Friday, November 17, 2023

I Could Have Been A ...

I think most people wonder at some point in their lives, what their lives would have been like had they taken Path B rather than Path A. Or maybe life gave you no choice in the matter and you were swept away by fate. Here are a few of my "I could have been ..." scenerios.

  • A Ballerina

When I was a child I wanted to take ballet lessons. What little girl wouldn't? But Mom said no. Just no. I don't know why. I am pretty limber, always have been, and I have "peasant toes" which are perfect for wearing toe shoes. But this photo below is the closest I ever got to beng a ballerina, as one Christmas I got a leotard and a tutu in a little carrying case. Pretty pathetic. Would I have been any good? Who knows, I never got the chance to find out. (By the way, 'peasant' toes are ones that are pretty much all the same length all the way across. My sister is blessed with peasant toes as well. Must run in the family on the Italian side--My grandmother on my dad's side immigrated from the Naples area.)

  • A Pianist

But that didn't work out as planned either. I had to take organ lessons. Ugh. Why couldn't I take piano lessons? Well, because my father loved playing the organ but mostly because my sister took piano lessons. For some unknown reason, at least to me, I could not take piano lessons because my sister did. Huh, why can't we both take piano lessons? Nope. Therefore Lynne cannot take piano lessons because her sister was. Kind of like my mom didn't think I could swim either because my sister couldn't. What??? You need to read this older blog entry to get some insight here. Just click to be magically whisked off to that entry. It's worth your read. It may even give some insight into why I couldn't take piano lessons, but then again, it might not. Maybe you can figure out my mother's logic.

When I started playing the organ I couldn't even reach the pedals. I had to sit so far to the front of the bench that I was in danger of falling off. The only advantages of organ lessons that I can tell is that they gave me a sense of musicality and a larger hand span and longer fingers.

  • A Broadway Star

Well, maybe, you never know. In grade school when we still lived in New York they formed a special offshoot of the choir, called Ensemble. I was part of the Ensemble. We were chosen for our voices and when my best friend was chosen I sure as heck belted out my best singing voice so I would be chosen too. We put on special skits and numbers several times per year. One year that I remember best we did "Give My Regards to Broadway." We made long skirts out of crepe paper and top hats out of cardboard and decorated them. I wish now that I had a photo of that! We were practicing for our Spring Ensemble when my parents pulled me out of school to move to Florida. So, I never got back into it in my new school as they had no such thing, and well, that was kind of that. But I loved it! I have also loved the little bit of acting I have done at the Mystery Dinner parties Rick and I used to give. We all had parts to play and our goal was to fool everyone else if our role was the murderer. It was great fun and I always got into my parts. Maybe I little too well because no one guessed I was the murderer!

Perhaps I am stretching things a bit in my "I could have been..."

As you know, I am none of those things. The only ballet I do is fall into my own little made-up ballet position (somewhat like the third position) while waiting in line at the grocery store because it feels easy and it's something to do with my legs while just standing there. (By the way, I hear that now in ballet there is no third position anymore. Oh well.) I do not play any musical instrument and doubt I can even read music anymore. I can play a mean "chopsticks" on the piano though. And as for singing, I only do that in my car, belting out the oldies from the 60s  and 70s station, or I can be found singing and dancing around my kitchen while cooking dinner to ABBA or Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." I've been told my voice "ain't half bad."

I have no regrets. My life has been extremely blessed. Still one does wonder, doesn't one??

(And please, no comments about my who-put-a-bowl-on-your-head to cut your bangs or the finger curls my mom was so proud of. Thank You.)

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Diana Bread Try #2

I know it's been ages since I've updated the blog. Oops, my bad. At long last here is an update to my previous blog about the lost recipe of Diana Bread from Sweden. I really think the last time we added too much water. Sometimes translating cups to liters and deciliters is not easy. Of course, when we lived in Europe we had the correct measuring tools but we gave them away long ago. 

Rick thought of contacting a Swedish collegue of his that he had not talked to in a long time, so he emailed him not knowing if the email was still valid or not. Stig replied and he had his wife translate the recipe. We realized that what we had taken rye flour for the rye ingredient when it was really "cracked rye" or "rye berries" as they are also called. A very different thing! It made a huge difference. Also, we had used what was called "Lingonberry Sauce" from the import aisle of a grocery store which was not as "jammy" as the one we bought at IKEA on the suggestion of Stig. He should know, he's Swedish after all! So we strolled the mile through the IKEA maze (just for the exercise) and bought some jam. The rye berries we had to order from good old Amazon. Seriously, what did we do before Amazon??

