Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Write it Forward


Writing in cursive is something I've never felt I was very good at. When I was in grade school, other girls in my class could write beautiful, rounded letters while mine were wobbly and uneven. The more I tried to take my time and create neat, even letters, the worse they looked. I decided at some point that I was destined to become a doctor because, weIl, you know the stereotype. Of course it isn't true of all doctors and just because I've never liked my penmanship doesn't mean I can't try to improve it. Right? So I've decided to start practicing. 

I began by writing the alphabet. A capital A, a small letter a, a capital B, a small letter b, and so on. Funny enough. When I got to the end I couldn't remember how to write a capital Z! Thanks to Google however, just a couple of minutes later I was completing the final letter of the alphabet. As I examined my work, I discovered that I’d drawn my capital Q incorrectly as well. 

Looking over the results from my first practice session took me back to those days of my very first cursive writing attempts as a young girl. I definitely have my work cut out for me. There's no telling if I'll ever be able to write those beautiful, smooth, round letters I desire but I intend to keep practicing. Hopefully my efforts won’t be completely in vain and my writing will improve a little bit. 

Right now I am focusing on practicing the alphabet as well as writing short poems and quotes. Cursive writing seems to be on the verge of becoming a dying art. I am hoping that my feeble attempts to resurrect my cursive talents, and hopefully improve them, will inspire others (maybe you?) to do the same. So don’t be surprised if you receive a letter, handwritten in cursive of course, from me in the near future. Who knows, maybe you’ll even write me back. Or perhaps you’ll “write it forward” and write a letter (in cursive) to one of your friends or family members. 

What do you think? Do you like your own cursive handwriting? Do you still write in cursive? Perhaps it is old fashioned and perhaps printing letters is easier to read but I still think cursive handwriting is a beautiful art and one that I hope makes a comeback. Retro or not. 

Will you take the time with me to sit down and write someone a letter? In cursive script? 

Note: All quotes by e.e. cummings unless otherwise noted.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Semla Hunt Update

(Thelins Konditori, Kungsholmen, Stockholm)

Well, it's official. I'm eating my way to Easter and larger pants via the Great Semla Hunt trail. I was informed by a friend recently that I should actually be fasting from semlor right now, as Fat Tuesday (Fettisdagen) was the (apparently) first AND last day to eat them until... Easter? I'm not exactly clear on that but I can say that I did follow the rule of not eating a semla before Fettisdagen. And I can say with some level of confidence that I will be continuing my "research," eating a semla or two every week, to determine the best ones in the city (with one same even coming from Gothenburg. So, so much for tradition.

You may be wondering, which semlor (plural of semla) are in the running? Well, it's really difficult to say because aside from that first, weird. chocolate one, they all taste like the absolute best one at the moment of consumption. Now that I have a few under (and over) my belt however, I can be a bit more objective. In order of consumed:

En Nypa Socker - Chocolate semla - An interesting concept with a hard, chocolate center instead of mandelmassa (almond paste), but the bread was completely dried out and tasted like it had been sitting out for several days. 

Chic Konditori - Traditional semla - My first semla of the season and actually this was the very first place I experienced a Swedish semla our first year in Sweden… so delicious! With only the chocolate one to compare it to, it is difficult to say but it was definitely the best… so far…

Gateau - Mini semla - OMG delicious! Definitely the best! Again, so far… :-p

(Steinbrenner & Nyberg, Saluhallen, Gothenburg)

Steinbrenner & Nyberg (Gothenburg) - Traditional semla - No, wait, THIS one was the best! Seriously. AND it was eaten in the hetvägg tradition in a bowl with warm milk (+ a little coffee). I thought the coffee addition was amazing. Mmmmmmmm…

(Fabrique, Kungsholmen location, Stockholm)

Fabrique - Mini semla - Okay. Hands down, THE BEST!!! Sigh… this is harder than I thought…

Thelins Konditori - Mini semla - Really amazing mandelmassa!!! It almost tasted like chocolate. In fact, I actually had to look to make sure it wasn’t chocolate. Unfortunately the bread was slightly dry. Otherwise, it could have been the best one due to the mandelmassa surprise. 

So this is where things stand thus far. Overall I would have to say that the semla from Steinbrenner & Nyberg in Gothenburg was the best to date, though the one from Fabrique runs a close second. The semla from Steinbrenner seemed to have the most balanced flavors and each bite was more delicious than the previous bite. 

There is still Vetekatten left to try and, being my favorite bakery/konditori for kanelbullar and kardemmumabullar, I have strong feelings that their semla will be quite competitive. 

Stay tuned for further updates…

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Great Semla Hunt

(It's no secret what's in that bag. This photo is from our first year in Stockholm and I am pretty sure that bag contains what was my very first semla on Swedish soil)

The first official day of eating semlor was this past Tuesday. Fat Tuesday to be specific, or Fettisdagen in Swedish. However, this is the first year that I've actually gone by tradition and waited until Fettisdagen to eat one.  And of course (of course?) last year I think I may have only eaten one or two the entire semla season and even that was pushing it. Why, you may ask? The answer is simple. Semla burnout. 

(Complete with a cup of strong brewed Swedish coffee)

My burn out happened in the year 2012 and it was so severe that I was amazed that come the following year I still wasn't sure if I could "choke" one down. I know, it sounds serious. But it wasn't because they aren't any good, it was because their richness reaches beyond the limits of time. I think in the year 2012 I probably had reached my semla limit, and knew that, but still decided to eat "just one more."  Well, I wasn't sick as in running to the bathroom sick but even today I can recall the feeling of having had one too many sweet cardamom buns filled with almond paste and whipped cream. 

(Fast forward to present day... the first semla of the year)

They look innocent enough, you might think. Light, fluffy. A delicious cardamom bun filled with mandelmassa (almond paste) and vispgrädde (whipped cream). It seems as if you could stuff at least two down your gullet in one sitting without batting an eye. But I promise you it would be a mistake. Eat only one per day. Their intense, disguised richness needs to be consumed in batches, lest you tempt the fates of semla burnout as I did in 2012. 

(Semla number 2)

I can happily say however that the year 2014 marks the beginning of the end of my semla burnout, and the beginning of The Great Semla Hunt, or my search to find what I consider the best Semla. So far I have only eaten semla from two different bakeries. So far, the best one has yet to be found. But rest assured, I will be back with an update once I have found the absolute best semla to be eaten this side of Sweden. Or when I reach an all new semla burnout ;-).

(Fettisdagen fika at work)

Semla - singular for one cardamom bun with almond paste and whipped cream.

Semlor - plural, meaning any number that is more than one. 

How many do you think you could eat in one sitting? Would you be willing to participate in a semla eating contest?