Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Being Understood: Jesus rising from the dead

I use to think it was easy for people to understand me. Being a world walker and being an ‘American’ Mom to YFU world walkers has revealed this not to be the case. I have discovered that it may take a couple of tries of rewording my large vocabulary (caused from being a bibliophile) and my American/Midwestern/Ohio slang. Lately I find myself grasping a Japanese dictionary or looking up words on Google translation to find the right word.

I remember my world walking experience in Dresden (Germany not Ohio’s tourist destination). Tom was getting the train tickets and I decided to get some fruit for the ride. I asked the woman at the fruit stand in my Midwestern accented German: “How much?” (Wie viel gelt?) She mumbled something. Okay, she probably didn't mumble and said it clearly, but to my translating ears and rapid brain synapses that was another story. I asked her again. I closed my eyes to concentrate on what she said; I got it the second time. Immediately, I fished out money from my purse and paid her. Its been more than ten years ago but I can clearly remember her comment to me: “Lernen, wie man Deutsch Sprechen.” Yes, I admit my German wasn’t too good, but I did try. (Politely, I kept this thought to myself as I took my fruit.) I chose to smile and say danke with a Midwestern accent.

My friend Rebecca H. told me about her world walking experience in Mexico. She said the first few months living there, she’d come back home each night mentally exhausted. All day she’d be translating back and forth between English and Spanish – her brain hurt. Rebecca told me about hearing the soothing sound of the crickets outside her window and the frustration of not being able to tell this to the family she was living with. The only word in Spanish she could think of was “Frog” (la rana). And, we all know a frog sounds different than a cricket (el grillo). Instead of saying: I like hearing la rana and using the wrong word – she remained silent.

I wonder how many immigrants and foreign guests to the US feel the same way That it’s sometimes easier to remain silent amongst the English speaking folk. I wonder if my ancestors from Ingelheim, Germany felt the same way living in Cleveland. And, Tom's ancestors from Poland and Slavakia? In the same vein, how many of USans expectations are like the fruit seller in Dresden? Meaning, if you come here to the US you need to speak English and know our customs automatically. And, if we have this fruit sellers' attitude, how many missed opportunities have gone by for building a friendship with someone new?

During Jakob’s year (2007-2008) with us, I found this great cake recipe in the NY Times. This cake, Teddie’s Apple Cake originally appeared in NY Times article by Jean Hewitt in 1973 and was being republished in 2007 by Amanda Hesser (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/magazine/04Food-t.html ). I baked it a couple of times and consider it a great fall cake with its 3 cups of apples. Jakob and Z gave it four thumbs up.

On a whim, I decided to share it with Jakob’s Mom. I admit it; I’m like Jakob’s Mom and only able to speak my native tongue fluently. Carefully, I converted the ingredients into metric and then put the ingredients and directions through an ‘on-line’ Danish translation. Jakob laughed at the translation I’d e-mailed his Mom. Baking soda was translated into a word used only at Easter – think along the lines of ‘Jesus rising from the dead.’ We all got a good laugh out of that. And, it put a new spin on cake baking for Christians – Sift together 3 cups of flour, the salt, cinnamon and Jesus rising from the dead.

Jakob sent his Mom the correct name for baking soda and she and his sister baked the cake. International comments - the cake is very rich – probably because of the amount of sugar we use in our recipes in the US. My comments - I like the way the crumbly cinnamon cake, crunchy nuts and the softness of the apples blend together in my mouth.

Teddie’s Apple Cake
This recipe appeared in The NY Times in an article by Jean Hewitt (1973).


  • Butter for greasing pan
  • 3 cups flour, plus more for dusting pan
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups peeled, cored and thickly sliced tart apples, like Honeycrisp or Granny Smith
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup raisins
  • Vanilla ice cream (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 C). Butter and flour a 9-inch tube pan. Beat the oil and sugar together in a mixer (fitted with a paddle attachment) while assembling the remaining ingredients. After about 5 minutes, add the eggs and beat until the mixture is creamy.

2. Sift together 3 cups of flour, the salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Stir into the batter. Add the vanilla, apples, walnuts and raisins and stir until combined.

3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before turning out. Serve at room temperature with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Serves 8.

Final comments:
Who the heck is Teddie? No one seems to know on out the web.

Here are two other bloggers take on this cake. Both made some changes to this recipe – I haven’t baked their recipes yet. Jaynie’s Kitchen – she used less sugar http://jaynieskitchen.blogspot.com/2007/11/teddys-apple-cake.html and The Wednesday Chef – Luisa Weiss has substituted: pecans for the walnuts and cranberries for the raisins http://wednesdaychef.typepad.com/the_wednesday_chef/2007/11/teddies-apple-c.html

To my family members who are gluten free - I haven't tried to make this cake that way yet - I usually choose one with less flour. Maybe Heather and Melanie are up to the challenge?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why this blog?

Why this blog?

The inspiration of this blog was from my German son – Jan. He thought I should write about being an ‘American’ Mom. Mom came from my son Z. The ‘American’ title came from my first two Youth For Understanding (YFU) children Jakob (Denmark) and Stina (Sweden). The cooking bit? Ayumi (Japan) our fourth – she is the food photographer. All these young people – I’d call World Walkers.

What it means to be a world walker?

Anytime a person gets in a car or a plane and goes at least 150 miles (240 km) away from home is a world walker. A world walker is someone packs up and leaves home. This person is someone who’s willing to give up what is comfortable to discover something about other people and places. Often time you end up discovering things new about yourself. You’ll discover the passions of new music, new ways of doing things and food.

For the YFU teens who travel many miles to spend a year abroad. I applaud their courage. To experience a new culture, figure out the currency, unable to speak your native language, to be immerse within a new family, with all the ups and downs, tears and joys and new ways of doing things – how brave you are to step onto the plane.

Mark Twain wrote: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." As a world walker, I believe you can become more globally aware of people, cultures and languages. Often I come back home realizing how blessed I am. More often, I come home appreciating others differences and willing to celebrate them.

What will be on this blog?

  • Stories about experiencing differences
  • Recipes
  • What it's like to be an American Mom
  • Perhaps some guest essays from my YFU children
  • Traveling
  • Photographs
I've included a recipe for tomato sauce. When my YFU children have arrived to our home it is the height of tomato season. You either need to use them (the tomatoes) or lose them.

Recipe for Crockpot Tomato Sauce
From many sources.......
  • Cut up enough tomatoes (skins and all ) from your garden or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to fill your crockpot up to two inches (5 cm) from the top.
  • 1 medium onion cut up
  • 1 carrot cut up
  • 1 celery cut up
  • 1 pepper cut up
  • 4 cloves of garlic - smashed
  • 4 Tablespoons (15 ml) of Italian Seasoning (or in my case - walk into your garden and pick, oregano, rosemary, basil and thyme)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of salt
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of pepper
  • (Sometimes I add fresh basil, chard or spinach to this mixture)
Cook everything in a crockpot on medium setting all day. I usually start around 12:00 on Sunday and cook it to about 6:00 pm.

Puree tomato mixture by putting it into the food processor in small batches Be very careful this is hot! Dump mixture into a larger pot and cook down while stirring.

If I’m not planning on using the whole batch in the next couple of days – I can it. If you plan on canning please read up on how to do this. I add lemon juice to my jars to increase the acid in my sauce. I'm sharing the OSU extension site for your use if you decide to can http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/pdf/5337.pdf you can find many other sources on the web and youtube.