For my mother and to my grandmother for paving the path that I now follow.
Come to the edge.
We might fall.
Come to the edge.
It’s too high!
COME TO THE EDGE!
And they came,
and he pushed,
And they flew.
To be an expert traveler you must be an expert gardener. As you rip out your roots, you can only hope the exposed, shocked seedling that had grown well in the welcoming, but eventually too small earth, will survive the harsh and unfamiliar environment.
This plant is precious. Essential. And still you can’t know if your tender roots will survive. All you can do is hope for the best.
Pray that someday your plant might grow in this unknown environment.
Travelers and gardeners have something else in common: faith. The certainty that with sufficient sunlight, nutrients and love, the exposed seedling will blossom and grow into something the stinted cramped seedling could never become.
I have met many gardeners in my life. In particular, in my family. Especially, the women in my family who have faced their adventures with apprehension, but also conviction and most importantly confidence in ourselves and the belief that we will flourish.
My mother and grandmother pulled their roots out of the tender soil and transplanted themselves with little more than a belief in themselves and their skills as gardeners. And so my fisherman grandparents grew into a factory worker and a seamstress in a Midwestern town. Complete with a pink house, the perfect American TV, and two successful children.
Seedlings grow, seedlings flourish, but they also never forget where they came from. Seeds are formed by their environment and so, even as transplants, my family never really left theirs.
You can teach your children English, you can buy a house, you can nurture and care for your roots in a your strange cold environment, but your roots will scream for the howling north wind and the majestic mountains that greeted you every morning of your childhood.
Yes, there have been many gardeners in my life. Each carefully, tenderly, attentively loving their sown seeds. We cling to tradition in the hopes that our seed will not suffer in its unknown unwelcoming territory.
Sometimes I too have to cling to tradition.
Sometimes all I need is simply to realize, no matter where I am, as long as I do not forget my roots I will be ok.
Our welcome cake has always been this cake.
Whether we were driving from Texas to Wisconsin or whether we met my grandmother smiling on the stairs of my great-grandmother’s Norwegian white-washed all-too-small for all-too-many people’s house. She always made this cake.
And yesterday it was my welcome cake to Berlin.
I’ve been in Berlin for eight months. There has been joy, pain and always an uncertainty. Lately, I’ve needed tradition. I’ve needed a welcome cake.
This cake is for you, traveler, who clings to the familiar soil around your exposed roots.
May you grow, flourish and all have a welcome cake to fall back on when all else fails.
For the crust:
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
14 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into 3/4-inch cubes
For the filling:
1 3/4 cups slivered almonds
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg yolk
1 whole egg
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water
To make the crust, combine flour, powdered sugar, and butter in a food processor until crumbly (alternately, cut ingredients together by hand). Add the egg and continue to process until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and cover it well, and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Grease an eight- or nine-inch tart pan with removable base. Roll out the dough on a lightly-floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Place in the tart pan and work it in evenly in the crease and up the sides. Put the crust–and the remaining dough–back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes while you prepare the filling.
Preheat the oven to 335 degrees.
Whirl the almonds in the food processor until fine, then add the sugar and pulse some more until combined. Melt the butter in a small bowl and pour it into the almond and sugar, along with the egg yolk, egg, and whipping cream. Process to blend, and then pour the filling into the prepared crust.
Remove the remaining dough from the fridge and roll it out on a lightly-floured surface. Working quickly so that it doesn’t warm up too much and become difficult to work with, cut the dough into thin strips and arrange in a lattice or crisscross pattern on the top of the filling.
Mix the remaining egg yolk with a tablespoon of water and brush this over the top of the cake.
Bake approximately 40 minutes, depending on the size of your pan, until golden. Cool, then remove tart from pan.