The Delightful Danish of Denmark

One of my favourite things about travel is trying new and different foods. Especially pastries. Unfortunately bakeries hardly ever label their pastries so if you discover a good one you don’t know how to find it again. If you do ever find out the name, best to write it down immediately because words in unfamiliar languages are very difficult to remember.

I was lucky enough on our recent trip to Denmark to keep an itemised receipt. Drømmekage. The stuff of dreams (actually, it does mean “dream cake”). A moist vanilla butter cake topped with a sweet coconutty deliciousness that has the slightest hint of coffee. Oh My Goodness! Another sad thing about discovering these amazing pastries is that you will probably never try them again, or only if you ever return to the same place, and find the same bakery, and remember the name… But not this, not Drømmekage. I found a recipe on line and am looking forward very much to making it. This recipe doesn’t have any coffee in it. The coffee was ever so delicate, I don’t like coffee but I liked the hint of it in this cake. Food and Thoughts seems like a great website and, joy of joys, she’s got the recipe for another delicious pastry we tried that I thought was lost to us forever: the brusviger. A pastry made of sweet dough with sugar caramelised on top. Yum.

I know these two cakes/buns aren’t strictly speaking pastries, and not “danishes” and we did also try pastry scrolls and what we usually call danishes. In Denmark they are called wienerbrød, or Vienna bread, I think because a Viennese baker introduced them. I like the fact that in the Enlgish speaking world they are “danish” and in Denmark they are Viennese. Apparently the name in Danish for what we call a danish is “the baker’s infected eye”.

Food and Thoughts also has an Elderflower cordial recipe, which I love, and which I drank a lot of while in Denmark. I like both the fizzy and the still. I only ever remember my intention to make elderflower cordial when it’s too late and the berries are already out. As I say every year… “oh well, next year.”

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Dancing books

Over the past few months I seem to have collected a selection of names of artists. Mostly artists who work with books or with living plants. I thought I might write about some of them, because they are all very cool and deserve to be seen.

For the first week, I’m going to share these two very cool videos of dancing books. This is the first.

And this one is even cooler, along the same lines but on a grander scale. I particularly love the two waltzing books and the little notebook reading a bigger book.

They are both made by the same people, Sean Ohlenkamp and Lisa Blonder Ohlenkamp. Sean seems to be in the advertising business, and has done some entertaining ads, some available on youtube or his website. Lisa is an artist and designer, from what I can make out, and has some very cute monsters on her website.

Growing Art

I’ve always loved this photo I took in Barcelona years ago because of the interplay of the graffiti and ivy. The eco art artists that Organic Green Roots talks about take things one step further by actually incorporating plants into their street art. I LOVE it. It is art that is literally alive.

It reminds me in a way of guerrilla gardening: planting things on barren, public land without permission. I love the idea of “seed bombing”. You collect local native seeds, mix them with some sort of compost, place the mix into some sort of decomposable bag, and throw it somewhere you wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach: a patch of dirt next to a freeway, an empty block surrounded by fences, a rooftop where pigeons live. I love it. A bomb that brings life rather than death.

I love it when nature is present in a city. Sometimes you have to look for it, but often there are plants stubbornly wedging their way between pieces of concrete, and of course birds that thrive in an urban environment. It gives me hope that even though we humans have stuffed up monumentally and have scarred this earth seemingly beyond repair, she does have amazing regenerative capacity and life fights and adapts and lives in the most extreme and seemingly hostile environments.

There was once an apricot tree growing in the corner of a car park, in Australia, the opposite side of the earth to its native land, where people struggle to keep their gardens alive in summer. That most delicate of trees produced that most delicate of fruit while wedging its roots through asphalt, under the shade of a Eucalypt, sharing their small portion of water and soil that had built up between a low brick wall and the concrete curb with grasses and ivy. I picked those delicious perfect apricots everyday after work for two summers and then the council came along and ripped the tree out. But, to me, the fact that the tree grew (probably from a seed tossed from an apricot bought at the fruit and veg shop) and actually produced fruit was a miracle.

Organic Green Roots also have some other very cool stuff on their blog, including the suspended gardens of Fedor van der Valk and living jewellery. In fact, everything on their site is very cool. The suspended gardens make me think of what I always imagined when I heard about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. I’ve always been disappointed when I’ve seen drawings of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and never understood why they are “hanging”.

Pumpkin Paradise

We live down the road from Kasterlee, Pumpkin Town.

Every year in Autumn they have a pumpkin festival, where they sell pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin beer and, of course, pumpkin soup. There is an annual pumpkin competition to see who can grow the largest, and great ceremony is made of the weighing and measuring.

 

 

 

 

 

This year the winner was 1605.5 kg! Which was only third in Europe (and second in Belgium). I think the pumpkin town might have to pull its socks up to save its reputation next year.

And what do you do with all these over sized pumpkins? Have a pumpkin regatta, of course!

