Archive for January, 2010

Haiti: Action and a Reading List

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

The Wall Street Journal’s 1/20/2010 Front Page has a couple of lines about Haiti’s earthquake. They direct the reader to pages A8 and A10 where there are full-page stories. Mia Farrow writes about better disaster response on the Journal’s Opinion Page.

Life goes on.

The best action is to send money to the reputable organizations who have long worked in Haiti and are best equipped to help people right now. I recommend Partners in Health, Dr. Paul Farmer’s Boston-based organization and the subject of Tracy Kidder’s 2003 book, Mountains Beyond Mountains . (I have no financial stake in either Partners in Health or in Kidder’s book.)

I find myself seeking to learn more about Haiti.  How did this country so close to the beaches of Florida become what even before the 2010 earthquake the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere? Edwidge Danticat writes from her experiences as a Haitian-American, born in Haiti, raised in New York City. Her books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory

Edwidge Danticat's novel of life in Haiti and New York City

and The Dew Breaker,

A daughter learns about her father's part in Duvalier's violent regime.

capture both the immigrant experience and the heartbreak and promise of Haiti.

I’m reading, Graham Greene’s The Comedians, set in the mid-20th century in Port au Prince. From the news of the last week, I recognize the Olafson Hotel, the presidential palace, and Petionville, the upscale area the earthquake crumbled along with the rest of the city.

A portrait of Haiti under the dictatorship of "Papa Doc" Duvalier

Madison Smartt Bell’s All Soul’s Rising, next on my reading list, captures Haiti in its struggle for independence from 1791 to 1803. It’s the first in Bell’s trilogy of Haitian independence that includes Master of the Crossroads and The Stone That the Builder Refused. The author makes his own suggestions for books about Haiti, both by Haitians and non-Haitians at

“…the narrative power of history.”

in the 1/17/2010 New York Times Book Review (you may need to register to get access) and in the 1/15/2010 Huffington Post.

“All this and krumkake, too!”

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

I grew up in a small community, Irene, South Dakota, with many people of Danish and Norwegian descent. Most of the year this fact was most evident by the number of last names that ended in ‘son’ and ‘sen.’ At Christmas, this was most obvious in the plates of krumkake, rosettes, fattigman, and spritz at holiday tables. (A krumkake (CROOM-kah-kah) is a sweet crisp wafer rolled to a crescent as soon as it comes off the griddle. It’s first cousin to the Italian Pizzelle, the delicious flat wafer cookie that uses the same kind of griddle.)

Krumkake

Minneapolis, where I make my home, has more than a nod to the Scandinavian tradition, but it’s more likely that I’ll see krumkake and rosettes in boxes at the grocery stores than on the plates at friends’ homes.

Thus, I’ve become a krumkake maker, purchasing an electric one just before Christmas from Bethany Housewares in Cresco, Iowa, via Minneapolis-St. Paul’s premier kitchen store, Cooks of Crocus Hill. There’s a traditional version that fits over an electric or gas burner. I chose the electric appliance that makes krumkake making almost fool proof.

The recipe adapted from Bethany Housewares:

Krumkake

½ cup butter (1 stick)

4 eggs

1 cup sugar

½ tsp. vanilla extract

1½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tbsp. cornstarch

½ tsp. crushed cardamom seed

Melt butter and set aside to cool slightly.  With mixer or whisk, beat eggs and sugar until thick, 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in melted butter and vanilla. Beat until well blended.

Spoon flour into measuring cup and level—this prevents adding too much flour making the krumkake tough. Sift in cornstarch and stir in crushed cardamom. Stir into egg mixture. Batter has a dough-like consistency.  Spoon 1-inch mounds of batter onto hot griddle. Close lid. Cook according to manufacturer’s directions or until krumkake is light golden brown.

Need some work on my krumkake technique, but oh, the results are sweet anyway!

My next-door neighbors enjoyed krumkake for the first time this year and loved them. Friend Karen, steeped in things Norwegian and Danish, took her gift of krumkake and filled them with lemon curd and whipped cream to share with friends.  Friend Kris, of Danish descent, remarked, upon receiving the expected bag of my biscotti along with krumkake: “All this and krumkake, too!”