Saturday, December 24, 2011


"Bread deals with living things, with giving life, with growth, with the seed, the grain that nurtures.  It is not coincidence that we say bread is the staff of life."
                                                                                                                   Lionel Poilane

There’s an abundance of food tonight for Noche Buena.  But if you ask me what I treasure the most from it all – it’s the German loaf bread, stollen, given to me by cousin.

I will enjoy it tonight, that’s for sure, because it is the very first time I will eat one.  You see, beginning last week, I’ve been noticing and inquiring about stollen at the various German and Swiss eateries here at Panglao Island. “I’ve never seen one,” I’d tell them. 

And lo and behold … a couple of days ago, I did get one as a gift from my cousin.  This can only be serendipity!  And as such, I deem it an auspicious omen for this Christmas and for the entire New Year; giving me greater confidence to expect more pleasant surprises in 2012.

This stollen from my cousin also led me back to my youthful days in Manhattan's Yorkville area.  And the question that came to mind was this: with a number of German-American friends and tennis buddies (whom I've made in the nearby John Jay Park), how come none of them introduced me to stollen, when in fact, I've turned them on to adobo and halo-halo?

And it suddenly dawned upon me: World War II.

Unlike the Japanese-Americans who were forcefully removed from their homes and placed in internment camps, the German-Americans were spared similar fate, but they experienced a life during the war of unfair arrests and intense interrogations without legal representation, and they were constantly proving themselves to be loyal Americans.  Apparently, such traumatic existence led many parents to raise their children oblivious to German culture -- even after the war. Thus, among other things, the sacredness of their ethnic foodstuffs was not celebrated.  And come to think of it, their Oktoberfest was celebrated only by certain circles back then.

On the other hand, my Italian-American friends, unlike my German-American friends, have always retained their freedom to enjoy and celebrate their old-world traditions.  Thus, on Saturdays before Christmas, whenever I’d stop by their houses, their mothers would have me bringing home Panettones!  This is Italy’s answer to Germany’s Stollen, and to America’s fruit cake.

So, tonight before I feast on this Stollen fruit cake, I shall say a little prayer – that my old German-American friends begin, if they haven’t already, to learn and share their old-world culture with their children.

A quick thought about the American fruit cake: though widely distributed as Christmas gifts in the States, I never had any fond memory of it to speak of.  Actually, I cringed whenever receiving one, for i'd only end up putting it in the fridge to be forgotten.  Some friends claimed they used their fruit cake either as doorstop or as deadly projectile against those carousing cats in the middle of the night.

As one Polish-American friend used to say, “I’d rather eat gruel than one of those fruit cakes!”

Merry Christmas, everybody!

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