tree which you can see from our cottage (pictured elsewhere). Somewhere near the middle of this field is a dip that I once thought was in the pattern of a flying saucer. The ground is severely indented and I can’t imagine how that came to be.
That field must have taken in one big crop at one time. It runs along the southwest corner of Big Bass Lake Road. About halfway through the field is another field that is bordered by our forest on each side and by our dirt road. It is apart from this main field. I used to call our family farm our “Ponderosa” cause it was rather large consisting of about 250 acres.
In the 1920’s, I just learned that my grandmother, Barbara Noreika, was once arrested for making moonshine. No, not the kind that glows on Big Bass Lake, but the kind of stuff that my grandfather once sold at his bar in Wisconsin before making the move to the farm. No doubt this moonshine made by my grandmother was prepared for my grandfather. I wonder if Elliot Ness was in on the bust?
My grandmother, I am sure, would have rather been in the kitchen preparing pasti with cole slaw over that of that other activity. Farm life then was difficult as the family faired largely on chicken, eggs, and milk, all home grown or produced by the animals of the farm.
There was a Lithuanian language barrier in the area and thus many people like my grandparents were segregated. Yet, like the Amish, they came together for barn raisings, to cut hay, and of course for social gatherings.
You just never know what things one might find out about their grandparents these days!
I am the tallest one in this picture and it was my freshman basketball team at Wabash High School. I am 6 foot 10 inches tall. My nickname in high school was Twigs because I was so thin. I had a shot that I could flip the basketball from behind my back into the hoop on a pretty regular basis but never in a game. My best friend is also in this picture who now lives in Atlanta Georgia and his name is Keith Bishop. His father operated the Wabash Country Club. Those were the good old days.
Aunt Barb, often called Babs by her fariends, and my Uncle Willie lived in Enterprise, Alabama. They had an adopted son, John, which everyone, including them, called Jeb. Uncle Willie spoke very fast and at times was difficult to understand being from the deep south. Aunt Barb was the industrious one as she loved to walk at a brisk pace and was always busy in the garden or cooking.
Barb, Willie, and Jeb are all gone now. In fact of my grandparents family, each of their sons and daughters died in order of their birth. My dad first, then Aunt Barb, Beth, and finally Uncle Joe. His wife Mary died in 2012. Craig and Mark their sons are still alive today.
Uncle Willie loved to play the golf courses around the greater Big Bass Lake area and he also loved to fish Big Bass Lake. They are all missed much
Jeremiah was my white long-haired cat for 15 years. He was one of the best pets I’ve ever owned. I often called him The Reincarnation of Buff who was a dog I found on my paper route when I was 11. Jeremiah must have been part Italian because whenever I made spaghetti his eyes were fixed on it. I used Parmesan cheese in my spaghetti and Jeremiah would often eat two strands of it and that was about it. He also liked KFC chicken what was rather negative to tuna fish. I guess Charlie got a reprieve. Jeremiah passed away several years ago but he will always be in my memory. I’m all the toys I bought for him which is largely ignored, his favorite was a simple piece of string and they love stalking it as I moved it back and forth. What a hunter!
Noreika cows are not a type of cow but since they were owned by my grandmother Barbara Noreika that is how they were known. I only knew the cows when I was about six years old. She got rid of them soon thereafter. She asked me if I wanted to milk one and I was scared. She squirted me once with fresh milk which tasted pretty good. I used to avoid our barn because of our two cows. Back on the early 1950s the milk we drank on the farm came right from the original tap. It tasted great on cold cereal. In later years whenever I walked into our old barn I remember those cows. At one time we had horses and pigs as well but I never saw those. The cows were the next to last to go as she still had chickens for several years. It was still a great Farm.
I remember when I was just a little boy how my dad would take our rowboat and row into the little inlets around Big Bass Lake looking for turtles. He wasn’t intereted in doing them in but to watch them. Among the lilly pads we would observe an occassional frog but now and then some turtles. My dad seemed to have a fascination with those creatures.
He never liked to row much in the middle of the lake. He always took the boat to the inlets and a kind of peace settled over him. At times we would just drift slowly as he scanned the inlets. He didn’t talk much on those trips with his mouth but his eyes spoke a thousand words. There was a fascination there for what he beheld.
It seems strange how people focus on one lttle thing over all others. My dad was never that impressed with the speedboats on the lake. But here he was now exploring the dozen or so inlets around Big Bass Lake to his hearts content. Perhaps he was reverting to when he was a little boy there?
Whatever it was, that kind of peace rarely came over my dad so it was interesting to watch how it develped on the inlets of Big Bass Lake.