Below are Rick's notes from the second experiment.

 

Diana Bread (Second Try)

From Kallaren Diana in Stockholm, Sweden

translated and tweaked by Rick and Lynne as well as Stig and Gunnel Oresjo

 

1/2 cup cracked rye

1/4 cup wheat bran

1/4 cup flaxseed

1/2 cup lingonberry jam (ideally from IKEA)

3/4 cup raisins

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

1-2/3 cups lukewarm water

Combine all above ingredients in the evening and allow to set overnight.

The next morning combine:

4-1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast

8 cups whole wheat flour

2-1/8 cups warm water (a bit more if needed)

Mix the yeast with the flour. Blend the water into the yeast/flour mixture and add the overnight mixture. (See note below.) You may need to add a bit more flour or water, but you want to end up with a shaggy dough. It was best to simply mix this using our hands (Lynne did this).

The dough does not need to be kneaded. Form into loaves, either several free-form loaves or put in 3-4 small greased loaf pans. Proof at 125°F for 15 minutes. (Next try, go a bit longer and see if it rises more.) Bake at 450°F for about 30 minutes and start checking temperature. Strive for a temperature in excess of 195°F. This may take up to 45-50 minutes.

Above Photo was before baking.

The above is based on our second try at the bread and it was quite good. We did two “free form” round loaves and I think smaller loaves would be better. This is a lot of dough. Also think it needed to proof better. Our oven has a proof setting, but I don’t think it gets to 125°F. We cooked one loaf for 50 minutes and achieved a temperature of 204°, and a second loaf 10 more minutes (an hour altogether) and the temperature was 208°. These are probably a bit too high. The loaves rose some in the oven on “proof”, but could rise more. The crumb was dense and moist but not wet. The flavor was spot on from what we remember.

Here are the loaves after baking/slicing. It was delicious! We've been eating it toasted in the morning. Of course, this is not the sort of bread you use for sandwiches. It's very hearty, and bursting with whole grains. Yummy.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Diana Bread: The Lost Recipe

Years ago when Rick and I were living in Germany I accompanied him on a business trip to Stockholm, Sweden. A colleague of his and his wife took us out to dinner at a typical Swedish restaurant. I vaguely remember it as a dark and cozy place. Along with our meal, as restaurants tend to do, they brought a basket of bread for the table. It was delicious! It was a dark whole-grain bread, kind of dense and we identified lingonberries as the sweetness we were tasting. Our wait person told us it was known as "Diana" bread. I knew that somehow we needed that recipe. 

Bless Jan-Erik's wifes' heart, she managed to get the resturant to share the recipe with her. Only problem was that it was in Swedish, of course. We never saw the original recipe (see it above), just her translation of it. She wasn't comfortable translating into English, so she translated the recipe into German, which we knew and she felt comfortable with. But funny things happen sometimes and things are "lost in translation." She translated the Swedish "kummin" seeds to the German "kümmel", which we then translated into English as "cumin." The German to English translation was ambiguous and hard to figure out, but we took our best shot. Remember, this was 1983/84 and there was no Internet to help us, only our English/German dictionary. Well, you can imagine our shock when we bit into that cumin-laden bread!! Blech!! This was nothing like the delicious bread we had eaten in the restuarant. Of course it wasn't—it should have been caraway seeds, not cumin.

I can't remember ever attempting to make the bread again, but I do know we had the recipe for years, even after our multiple moves to Europe. The last time I remember seeing it was stuck in a binder with other recipes I had clipped and kept. Some years back, I think it was while living in New Jersey, I went looking for the recipe. I still had the binder and all the other recipes inside of it, but the page where Diana Bread was posted was empty. No recipe! Dang, somehow we lost it.

Well, years went by and off and on I wondered what had happened to it. I've looked everywhere. Just the other night Rick and I were sitting on the deck discussing recipes for the upcoming week and somehow Diana Bread popped into my head. We sat discussing if it was possible now to search online and find something about it. Trouble was, neither one of us knew the name of the resturant, only that it was in Stockholm somewhere. Rick is always up for a challlenge like that, so I let loose Sherlock Rick on the hunt for "The Lost Recipe: Diana Bread".

Here is the synopsis of his search which took place over several days in Rick's own words.

