This won’t be the only post about food, I guarantee you. Did you know that events are cemented in our memories ever deeper when more senses are involved? So if touch, sight, sound, taste, and smell are part of the occasion, you can bet the sensory experience is underlined in somebody’s mind!
Naturally, that’s going to involve a Connection of the heart. And today, when I ordered a couple of “Bear Claw” pastries to take to work, I had a rush of memories. It was about an amazing childhood neighbor I had years ago.
Okay, decades ago.
Her name was Inge Hoj. She had a slight Danish accent, a radiant smile, and an incredible talent for making the most delicious Danish pastry. It was a large ring, knotted like a pretzel, glazed with slivered almonds. On the inside of this delicate pastry was the perfect mix of almond paste, which is like a thick custard of almond meal, sugar, butter, and eggs. And I don’t know what else. In a vain attempt to never be without it, I once asked her for the recipe. I was never able to replicate it (or even come close). So today when I walked past a random bakery I thought I’d try a Bear Claw or two, and see if the flavor might be a match.
Do you ever find yourself so disappointed that something doesn’t taste the way you expected, that you eat another one just to see if you missed it the first time?
But enough about food. Let’s talk about Inge.
She took care of me when my mother was gone having a baby. It was back in the day when maternity wards kept the moms around for 2 or 3 days. So my parents farmed us older kids out and Inge had her own children my age, so there I went. The plan was to get me up and ready for school, make my breakfast, pack my lunch, and send me out the door with her own kids. No small order for an already busy mother. All things being strange and unfamiliar, I’d had a difficult time falling asleep in their daughter’s bedroom the night before. When sunlight came at last through the windows, the mysterious shapes and squeaks of the house were less ominous and my spirits perked up a little. Inge made us pancakes which added further to my cheerfulness, although the family used dark Karo syrup rather than Log Cabin so my little selfish mind was rather disgruntled about that.
Now comes the embarrassing part: The Lunchbox. My first lunchbox I ever had was a red vinyl square, with Captain Kangaroo’s face plastered on the front. I think Mr. Green Jeans was in the background, and also that goofy looking two-legged bear. In the rush of leaving the house the day before, packing my beloved lunch box had been overlooked. Inge lovingly handed me her husband’s oversized black metal box, domed with a cylinder lid so a giant Thermos could fit inside. I burst into tears and sobbed all the way to school, lugging that thing around.
Looking back, I’m ashamed of myself. However, all was forgotten and Inge and her sweet family remained in our neighborhood, our lives weaving in and out of one another’s during those growing up years. If someone had a bridal shower or a church meeting and needed refreshments, the rest of us would bring brownies or something, but she would always show up with her confident smile, carrying a Danish pastry or two on doily-laden trays. It was not only her signature, it was her gift. She cared about and loved everyone, and freely shared her talents and her culture. I can’t begin to tell you how much I missed her while I ate those boring Bear Claws today. Yes, it was a Heart Hinge for sure.