Legendary dinners

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Karen Christence Dinesen (April 17, 1885 – September 7, 1962) was a Danish writer and author of 20th-century Danish literature. She had more pennames such as: Osceola; Then, through her marriage to her cousin, she became Baroness Blixen-Finecke.  When she was older, she was referred to in Denmark only as baronessen; friends and confidantes in Africa called her Tania, and the old African women called her Jerie. In English-speaking countries, her works were published under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen, and readers of German-speaking areas knew her as Tanne or Tania Blixen. On her grave the name is carved Karen Blixen.

Karen was born in Rungstedlund, Denmark, and spent most of her life there with her four siblings (2 girls and 2 boys), but her 17 years in Kenya, which she writes about in several of her books, including My Farm in Africa, were a defining experience for her.

Karen Blixen was an adventurous woman who set off for Africa in 1913 with high expectations, where her childhood dream of being free came true. Before the newlyweds settled into Mbagathi House, they went on a short honeymoon to Lake Naivasha, where they hunted at night and rested in a simple clay hut during the day. Karen was fascinated by the high grass-covered landscape stretching to the distant mountains and the sense of freedom. She first started the costly renovation of the Mbagathi house: a villa-like structure with a columned terrace, Persian carpet and a conservatory and study decorated with her own drawings, still part of a hotel on the outskirts of Karen (the village was named after her) in Kenia.

The husband, Bror, was initially keen to control the deforestation of forests, inficing umens against beef plague and planting coffee shrubs, and he liked to spend his free time with cigars and whisky alongside other Swedish settlers and often went on safaris with friends. He later bought mining shares of doubt and began rail speculation. His irresponsible spending has put the already ailing farm in debt. An acquaintance of Bror Blixen notes in his biography of the Baron: “I think Blix was the only person in the world who genuinely believed that a check was paid when it was sign by him.”

While Bror Blixen spent days and nights away from home for his business and other reasons, Karen rode to the Masa reservation in the west of the farm, where she traded sheep, helped planting coffee shrubs and was happy to go hunting.

World War I broke out in the summer of 1914, and on 4th of August England declared war on Germany. At the Mbagathi house, Swedish settlers gathered to discuss what to do if Sweden were to support Germany in the fighting. They were in a difficult situation, for as settlers under the British protectorate, their loyalty was to England. They decided to exempt themselves from active duty if Sweden formed an alliance directly with the German Emperor. Bror Blixen volunteered for the press service. The war brought the Swedish-African coffee company to the brink of collapse: the cars were confiscated by the English, and the coffee plantations were destroyed. Workers were conscripted for compulsory military service, leaving labour and food shortages on farms. Karen fell ill again; the doctor has established syphilis, which is treated with mercury tablets. The disease is believed to have got from her husband, who was keen to visit women in the Masa, among whom syphilis and the inherent infertility were almost epidemic. Despite her severe symptoms and severe depression, Karen did not return to Europe until May 1915 to have her disease treated. In Denmark, she underspent for three months of arsenic treatment. The symptoms stopped, but Karen was suffering from chronic pain for the rest of her life, possibly caused by poisoning caused by mercury tablets. In her works, she often refers to illness.

But let’s go back to Karen Blixen’s 1913-1915 stay in Kenya. Over the past two years, Karen has become an excellent businesswoman and her own coffee farm has flourished. During this turbulent period, she published several books under the pseudonym Tania Blixen. Her fearless character made her a sensation in her lifetime, and her autobiographical novel Far From Africa, written in 1937, was a huge success and eventually became world famous through the film. (The film is based on the book and was directed by Sydney Pollack in 1985 and starred Robert Redford and Meryl Streep).

Karen spiced up her Kenyan life with a dramatic love story in her novel, which was wept by millions of people. Karen enjoyed every minute of life there, she was a real connoisseur, she loved French haute cuisine. “But I don’t like to have to be in two places at once. Being a hostess and a cook at the same time.” She wrote in a letter to her family. Fortunately, Karin relied on the help of a talented chef: Kemante, a Kenyan man who swore eternal allegiance to Karen after not only caring for him carefully, but also curing him of his illness. And she didn’t mind that Kemante couldn’t read and write, because the resourceful Baroness simply drew him the menu with the ingredients and everything. On 9th November 1928, for example, Prince Edward of Welsh visited the Karens in Kenya. Among other things, she served her zucchini pumpkin soup and French Savarin cake with strawberries and Granadilla. After dinner, the Prince of Wales did not skimp on superlativuses, thanking the hostess and chef for an excellent dinner. At the Karen Blixen museum in Nairobi, anyone can still order this special evening menu.

Savarin cake

Savarin, a buttered yeasted sponge cake, isn’t just a tea party masterpiece, because this citrus-flavored, yeasty cake, soaked in orange liqueur syrup, crowned with Chantilly cream and fresh fruit, is perfect.

Savarin was invented by the Julien confectionery brothers in Paris, who operated a famous pastry shop in Paris in the 19th century. The cake is named Savarin after Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826), the famous French connoisseur who gave Auguste Julien a recipe for rum syrup used in the original Savarin Gâteau. In modern times, this special bundt pan or gugelhupf are used for many preparations, sweets, salts, including meat, seafood, vegetables as well as cakes, breads, mousses and jelly.

Ingredients: 1/2 cup warm water, 1 pack of active dry yeast, 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar 3 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 4 large eggs, 8 tablespoons butter, 1 box of fresh large strawberries vegetable oil, cooking oil cooking oil spray, strawberry rhubarb syrup


1. In a small bowl, mix the water, yeast and 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar; stir to dissolve yeast. Leave to stand until frothy – about 5 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, mix the remaining 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar, flour, and salt. Add the yeast mixture and eggs; mix flour mixture with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes. The pasta will be wet. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel; Let the dough lift in a warm place, away from the draught, until it doubles in size – about 1 1/2 hours.

