Prior to meeting for this interview, I had the opportunity to read Sam Traten’s memoir, “Ex Post Facto.” One thing that seem to run through the memoir is his quest for knowledge and himself.
Sam was born in 1940 and grew up in a blue collar working class neighborhood of Philadelphia. His parents were Sam Sr. and Betty Traten. As a young man, Sam Sr. shortened his last name of Trachtenberg as it was easier to land a job (especially in advertising) if you were not identified as being Jewish.
Sam Jr. was very close to his maternal grandmother, Sadie Kirn. Shakespeare once stated, “It is a wise person who knows his grandmother.” For many years during the school year, he had lunch in her kitchen. It was at those lunches Mrs. Kirn passed on her knowledge of life. It was his grandmother who took him to church each Sunday at Bethel Evangelical Church in North Philadelphia where he was baptized, confirmed and became an altar boy.
Sam’s mentor was Henry David Thoreau, reading “Walden” and seeking the simple life. So when the family moved to Rancocas Woods, N.J., it was a move to paradise for 16-year-old Sam.
He was nearsighted; not understanding the diagnosis, he had a fear of becoming blind. The fear was so great that he practiced being blind for quite some time. The family blamed his poor eyesight on the fact the he devoured reading matter, including cereal boxes and anything printed.
His first job as a paper boy for the Bulletin paid him $5 a week. His first job in advertising was with Curtis Publishing and Ladies Home Journal magazine. After volunteering for the U.S. Army and being discharged in 1962, he joined N.W. Ayer & Sons, remaining there until the agency moved to New York. At that time, he went to work for RCA at domestic and foreign locations. His journey continued until he came to King of Prussia for Bell Atlantic, settling in 1998 in Phoenixville.
Sam’s field of expertise is in communications/advertising/writing with is a huge direction toward photography. His mentor in photography was his father-in-law, Kurt Bodenhofer.
Sam considers himself a “traveling man.” He once paddled a kayak he built in his basement for a five-day journey from Philadelphia (down river) to Cape May, N.J.
During these job changes and the searching of himself, his marriage of 23 years ended in 1986. The marriage produced three daughters, leading to four granddaughters and one grandson.
He traveled to China to find a new bride — they married in Phoenixville in 1998. Once again alone when Feng Qiao returned to China in 2005, he prides himself as being surrounded by a large circle of family and friends.
Sam enjoys Pennsylvania Dutch cooking — remember his grandmother Kirn was from that background.
LANCASTER COUNTY CHICKEN POTPIE
(with wide noodles instead of a pie crust)
3 to 3½ lbs. boiler-fryer chicken
10 cups water
1 rib celery
½ tsp. crushed saffron threads
2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
2 medium yellow onions (peeled and cut into thin wedges)
2 medium potatoes (peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes)
½ cup thinly sliced celery
Place chicken, including neck and gizzard, into large kettle with water. Add celery rib and saffron threads. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for about one hour (until chicken is tender). When cool enough to handle, remove skin, bones, neck and gizzards, skimming off excess fat. Strain broth, and return to kettle.
2 large eggs
2 tbsp. water
½ tsp. salt
1¾ to 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
Work these ingredients into stiff dough. Divide dough in half, and roll out each half on floured surface to about a 15-inch square. With a knife or pastry wheel, cut into 1-inch squares.
Dice chicken and return to stock. Bring to a boil. A few at a time, slide noodles into boiling stock. When all the noodles are in, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or so. Salt and pepper to taste or diet. Whisk a little hot broth with 3 tablespoons flour and ¼ cup cold water together. Stir into chicken and stock to thicken. When serving, top with chopped parsley.
Let Better hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org. Search YouTube for “Look Who’s Cooking with Bette Banjack,” as well phoenixvillenews.com (search bar: Banjack) for this column. Find Bette on Facebook by searching “Bette Banjack’s Downtown Kitchen.” Her book, “2 Cups of Yesterday,” is available at Gateway Pharmacy or by contacting her.