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24 posts from October 2007

A walk along the water (Travemünde)


Our day in Lübeck was a great success, but my eyes really shine when remembering the afternoon in Travemünde. This small beach town bordering the Baltic Sea is where Thomas Mann fondly remembers summering, and we were lucky, on a mid-autumn afternoon, to have exquisite skies and clear walking. Alighting from the bus we rushed to the water, then headed left along the beach with no particular plan, pausing to admire the several trees that had capsized from cliff into sea.

Once we began to flag we stopped an approaching couple to ask how much further the next town was, and, reassured, continued for another forty-five minutes or so until the beachside buildings of Niendorf appeared on the horizon.

Safely ensconced in a beachside cafe, we sat by the window and watched a small child rushing at the swans at the shoreline, who whisked themselves away in that indignant manner of swans. Our Spätzle arrived and we inhaled it, then decided against cake in favour of Quarkbrötchen from the small bakery along the harbour. We munched the raisin-studded buns while taking the cliff route back to Travemünde, and lingered on the promenade for a half-hour observing children fly kites before making our way to the bus, to Lübeck, and thence to Berlin.


Quince jelly (syrup?) / Pay it forward


You'll have seen that I recommended saving the juices from your quince compote. Boiled down, this turns into a syrup that verges on jelly with no added ingredients, thanks to the high pectin content of the fruit itself. With my small batch of compote and my greedy licking of the spoon I ended up with a scant inch of sunny preserves, but you might get more. Just heat so the liquid simmers but doesn't bubble too furiously, stirring fairly often and watching closely to avoid scorching.

And on the topic of handmade homemade treats: How thrilled I was to be the second (not the third) to respond to Deborah's offer to pay it forward! Here's the pledge: “I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, that is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog." Any takers?

One year/Autumn


But now one senses the season's tip into winter. I remember this day last year as more luminous - sitting on the sofa, searching out my first photos, trying to wrangle the Typepad software into doing what I wanted it to do. People seem to commemorate their anniversaries, so here's mine; and on this occasion I can note that writing Berlin Reified makes me pay close attention to the world and brings to that  observing the joy of knowing I have a single radiant someone to share that world with (for I imagine you as one particular reader, reading this as I write). And reader, what do you make of it all, I wonder? And what do you like, and what do you like less?

Quince tart (Quince compote)


With friends coming over for dinner last Saturday, I was racking my brains for something to do with my quince; after all, hard experience had taught me  people less obsessed with food than I will react with limited enthusiasm when handed a bowl of poached fruit. The solution of quince compote as topping for the Verlet tart pleased all, I think, with the honeyed almond sweetness of the filling setting off the spicy compote nicely.

To make, simply peel, core and dice three quince, then cook with 1/2 a cup (or 100 grams) of sugar plus 1/4 cup of water over low heat until the fruit is softened but not mushy. (I added a few cardamon pods, two star anise and half a vanilla bean to this mix, and was pleased I had.) Remove to a waiting bowl using a slotted spoon and let cool. Prepare the crust and filling as usual, and strain the quince again (saving the juices) before topping your tart with the compote. It's lovely at room temperature.


Fall keeps going


This autumn just keeps going.

Quince paste, Quittenbrot, Membrillo


Alchemy indeed: Who would believe the golden quince would transform itself into such coral gems when cooked with a bit of sugar? I was skeptical as I pureed the fruit into pulp and gingerly stirred the bubbling, burping mass with a very long-necked wooden spoon. After an overnight cool, though, the deep orange round emerged smooth and sweet from its pan.

David, with his steady hand, was in charge of carving the slab into squares, which he did quite charmingly, I think, dusting them in sugar and arraying them in jolly lines on their sheet of brown paper. I haven't been able to stop nibbling away, intrigued by their texture, though the sweetness verges on too sweet and I think I ought to have experimented with one or two unconventional spices in the mix before the grand cooking down began.

I'll leave that for next time. For now, the little irregular cubes make a perfect informal gift, swaddled in said brown paper, and tied up with a bow. To try it yourself, do what I did, and cobble together a recipe from Nicky's, Melissa's and Michelle's. A few comments: I took note of the need for acidity and solved it by splashing in a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar; I'm sure lemon juice would work just as well. Also, I boiled the quince whole as per Melissa's recipe, but found them impossible to peel, so didn't, and didn't notice any roughness at all. And finally, my quince seemed especially moist and needed a full day of drying out (in the switched-off oven) before the texture was ripe for slicing. Happy quincing!


This is Thomas Mann speaking


The highlight of Lübeck's Buddenbrookhaus was the line of seats upholstered in nubby mustard, interleaved with listening stations where you could hear excerpts of interviews with the Manns. (But the family tree ran a close second, and how odd, really, to imagine a Mann as a gardener in California.)

Buddenbrookhaus (Heinrich-und-Thomas-Mann-Zentrum)
Mengstrasse 4, 23552 Lübeck (map)