[DANSK] Krydderboller galore

I wrote this post a while ago - to be exact, on the 12th. of February 2007. It's taken me a while to make the bread and take the pictures to go along with it, but it is no less real or emotionel for me for it. I still think about J almost every night, when I go to bed and lie there and am a little thankful for all the things I got. This one's for him.

My Mom lost her best friend this past Sunday.

I lost my ex-stepdad. He died of cancer, having been sick for a little longer than a year. He was just short of 60.

And I don't know why, because for the last couple of years, he was nowhere near a part of my life - but I'm sad. So, so sad. I'm sad, because its too damn early for anyone to die. I'm sad because I know, this coming Thursday (my birthday) there wont be a handwritten card with a little erantis in it, carefully plucked from his garden, wishing me Happy Birthday, from him. There'll be no more of me calling my Mom, and her telling me how she's having breakfast in bed, made by him. And I'm sad because I know my Mom is crying. Because I know she's hurting.

My Mom and J met back when they were in high school, but they never went out until a 25-year reunion brought them back in contact with each other. They got married and moved in together, Mom with me in tow. I remember how he used to tell stories of how much I looked like my Mom did when she was my age.

I was about 12 or 13 when they moved in together. I never really understood that whole getting married again - I probably didn't want to understand it, 'cause heck, why would I want to share the Mom that I, apart from sharing with my sister, had had all by myself untill now? What I didn't understand right then and there was that I didn't loose a Mom - I gained a stepdad. A Bonus-dad, to speak in the right tone.

J was the kind of guy that had travelled the world, seen it all, and liked to tell stories about it. He was the kind of guy that would surprise me and my girlfriends with unexpected trips to McDonalds on a boring Friday night. The kind of man that would drive me and the friends to the school dance in his shiny silver BMW. He took my Mom travelling the world, and took me, my sister and my Mom to a fantasy-trip to Thailand and Malaysia. He wore a gold chain around his neck, he was a big, chunky guy, he was a happy man. He loved my Mom to pieces.

I remember once, when I broke up with one of my first boyfriends, I was sitting in my room, listening to soppy music and getting on and off the phone with the soon-to-be has-been boyfriend, crying my eyes out like only a teenager can do, and he came into my room, gave me a hug, and just sat there with me. Letting me cry, not asking questions, just being there. Not intruding. Just being present. And it was nice, 'cause never have I felt more alone than when I was a teenager with a broken heart. We probably never had the kind of heart-to-hearts I've had with C, but there was never a doubt in my mind that J stood by my side. That he was proud of me as if I'd been his own daughter and that he'd protect me from the world, should I need it.

He made the meanest pork chops in the world - big slabs of meat, bought from his friend the butcher. Pan sauces, maybe a little steamed cauliflower, potatoes. In the summer, he would roll out his pride, the gas grill, and grill from the first day the temperature allowed him, and he would be hard pressed if he stopped before after daylight savings time had kicked in. Red, red meat, grilled onions and corn, BBQ sauce, ribs.

Life was just never easy on him. When he was young, he had a disease that had stiffened his leg, so he had some problems wearing regular shoes and walking long distances. A couple of years after he married my Mom, he had to close his firm - being a one-person firm in a business as big as chemicals wasn't easy. Life threw him a curve ball, and he never really got back on his feet. I'm not sure I'll ever understand why, and I'm not sure I'm supposed to, either. And that's wrong too, 'cause of course I understand. Again, it's probably more a matter of not wanting to. It's probably more a matter of not wanting to see a world that is unjust and unfair towards the people you love and care for.

In the end, my Mom couldn't live with it anymore. And even though there was a little girl inside me saying: but back when you got married you told me you did so because you didn't want to grow old alone, and now, now you're going to leave him again and end up alone anyways?? my 19-year old brain understood. That there's only so much you can put up with. And that you're only willing to see the man you love the most ruin himself for so long. She left him, we moved out. And I was proud of her. Because I knew that if there was a thing she ever wanted when she got into it, it was to make this work.

After a while, they started seeing each other again, but on my Mom's conditions. Every other weekend, and for vacations every now and again. And while some might say - and I even for a while thought so, too - that that was a weird kind of loving, that limiting yourself to whenever it's fitting, that he would put up with it - I think this was the kind of love that worked for them. Afterall, that is what mattered. J loved my Mom unconditionally. It takes a strong person to dare love like that. And he was, in spite of all the things life presented him with, a strong man.