“Diana Bread” search

  • Not sure how the topic came up, but I started searching for the restaurant hoping to be able to contact them about the recipe.
  • First I searched on Google for “Diana Bread”. Obviously no meaningful results.
  • Adding the word “recipe” did not help.
  • So, I tried “Diana bread restaurant Stockholm Sweden”. I got a good hit on the words “Diana”, “restaurant” and “Stockholm”, finding the restaurant Kallaren Diana. But, the links were not useful. One was a review from a UK newspaper, but it did not provide contact info. Others were from sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, also not much help. There were a couple of links to Swedish resources, but scanning those was not helpful. I did get a general location: Gamla Stan. 
  • Research on that area led me to a bit more info, including a description of the restaurant: very old building, below street level, stone walls with wood beams…yup, that sounds right! Apparently a quite famous and popular restaurant first opened in 1971.
  • A Wikipedia search gave me an address without postal code. And, what might have been a good phone number.
  • I tried social media. There seems to be a Facebook page, but I was not allowed to view it.
  • In a “Hail Mary” move, I tried searching for “Kallaren Diana Stockholm menu”. Bingo! I found a link to photos of their menu in the New York City Public Library archives!
  • https://menus.nypl.org/menu_pages/44928/explore
  • The four-page menu is mostly in Swedish, but with some English. And, on the last page…a recipe (in Swedish) for Diana’s Lingonbröd. (There is also full contact information.)

I did a word-by-word translation from Swedish to English and with a lot of guesses and assumptions, have come up with a recipe. We’ll try it (using caraway seeds not cumin seeds) and see how close I got.

<SNIP>

So, being the adventurous cooks that we are, we are going to try once again to make "The Lost Recipe: Diana Bread" with our new translation. Stay tuned to this cooking channel to see the end result!

And, oh, by the way, if you are reading this and speak Swedish, feel free to send us your translation of the recipe.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Daily Bread

There is nothing quite like homemade bread. The aroma as it's baking, filling the house with a heavenly yeasty smell. The beautiful golden brown color of the loaves when they emerge from the oven. The crackling of the crust as it cools.

I hold the loaf up to my nose and breathe deeply of its warm scent. I am so tempted to cut into it there and then, slather it with sweet butter, picturing it in my head as the butter melts on the just-out-of-the-oven warmth. I ask Rick, as I do everytime he makes bread, can I please cut it now? I ask even though I already know the answer he will give. No, Lynne, it needs to cool before you can cut it, he says. It's a ritual. He knows I will ask.

So I wait. Impatiently. Walking past it again and again, touching the loaves to see if they are cool enough. The waiting is really hard. But as I was always told when I was little, good things come to those who wait.

Finally it's time, and I cut through the crispy outer crust with a bread knife. It's perfectly baked with a beautiful crumb, and warm enough that the butter melts immediately. Sooooo good. Yum. Now we can look forward to great toast for breakfast. 

Rick has not made bread all summer—too hot to keep the oven going for hours—both during the preheating time necessary for the pan it gets baked in, and for the baking time itself. But with the beautiful temperatures we've had for days it finally made sense to fire up the oven. Welcome, cooler weather.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

A Name for My Blog ... Finally

No, you have not come to wrong site. This old "new" Jersey Girl lives in the South now and is not really a "girl" anymore. No, I have not changed my gender, just my age. Finally, I found a name for my blog. Please don't tell me you hate it (although my sister will hate it because she dislikes anything Southern—including sweet tea and grits—although she has lived here since forever, or it least it seems that way to her). It reflects my Southern exposure which is my life now. I do like sweet tea, and I didn't think I would, but really it's no different or any sweeter than drinking a Coke. And I do love grits, or if you want to be fancy and give it an Italian flair you can call it polenta. Same thing either way. 

Whether or not I continue to blog in this space is anybody's guess. I am going to try. I do occasionally still feel the urge to write things down. Not often, but when the urge hits I now have a new space to put down those thoughts. My old blog had a lot of photos, mainly because I used to take many, many photos. My camera and I were inseparable. These days It's a little different. I don't have the botanical gardens anymore to roam around in and I find fewer things entice me to pick up the camera. I might go through my old photos and post some of my favorites. Relive the "old" days, if you will.

Who knows what you might find if you come back once in a while? Leave me a comment and let me know you were here.

About

Welcome, I'm Lynne. You know me better as a 'new' Jersey Girl. But now I've moved once again, this time to North Carolina. Here I write about my thoughts, good food, and of course, dogs.

© 2006-2023 Lynne Robinson All photography and text on this blog is copyright. For use or reproduction please ask me first.

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  • C, no I did not know you played the organ, let along playing one in…

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