Blogging from Germany: Frau Gronemeyer's Recipes

Sneha's Notes 
There is something simultaneously vicarious and lovely about people's recipes handed down over generations. A continuum of the senses, that transcends time. I have recipe books and notes from Konarak's mother that offer me a small window into her person. Even though I never met her, I know from her notebooks that she made menus for everything, from everyday lunches to dinner parties. eg Monday lunch: Tomato and cucumber salad, keerai, drumstick and mutton curry, rice, papads OR Dinner for MS & Vimala:  Spinach soup, cauliflower and cheese, roast chicken and caramel custard. I know she liked cooking Sri Lankan food because they had a wonderful time there when they took Twelfth Night over with Madras Players. I still cook from her Ceylon Daily News Cookery Book that her friend Malinie gave to her. I know her roasts and fish curry, learned from her father's recipes, are the stuff of legend. I know David and Doreen Horseburgh would drive down from Madanpalle just in time for one of her fine lunches perhaps of pork vindalho and yellow rice, take a nap and then go dancing at Blue Fox.

Ceylon Daily News Cookery Book
Last week Zui and I baked a Nusskuchen or Hazelnut Cake from a packet I bought in Munster! It was just stunning. From a packet! I have another packet from Germany, which I am keeping for next week, for Maulwurf Cake. This is a uniquely German combination of chocolate cake and crumbs and banana cream. It looks like a mole hill when ready, hence the name. Maulwurf means mole. But these packets are nothing next to the glory of real recipes, treasured and improved over time, by real people.

So it was a treat when Andrea Gronemeyer mailed me some recipes from her mum, Irmgard. Traditional German recipes for Apple Pie and Cherry Cheesecake. Yay!

Andrea Gronemeyer and her mother, Irmgard
Irmgard lives alone in a small village in north-west Germany. She is 87, a widow, with 7 children, 11 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. She loves to speak on the telephone with all of them.  She loves the German tradition of coffee and cake in the afternoon and always asks if you would like to sit down for same "kaffe und kuchen". And  she loves to read and to go to theatre.

Andrea's mother's apple pie:

3 eggs - beat untill fluffy 
- 150 gram sugar
- 100 gram butter
- 250 gram flour
- 1 cup sour cream
and mix it to a smooth dough and fill it in a buttered springform pan.

Peel 1 kilo apples and remove the seeds and slice it
mix it with
- 100 gram chopped almonds
- 150 gram raisins
steam it lightly
and put it on the dough
cover it with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon

Bake it for 30-40 minutes at 175 degree Centigrade

Cheese cake with sour cherry preserves

(As luck would have it, my mother gave me a jar of sour cherries. But in lieu of them I would use other soft fruit that is available - strawberry, cherry, peaches)

Mix  250 gram flour with 1 teaspoon of baking powder
In the middle of it, press a little hole
Add 1 egg and 125 gram butter
Knead this into a dough

Put two parts of it on the bottom of a springform pan
cover the dough with 20 gram ground almonds

Pour off the juice of 750 gram pitted and preserved sour cherries,  drain them and put them on the dough

Mix and stir
750 gram low fat curd cheese with
200 gram sugar
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 eggs
75 gram butter
65 gram flour
grated lime/lemon peel
3 tablespoons of fresh lime/lemon juice

Pour it over the dough and the cherrys

Roll out the third part of the dough and cut it into strips
Put it on the cake as a reticule

Bake it for around 50 minutes at 175-200 degree Centigrade

5 minutes before it is ready cover the reticule with a mixure of the yellow of an egg and water

If you try the recipes please let me know!

Love and Hug


Farm Song: Peacocks and Cicadas

Sunset at Infinite Souls Pic: Chris Burchell
Just after the last full moon, we sat out beneath the big banyan, exhausted and happy, the trees mad with prescient rain-scent, night-excitement and insect-song. Check the crickets, I said and Chris said No, they're cicadas. The crickets just chirp but the cicada make the full on tree hum. And since there are no coincidences, this morning: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/06/songs-of-the-cicada.html

As it happens on lazy Sundays, one thing led to another and I found, lo and behold, an FB group working on photographing and identifying Indian cicadidae. Beautiful, noisy little musicians of the insect world, J.G.Myers wrote of them in his book Insect Singers: "It will not therefore surprise one to find the greatest musical artists of the insect world among its deepest drinkers."