Last year, he got diagnosed with lymphoma. We thought he'd battled it out, but turned out the chemo didn't have the effect we thought. Neither did it the second time. He was told there was no more the doctors could do for him. So he went out and got the car he'd always wanted, and he drove it, a total of three times. He got a big, fancy flatscreen tv. He got an elevation bed so that he could sleep well.

He died this Sunday, at his Mom's. The last two weeks, he deteriorated fast, but I don't think anyone expected it to happen so soon.

So these are for him. When I first got to know him, one of his favorite things to do on weekend mornings was to go to Baker Bomund and buy Krydderboller for all of us. They're a sort of cardamom-flavored white roll that you toast in the oven, making them crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. He served them with butter and cheese or marmalade, and tea on the side. At the dining room table, if I was at home. And in bed, for my Mom, if I wasn't. The three of us could spend entire mornings at that table, chatting and telling stories.

He had this silly story he used to tell me. I can't remember the wording of it at all, and now he isn't here to tell it anymore. But I remember the ending. It is:

"The truth? The truth, my friend, is be-bop-a-loo-la."

And maybe that is just the most important part of it, anyways.

Luv Galore, J.

Krydderboller - from Et Ordentlig Brød by Camilla Plum

400 ml. milk
25 g fresh yeast
50 g butter
1 T salt
1 T sugar
3 eggs
roughly 1 kg flour
1 t ground cardamom

Heat the milk and leave to cool for a bit, so as not to kill the yeast. Dissolve the yeast in the milk.

Cut the butter into the flour (hold back a bit), add to this the milk/yeast, sugar, salt, cardamom and the eggs. Knead the lot together, 10 minutes upper-body work-out. Leave to rise until doubled in size (about 2 hours - I left mine in the fridge over night)

Push back the dough and divide it in 18. Shape into rolls, put them on a baking sheet and give them a gentle squeeze so they stay somewhat flat (I forgot to do that to mine, as you can tell by the top photo) Cover loosely with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight to prove.

If you think the rolls have proven enough, put them straight into a 200 degree celsius preheated oven from the fridge. If you think they need a little extra ooomph, put the baking sheet on top of a large pot of boiling water, letting them steam rise for a little while, before you bake them off. They need about 20 minutes in the oven.

Leave to cool, then cut them horizontally and give a nice toast. Depending on the amount you're toasting, use the oven or a toaster. Eat, smeared thickly with butter and your choice of marmalade or cheese - tea on the side optional.


Ilva said…
Beautiful. It's such a hard thing to loose someone you love and who has been there in your life for such a long time. Thanks for posting this!
Unknown said…
I have tears in my eyes right now. You have written a beautiful portrait and a touching tribute.
Cathy said…
So sorry to hear that Zarah - hope you and your Mom are doing OK.

The rolls are beautiful. I was so surprised to read your instructions to squeeze them to keep them flat - the beautiful round shape was what struck me first when I saw your photo!
Tea said…
What a lovely tribute to one who has been dear to you. I am sure you will treasure your memories of the time you spent together. Best to you and your mother.
Joe said…
What a beautiful post and such a nice tribute!
Anonymous said…
Zarah -- thank you for writing such a beautiful tribute to this special man. You have an extraordinary gift for acknowledging people's strengths and being unflinching about their challenges as well. You are both an artful writer and a remarkable person. I'm so proud to think of you as my friend.

My sympathies to you and your Mom.
Anonymous said…
Beautiful post...wishing you and your mom the best. What a wonderful testimonial for a special man...And those rolls look delicious!
Anonymous said…
It was hard to read this. I lost my ex-stepfather just before he turned 60 to quick-moving cancer in less than a year. This was three years ago and I still can't believe it.

You wrote about your experience beautifully.
Heather said…
thank you for sharing that story with me.
Zarah Maria said…
Lovely people - thank you. I'm recovering, as is my Mom - who was in tears reading all of your comments. He was a lovely guy, and he sure is missed. Again, thank you.
Susan said…
I stumbled on your post when I googled "Thoughts on Friday" and I am so very very glad I did. I too had a step-father and a relationship with him like yours. Your wonderful tribute brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my mouth. I even called my mother to share it with her. And now I am going to try your recipe for Krydderboller! Susan

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