Saturday, December 31, 2011

Three Beckmann Exhibits

Yes, time is running out to catch three simultaneous Beckmann Exhibits on the continent.  We've already been to the excellent Beckmann & America at Frankfurt's Städel Museum.  It only runs through January 8, 2012, so time is running out.  The other two exhibits both run until January 22, and I am wondering whether we will be able to catch them:   "Max Beckmann. Face to Face” in the Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig and "Max Beckmann. The Landscapes” in the Kunstmuseum Basel.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Stollen Comparison

I finally got to use my old camera yesterday, so I set up my tripod and took a couple of pictures of the Stollen that I received as a gift together with a slice of the homemade stollen from our neighbor (shown on the white plate on the left).  Frau Bloggerboy and I like the Dresdner Christstollen better.  The yeast cake is flaky and low in sugar, and the raisins and candied fruits have a clean, rum aroma and enough sweetness to offset the yeast cake but not overwhelm it.  Out neighbor's Stollen (thank God I'm blogging anonymously!) is much heavier and is filled with nuts, raisins and candied fruits.  The yeast cake is not flaky, and the filling overwhelms the cake a bit.  It is not clear what kind of alcohol was used with the fruit. Neither Stollen has marzipan.  I can imagine that some people will prefer the homemade version becasue it reminds them of the ones they grew up with.  But sometimes, less is more, as in this case.  

Homemade on the Left, Commercial on the Right

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mother's Ruin

William Hogarth's Gin Lane (1751)

Gin, cursed Fiend, with Fury fraught,
Makes human Race a Prey.
It enters by a deadly Draught
And steals our Life away.

Virtue and Truth, driv'n to Despair
Its Rage compells to fly,
But cherishes with hellish Care
Theft, Murder, Perjury.

Damned Cup! that on the Vitals preys
That liquid Fire contains,
Which Madness to the heart conveys,
And rolls it thro' the Veins.

Well, I beg to differ.  Those of us who grew up after the Gin Craze and the passage of the Gin Acts (i.e. everyone living) are entitled to occasional displays of affection for Mother's Ruin.  On hot summer evenings, I often wax poetic about the virtues of the British Empire as I mix my gin and tonic after a hard day's work.  I prefer lime over lemon, by the way.  I've been alternating between bottles of Tanqueray and Bombay Sapphire gin lately.  Well, imagine my surprise when Bloggerboy Junior, in his drive to become a Man Of The World (TM), placed a bottle of Hendrick's under the tree this year for Dear Old Dad, making a big impression.  I've heard of Hendrick's but never tried it.  The "nose" is quite good based on my first few sniffs.  I'm fresh out of tonic water right now and not in the mood for a martini, but sometime soon I will mix a G&T with a cucumber garnish and Hendrick's Gin. 

Now, would someone more familiar than I with curious British uses, please explain to me the Hendrick's gin tea cup that came with my bottle?  Are Brits (or, to be more precise in this case, Scots) wont to drink their gin in tea cups?  If so, where does this strange practice come from?  Or is this just an insidious attempt to subvert the great British tradition of Tea Time (afternoon tea) by turning it into an early cocktail hour?  Or does it play a role in High Tea (aka meat tea)?  I'm curious.  Part of the fun of drinking these old drinks is the history that goes with them.  Can anyone drink a Martini (stirred, not shaken, please) without thinking about its colorful history?
A Hendrick's Gin Tea Cup???

"I don't know what reception I'm at, but for God's sake give me a gin and tonic."  -- Denis Thatcher

It's Raining Stollen

Recently, The Underground Baker posted detailed instructions on how to make a Stollen.  That caught my attention and brought back memories of the Stollen that my maternal grandmother used to make when she visited for Christmas.  Spoiled American child that I was, I found the low-sugar yeast cake and fruit with rum unappealing.  Oh to roll back the clock!  This year one of my colleagues sent me a Dresdner Christstollen, considered to be the quintessential Stollen.  The term "Christstollen" not only refers to Christmas but also to the fact that the look of the sugar-covered Stollen is reminiscent of the Christchild wrapped in swaddling clothes.  Our friends and neighbors, the wife being a traditional Swabian mother who bakes traditional Christmas cookies every year, gave us another Stollen.  So we are Stollen-rich this year (pun intended).

The big debate with Stollen is whether to include marzipan.  If you decide to include marzipan, you need to determine whether you want to include a single, large "rope" in the middle or whether to place several smaller ropes throughout the Stollen.  I don't mind marzipan in the Stollen, but I find a large rope in the middle overwhelming.  It distracts from the other fruits.  Stollen keeps well for several weeks.  The rum flavors spread, adding complexity to the cake. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Camera Repair

You might have noticed that I have not posted photos lately.  The display on my digital SLR camera was kaputt.  (I don't know whether it had anything to do with Fräulein Bloggerboy taking over 500 pictures last New Year's Eve when two of her girlfriends were over, trying on different outfits and looks.)  I finally found a shop that has promised to replace the display for ca. EUR 120.  If I'm lucky, I might even have it back before Christmas.