Further, his second chapter is on the appearance of cicadas in Art, Mythology and Literature. Aristophanes, who will appear again shortly, mentions them in The Birds:
"But in flowery meads I dwell
Lingering oft in leafy dell
When the inspired cicadas gladness
Swelling into sunny madness
Filleth all the fervid noon
With its shrill and ceaseless tune."


No affection lost there. Perhaps they kept him up, on hot summer nights, with their endless search for sex and drink, those damned cicadas.

One time during the rains some years ago, after many a Dionysian revel, Chalam was snoring about as loud as the thunder and we spent the night poking him with bamboo and chucking pillows at him, to no avail. The next morning he woke up and has complained since about the frogs in the pond and the racket they made. "Brekekekex ko-ax ko-ax brekekekex...."they went on all night long, never making it to Hades, never bringing back Euripides, just going at it, hammer and tongs, in the pond.

"Brekekekex ko-ax ko-ax....
When the revel-tipsy throng, all crapulous and gay,
To our precinct reeled along on the holy Pitcher day, 
Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax."

Aristophanes again, observer and purveyor of all things natural and unnatural. Aeons ago, in The Valley School, my students performed The Frogs chorus one moonlit night around a different banyan tree.

Pic: Chris Burchell
We have another celebrity noise-maker at the farm, Pavo Christatus or the Indian Peafowl. Mornings are wild with their calls, but run as I might, I never get more than a sight of a blowzy beige and brown peahen, occasionally low-flying from one tree to another. Never have I seen that man bird, not a tail feather nor blue strut in sight. This causes me no end of wonder and pissed off-edness. When Arunchala and yes, lots of Auroville is crazy with peacock, how come I don't see them at the farm? When peacocks just laze around the roofs of the ashram at Thiruvanamalai, how come none deign to visit my cottage? When I have seen, with my own very eyes, those vain critters preen in front of a one way mirror studio door in Auroville, why the hell won't they show here? And yet I hear their keening cry so often...

Maybe I should do as Hanumanthappa says and scatter ragi in the lower fields and then rise at 4am to watch them feed. "Mai-yooo" their call goes, onomatopoeic. Mayur.

When Zui was a month old, we were in the Auroville old Visitor's Centre cafe listening to Debiprasad Ghosh play his magical sarod to bring in the new year. Later, drinking ginger-lemon inside we experienced a strange sound phenomenon. Tables scattered all over the cafe beneath the vaulted roofs of the Visitor's Centre, and we could hear, utterly clearly and intimately, conversations several tables away from us.  Our own possibly wandered away to entertain another table. All these many years later, sitting on the verandah at the farm, we hear Zui and Siddharth having a conversation on the hill. 45 minutes away from us through bramble and briar and then up the metamorphic buttresses and outcrops of neighbouring Savandurga.

Another unusual sound was once heard in the very wee hours. Chalam and Johnson, having said bhum Shankar most fervently, were off on a walkabout. The next day they reported a tale of fear and mystery; of foxes and wild dogs circling the farm and passing calls between them like football players. A high pitched, thin sound that volleyed from side to side, now here, then gone, then re-appearing on the diagonal side. We wondered if it was the owls on the tamarind tree, or perhaps Puck looking for some Love-in-Idleness, but they were certain this wasn't an avian sound.

Besides these and the cacophany from the parrots on the young banyans, all we have is the morning bird song. And Nagamma talking to Sankaramma from 3 inches away. Not much else. No traffic or cell phones. The butterflies don't make much noise.

Pic: Chris Burchell
There are other seasonal man-made sounds: the nightly singing when a stray farmer sleeps in his field to keep the wild boar away from his crop, Rame Gowda's radio that he occasionally leaves on to keep away a wandering elephant, the sss-sss-thump-thump of disco bhaktigeete via loud speakers of the temple in Sevanagar and the dull blasts of greed and dynamite that tell me with misplaced authority that these beautiful hills and their resident cicadas and peacocks are on borrowed time.