Hollow them out, put on silly costumes and hold relay races in the river.

Ice cream for dogs

A few months ago I was flicking through a local gossip magazine and I came across a tiny little story about ice cream for dogs. Hilarious! There was a great little picture of a boxer having a good lick of an ice cream cone. The flavour sounded both suitably canine and suitably ice creamy: beef, carrot and banana. Delicious! I can’t find the company, Stingray, but while searching the internet I discovered a plethora of companies making ice cream for dogs. Most use low or no-lactose products so the dogs can digest the ice cream properly and one, The Bear and the Rat, even claims health benefits from their frozen yoghurt.

Even Nestlé has a product: Frosty Paws. I start with the least cool first, as there is still the boycott on the Nestlé due to their promotion of baby formula in developing countries and the problems that leads to.

There’s the excellently named Cold Nose Creamery, who do gourmet treats as well as Puppernutter (peanut butter), Puppernilla (vanilla), Pup o’ Latte (carob) and Puppermint (peppermint) icecreams.

There’s The Bear and the Rat, who include some fantastic chop-licking photos on their website. They do frozen yoghurt and the flavours are: banana peanut barker, (my favourite) bacon peanut barker and choc ‘o’ not (made with dog-friendly carob).

My favourite one has to be K99. They have the best flavours, drive an ice cream truck and donate the 99p it costs to buy your dog an ice cream to Berkshire Search and Rescue Dogs. The flavours are delightfully doggy-appropriate, unlike most of the ones above which seem to be designed to appeal more to the human owners than the dogs themselves (aside from the Stingray beef flavoured one). They have Dog Eat Hog World, which is pork and chicken sorbet topped with a dog biscuit, and Canine Cookie Crunch, crushed dog biscuits mixed through a plain dog-friendly ice cream.

One last one to mention quickly: in Hull they made pork and vanilla ice cream especially for Lola the French Mastiff, but she liked it so much they decide to sell it.

Kortrijk

Last week we went on holiday to Kortrijk (among other places) in Western Flanders. It’s a really nice city. There is a suggestion of an artsy hippy vibe which is completely lacking in any other Belgian city I have been to. One could say Antwerp is an exception, but Antwerp is a bit too up market, it has that typical stylish fashionable Belgian feel. I once compared Belgium and the Netherlands saying that in the Netherlands people are stylish and funky, whereas here in Belgium people are stylish and suave. In the Netherlands people develop their own styles resulting in varied and interesting fashions, here they follow the classic and high fashions, resulting in well dressed but monotonous look. Of course these are gross generalisations, and based on nothing but my observations.

One of the main things that created this artsy hippy vibe in Kortrijk was a fantastic bar/cafe we went to, De Dingen. De Dingen (which means “the things” in Flemish, fantastic name!) is a laid back cafe decked out in an op-shop style. Each table has a blank paged book lying on it, inviting customers to write, draw or doodle what ever they want. They have featured beers, which last week included an IPA made by “three local blokes”. They also have chai which I was very excited about as it’s the first time I’ve ever seen it on a Belgian menu. On Sundays they have a pot-luck brunch, where people bring a dish to share while they hang out and, presumably, buy drinks from the cafe. It was a great cafe with a fantastic atmosphere.

There is also the Buda Tower which is part of an old brewery which has been converted into an art space. There are floor after floor of studios mainly used, I gather, for theatre groups to practise and perform. As well as plenty of cool public art. There is even an exhibition in the Broel Museum of beautiful black and white photographs of all (?) the works of public art in Kortrijk, and some from surrounding towns.

The above was next to a statue commemorating the battle of the golden spurs in 1302, in which the Flemish won their freedom from French rule. The Virgin of Flanders holds a lion at bay while celebrating freedom won. I think the above are meant to represent the Golden Spurs themselves, which were collected from the slain French knights.

My other favourite was The Drinkers. Looks like fun.

There were a lot of paintings of animals in the Broel Museum, too many awesome paintings to post here. The museum mostly features local artists, and has an interesting collection, including this painting of cows by Louis Robbe. Different but as interesting as de Vries’ cows I mentioned in Moo Art.

As well as this more modern study of a sheep by Albert Caullet.

The best use for the internet

Ah, isn’t the internet wonderful?

I would never have seen this awesome video of bulldogs surfing and skateboarding and snow-surfing if it wasn’t for the internet. They’re having so much fun! It’s a long video (all of 2 minutes) but it’s worth watching to the end to see the dog take on a skate park.

There’s also this beautiful story of a Great Dane who acts as his best friend’s, another Great Dane, seeing-eye dog. I love these pictures of the two of them together. They are beautiful dogs.

What about an albino baby wombat?

And now you can see the cutest dogs in the world (not that I’m biased or anything…)

This is the only digital photo I’ve got of Jess, who died a few years ago.

Showcasing the beautiful soft patch behind his ear. What am I talking about? He was soft all over. Lovely Mishka.