“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, a mere 2 months shy of my 9th birthday. As a child of the early 80s, I’m not sure I could tell you much about the Cold War. I am certain that I couldn’t have told you anything about the Berlin Wall, except that it was prettily painted like a work of art, a long stretching mural, pieces of which now hang in art museums as a moniker to the creativity of a captured generation. I could not have told you about the miles of hatred, the spies over Glienicke Bridge, or even the citizens living beyond that wall. Quite simply, at 9 years old, I was born after the Berlin Wall.
Growing up, I knew there was a divide between us and them. I did not know who they were or why we were different. My childhood reality is best described by Eddie Izzard, there was just “a wall there.” If it was ever discussed, the emotions and sentiments highlighting those conversations never entered my childhood rhetoric.
It wasn’t until I announced that I was moving to Russia that I noticed a twinge in the air. The whites of my parents eyes grew boldly large, their shoulders stiffened. A few months later sitting around the Christmas tree at my Aunt’s house, my dad casually mentioned my plans when my Gran popped off yet another classic that would have us rolling our eyes and snickering on her behalf as all grandchildren do. “You’ll get yourself killed. There’s nothing but Communists there,” she literally seethed in hatred. Whoa, what?!
For Gran’s generation, this was one of the “most militarized places on earth” with a manned patrol standing atop a “13 foot high, 880 foot long concrete wall.” It was the Cuban Missile Crisis and forty years of hearing about the democratic freedom fight against Communist occupation. Occupation, such an interesting word. But that’s what her generation saw, the East was a series of occupied nations brainwashed at the end of a gun. Strong sentiments. Heightened emotions. Vivid images. And her granddaughter was moving “there.”
A few months ago, I read Nina Willner’s Forty Autumns. It’s a heartwarming, high level history of Cold War East Berlin told through the eyes of one family’s experience “beyond the wall.” As a personal history, it is by definition incomplete and somewhat one-sided, but it is also powerful and inspiring. It was my favorite read of 2016. For a moment, it prompted memories of my own childhood. How lucky I was. How grateful I am now.
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 1/3 cup plus 1½ tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon Egg Beaters
- 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 1/16 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 ripe red plum, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tablespoon butter, chilled, cut into the size of peas
- 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar, heaped
- 1/16 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/32 teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Place a small square of parchment in the bottom of a mini springform pan.
- Start with a sweet yeasted cake - melt the butter in a small mixing bowl. Add to this the remaining cake ingredients (flour, sugar, yeast, lemon zest, salt, vanilla, Egg Beaters, milk) stirring until well combined. The dough will be a bit scrappy but should easily form into a ball. Using a spatula, knead the dough in the bottom of the mixing bowl until the dough firmly holds the shape of a ball. Pour into the center of the prepped mini springform pan. Cover with a dish towel and place near the indirect heat of a preheated oven to rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
- A hint of plums - Once the dough has risen, thinly slice 1/2 of a red plum and set aside.
- Prep the streusel topping - mix flour, sugar, butter, cinnamon and salt together. Using a fork, cut the butter into the flour until the streusel has a sandy texture.
- Decorate and Bake - Gently press the plum slices skin side down into the cake and fan them out into a pretty pattern. Generously top with the streusel topping and bake at 350° for 23-25 minutes or until streusel is set and a cake tester at the center comes out clean.
- Yields a mini 3" cake.