3. Insert the bundt pan. Add the butter to the dough with a wooden spoon; and pour into the mould. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size – about 1 hour.

4. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake until golden brown and firm — 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool in the form for 10 minutes. Loosen with a knife, but still leave to form for a further 15 minutes.

5. To serve, place the Savarin on the cake plate. Fill the middle with strawberries and drizzle with icing sugar. Serve sprinkled with strawberry rhubarb syrup.

Woman so obsessed with vegetable she’s covered her body in tattoos of it

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Zizi Howell talked to “My Crazy Obsession” sequel on TV about her penchant for carrots. The Californian woman showed off 35 carrot-themed tattoos and revealed to the network she owned more than 1,000 pieces of carrot memorabilia, which she spends up to five hours per day organizing. They include fridge magnets, wind-up toys and carrot-inspired teapots.

Arguably one of the juiciest parts in the episode came when Mrs Howell revealed how she and her husband originally met. She said that she had thrown a carrot through the air at a rock concert which hit him in the head. Other bizarre moments included Mrs Howell’s off-site excursion. She took the network’s film crew along with her to a carrot-themed rock concert.

She has more than 35 tattoos across her body including one large one across her belly. Slipping carrots between her fingers in the manner of glow sticks, she head-banged her way through a performance by Carrot Top, a punk metal musician.

She also wore 600 carrots in a belt that was strapped over her chest to ensure she could rock out while her obsession remained intact.

She also has the value of $4,000 carrot-themed dresser, which she uses to store her mother’s ashes. Rather than curlers, she uses carrots to wave her locks. Instead, she looked to her favorite vegetable for its styling ability. Her obsession stems as far as her wardrobe, which features an orange bath robe.

The pink-haired woman’s kitchen seemed like the home’s quirkiest shrine. Inside the small space, Mrs Howell plays with her carrot toys. She also puts her carrot crockery and cutlery to good use, demonstrating her useful each item in front of the cameras. Even her table settings can’t escape Mrs Howell’s obsession. She has carrot glasses and candles. Everywhere you look, another one appears. Mrs Howell’s tea set is even carrot-inspired.

She rationale behind her obsession? She said that: “I just want to have the most carrots in the world!” I’d rather prefer the carrot in my soup or in a side dish!Easter is coming 001

A singer without guardian angel

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Andreas Dresen, who is steadily building up a filmography of highly regarded independent films, in my opinion he is arguably the most talented and innovative director currently at work in Germany and has already picked up many prizes in a relatively short career. His directing credits include Cloud 8, Summer in Berlin, Grill point and Night Shapes. His film Stopped on Track premiered at the Un Certain Regard section at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Prize of Un Certain Regard. Dresen is known for his realistic style, which gives his films a semi-documentary feel. He works very team oriented and heavily uses improvisation. In 2013 he was a member of the jury at the 63th Berlin International film festival.

His new movie has just been released in August under title Gundermann. After reading his resume and some critics, reviews of his new work I became curious of his new film, especially because he promised to his fans that he didn’t have any East German “eastalgy” (nostalgy). However his film deals with the real life story of an East German singer and writer Gerhard Gundermann and his struggles with music, life as a coal miner and his dealings with the secret police (STASI) of the GDR.

The singer

Gerhard Gundermann, who generally performed as simply Gundi (February 21, 1955 – June 21, 1998), was a German singer-songwriter and rock musician. An excavator operator, his musical career began in the former East Germany, where he became known for his clever, often melancholy lyrics imbued with social commentary. After German reunification, he became especially popular among former East Germans who felt disenfranchised in the reunited country.

Born in Weimar, Gundermann moved with his family to Hoyerswerda in 1967. After completing his secondary education, he studied for a year at the military academy in  Löbau, but was expelled in 1975, after which he was forced to seek work in the coal mining area of the today’s Brandenburg. In 1976 he began night school, and was recruited by the East German secret police, the Stasi (codename “Grigori”). In 1977 he applied to join the ruling party, the SED, but was asked to leave the following year (after expressing contrary opinions), although this was reduced to a “strong rebuke” after he appealed. In 1983 he married Conny. The following year he was again expelled from the party and also from the Stasi.

Gundermann’s first appearances as a singer-songwriter came in 1986, and a year later he won the grand prize and a recording contract in the East German national song contest. His first LP Männer, Frauen und Maschinen (Men, Women, and Machines) appeared in 1988, but in contrast to his solo acoustic performances it was a rock record with a backing band, with up tempo numbers like “Halte durch” (Keep Up). It included an ode to his hometown, Hoyerswerda, “Hoy Woy.”

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Gundermann ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Volkskammer in the March 1990 elections, running for the leftist alliance Aktionsbündnis Vereinigte Linke.

Gundermann lived an ascetic lifestyle, eschewing alcohol, drugs, and smoking and was a committed vegetarian. However, he was a workaholic, and slept little; besides a full recording and performing schedule, Gundermann continued to work operating a giant excavator, digging up seams of brown coal; he was worried that his music would lose its authenticity if it became his sole way of life. Perhaps because of overwork, Gundermann died of a stroke on June 21, 1998 at the age of 43 at his home in Spreetal. He left behind four children. What was shocking that after his death followed that of his friend and collaborator Tamara Danz, also 43, by less than two years.

PS: What a coincidence that Gundermann is a perennial, aromatic evergreen creeper of the mint family Lamiaceae. It is commonly known as ground-ivy, gill-over-the-ground, creeping charlie, alehoof, tunhoof, catsfoot, field balm, and run-away-robin. It is also sometimes known as creeping jenny, but that name more common.