Archive for February, 2012

The longer it took me to get back into blog-writing, the more pressure I felt to write something really fabulous and meaningful, something of Great Importance. I ask you, is there any subject more important than pancakes?

After this long absence, it would serve me right if there were no longer any readers of this blog. I now see how easy it is to get out the habit!

This blog was conceived to help me contend with how rapidly my work-life was changing after finishing prelims and launching into dissertation research travel. But it was all that travel got the best of the blog this past year. (Really, how has it been a year‽‽)

Last spring, I returned from Braunschweig and Berlin for a couple more months in Minnesota. I officially moved out of my beloved Nordeast house in May and traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in the German Historical Institute Transatlantic Doctoral Seminar. The weekend was intense but rewarding, given the awfully smart work of the other participants and the exceptional organization of the conference (seriously, I’ve never attended a conference or workshop so thoughtfully designed). In June, supported by a travel grant from the Friends of the Princeton University Library, I spent a month at the incomparable Cotsen Children’s Library.

Travel does bring rewards: meeting dear friends' new baby

At the end of that month, I gave a paper on a panel I helped organized about “Representations of History for Children and Youth” for the Society for the History of Children & Youth conference, where there simply wasn’t enough time to revel in the experience of hundreds of people talking about the history of childhood.

July brought perhaps my most exciting trip of the year, to Beijing for a presentation at the World History Association with University of Minnesota professors & students (Mary Jo Maynes, Ann Waltner, Qin Fang, and Yueqin Chen). Not only was the location memorable, but exploring it with those friends was particularly special.

Peking University, where my family lived in 1996

Then it was back to Germany for late July and August, supported by a grant from the Conference Group for Central European History. This was my first experience in the south of Germany (Grüß Gott!), so I did some sightseeing in between reading some really intriguing family papers in several archives across Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.

Munich's International Youth Library

A few weeks at home in September while my parents prepared for their move from Illinois to Cape Cod also included a couple of trips back up to Minnesota.

But I’ve been settled now for four months here in Berlin, where I’m extremely lucky to be able to concentrate fully on my dissertation research with the support of a Research Grant from the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD). I’m definitely glad to be returning to this space while I work out new ideas, try to solve archive puzzles, and am alternately enchanted and perplexed by life in this exceptional city.

I may work up some backdated finds-of-the-day from collections in the Cotsen Library, the Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg, the Germanisches National Museum, and here in Berlin. I also plan to write a little about Berlin’s fabulous Lange Nacht der Museen, as well as some posts on marginalia and my research technology. And of course, some more elephants are likely to turn up (for such large animals they can be surprisingly stealthy):

…on a tea set I saw in Germany last year…

…in typography….

Did you know that the Swedish word for the “at-sign” (@) is “snabel,” because the curl around the a looks like an elephant’s trunk?  This makes me excessively happy. Apparently @ is also a snabel in Danish, but Italians see it as a snail, the Chinese as a little mouse, and the Dutch as a monkey’s tail. So much for globalizing technologies erasing regional difference! See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/At_sign.

…at the elegant Hotel Elephant in Weimar, which prefers to be remembered for hosting Goethe and Schiller, rather than Hitler’s balcony appearances…


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Back for Pancakes

[Almanzo] was making pancakes, not because Royal could boss him any more but because Royal could not make good pancakes and Almanzo loved light, fluffy, buckwheat pancakes with plenty of molasses. “How many did you eat while I was doing the chores?” Royal asked him. “I didn’t count ‘em,” Almanzo grinned. “But gosh, I’m working up an appetite, feeding you.” “So long as we keep on eating, we don’t have to wash the dishes,” said Royal.

For a land where heavenly baked goods abound like Milch und Hönig, Germany makes it surprisingly tough to bake at home for people used to American measurements, ovens, food products, recipes, and even kitchen tools. I had the hardest time even finding measuring spoons in Berlin, for example, and I keep having to look up the temperature equivalents for my gas mark oven. Combine this with my fairly average baking talents and you come up with some pretty crumbly, burnt, flat disasters.

But the single overripe banana which confronted me this morning demanded action. It wasn’t quite enough for banana bread, and I didn’t have a lot of fancy ingredients around. Fortunately, this recipe seemed simple enough for my transplant skills and limited pantry to handle.


After the banana was defrocked: 

I substituted applesauce for half the oil. German grocery stores carry great unsweetened applesauce known as Apfelmark to distinguish it from regular applesauce (Apfelmus).

I also used yogurt instead of milk. While I’m a picky milk drinker and it’s hard to find typical American homogenized skim milk here, endless varieties of delicious Müsli  can be found. So yogurt is what I had on hand.

On to the pancake-making

(Oh the terrible drama! Will the pancakes hold together and fulfill their promise of breakfast delight? Or will they turn out to be tasteless disappointments?)

I flipped the first one too early, before it was really done cooking, so I had to flip it back again. Not only did this make for a somewhat unevenly cooked pancake, but the inelegance of the process offended.

My stove gets very hot very quickly, so the second one made me glad I don’t have a working smoke detector. No worries, I just followed my German neighbors’ lead and opened a window to the crisp February air.

But like the familiar story, the third one came out just right.

My food photography skills could use some work, but here’s the general idea:


While these weren’t quite as tasty as my father’s cornmeal pancakes at home with the family, they weren’t half bad. And everything is better with tea, especially tea in a cozy!


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