Fish Cakes and More Fish Cakes

Every once in a while you realize why something familiar to you is the way it is. Maraschino cherries, for instance. They have been in my life for at least 32 years, appearing regularly in the backs of refrigerators and occasionally in mixed drinks or on ice cream. They seem to be without redeeming feature: too sweet, too red, too chemically altered to be cherries, and nowhere near tasty enough to eat intentionally (unless you are me, 5 years old, with no other access to sugar. In that case, they are irresistible.) Maraschino cherries are gross, and yet they’re everywhere. What gives?

The reason: Amarena Cherries. Sweet, dark wild Italian cherries packed in syrup, they are bursting with flavor and have a nice sour bite to counter the sweetness of the syrup. The bottle they come in is beautiful, but it is nothing compared to the rich redness of the syrup, so concentrated that it looks almost black. Amarena cherries are delicious on a spoon, and they are dynamite with some dark chocolate ice cream. They are the reason that maraschino cherries are still around: the artificial variant is meaningless without a referent. There is no way that we would be using so many recipes that call for preserved cherries if maraschino cherries were the intended ingredient.

Update: Wikipedia just informed me that in 1964 the USDA lifted the ban on Red Dye #4 to allow its use in maraschino cherries because they are considered a decoration rather than a foodstuff. I should probably alert the scientific community to the availability of my internal organs for research purposes – I used to eat maraschino cherries by the jarful.

In other news, Frida is big into picking her boogers and eating them. Thought you might like a Frida update; there you go! She is in a growth spurt, having burst out of her favorite overalls from one day to the next, and is eating everything in sight. Today this included a large slice of 3-day-old smörgåstårta (a Swedish sandwich cake, I make mine with smoked salmon and shrimp salad,) an entire container of raspberries AND one of blueberries (apparently I wasn’t paying attention to diet diversity,) some fish sticks (my God woman, your kid is going to turn into a fishberry,) a banana, some melted brie on a tortilla (okay, consider the diet diversity problem sorted,) three slices of leftover steak on arugula/rocket, two tangerines, some oatmeal, an apple, and a truly astonishing number of spoonfuls of peanut butter. Thank god for leftovers. And for peanut butter.

Things That Make Me Feel Like I’m In Control And We’re On The Right Track

  • I made a smörgåstårta, decorated it with smoked salmon and fresh dill, put on my best blasé this-happens-all-the-time-here face, and served it to brunch guests.
  • Frida and I made the bread for it, too. It’s fun that she’s old enough to handle a multi-stage project, and she loves using the kitchen scale to measure out ingredients. (She can’t count to 1,200 but can recognize the zeros. She’s astonishing. Says her mother. Of course.)
  • When we have a little accident, like dropping a spoonful of flour that sprays all over the kitchen, Frida often says, ‘Oh, no problem!’ and then gets to work cleaning it up. (As above re: my astonishment.)

Things That Make Me Feel Like Maybe The Wheels Are Coming Off The Bus

  • Upon dropping a glass in the kitchen this morning, Frida said, ‘Shitskies!’ There is no possible way to blame that on her father.
  • Later in the day when said father came home, I kind of forgot to tell him about it. (Hi, Tobias! If you’re reading this please accept my apology for teaching your daughter to swear! Also, we need more paper towels. Love you!)

On the one hand, not only do I stock rye flour in the pantry, I also use it. On the other hand, I  am cognizant of the fact that Frida is in the middle of a language bloom and yet cannot keep myself from dropping the F-bomb nine times a day. Some mother I am.



Arriving back in Germany after an 8-hour flight, I knew that breakfast would be the focus of my 2-hour layover but I didn’t know that it would be such a joy. Not because of the standard-issue liverwurst and dark bread, the fruit salad and plain yogurt, (although I enjoy all of those,) but rather the extensive selection of morning-appropriate beverages in the Munich lounge. The fancy coffee machine that makes any kind of espresso/cappuccino/latte, complete with appropriately sized glassware and spoons for each. The tomato juice stand, whose accoutrement includes salt, pepper, hot sauce, worchestershire sauce, and limes. The iced tray of beers, including not one but two non-alcoholic selections. The shelf of regional liqueurs and assorted booze. And just as you’re thinking, “Oh, a Campari on ice would be so refreshing right now, but I don’t think I can get away with it unless it’s after 5:00pm or I’m over 70, whichever comes first,” you spy this week’s special. Nestled into a large silver bowl packed with ice are palm-sized bottles of Italy’s Favorite Non-Alcoholic Aperitif: Crodino, and although the name is somewhat unappealing, the taste of Crodino, on ice with a twist of orange, is perfect: bracingly bitter, lightly sweet, and wonderfully cold. It does what the third round of airplane bathroom tooth-brushing doesn’t: it wakes your mouth up and reminds the rest of you that there are things to look forward to beyond sleeping.

…amended to add: don’t have a second Crodino. It’s just not the same.

I had a conversation on the phone this morning with my daughter, which makes me wonder if I’ve been away too long. 6 nights in New York without the kids seemed like a logical, if painful, plan, but I’m pretty sure that when I left little Frida had just turned 2, and now she’s answering the phone by herself and asking me to please keep it down because baby Max is still sleeping. Wha? Next she’ll be helping me put on my shoes and encouraging best behavior when we are in public. Oh, wait, she already does that: “Mama wear hat? Yes, good. Don’t take it off! It’s cold!”

I cannot wait to see my family. Plane to Hamburg is boarding, I’m off!