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January 24, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

At the gym the other day, I was reading one of my New Yorker magazines while on the stationary bike.  (Reading these magazines while I’m working out is the only hope I have of even coming close to keeping up with this magazine that comes out every week.)  I was reading the annual Food issue (which you subscribers know comes out in late November, so you get the picture of how far behind I am on my reading) and there was an essay about Baumkuchen.  I don’t think the word “Baumkuchen” was in the title, but I knew right away the subject was Baumkuchen because there was an illustration of the cake on the same page.  Immediately, I knew how Baumkuchen was made (on a spit); I knew what it tasted like (drier than American cakes) and I knew what it looked like inside (pinstripes running throughout in a tree ring pattern).  I assumed this was all common knowledge, but when I began to read the essay, I realized that Baumkuchen is not a commonly known dessert, even in Germany.  I began to wonder why it was that I knew Baumkuchen so well.

These mental puzzles keep me eager to work out and awake on long drives (see my Nov. 30, 2009 entry).  I scanned my life for instances when I would have encountered Baumkuchen.  The two clues I dwelled on were 1)  its German origin and 2) that, I’d not only tasted it, I’d seen it being made.  Finally, I remembered working at a bakery when I was a teenager that was owned by a father and son of German descent.  Baumkuchen was one of their special pastry projects and the staff was often asked to taste the results.

I was really happy to remember Baumkuchen.  It’s a lovely word and a scrumptious cake.  And it was glorious to remember riding my bike to the bakery every morning at dawn and chatting with the bakers who had been working all night before we opened the store for the day.  What a gift it was to have my memory triggered so!  What triggers your memory?

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