Friday, September 11, 2009


This is a food blog, as I'm sure you've noticed. And while a food blog is great fun and does serve a purpose, let's face it. Food blogs are kinda shallow compared to some of the other things that are out there. Which is okay, you gotta have a place to go and forget your problems for a little while.
But today is September 11th and since this is the first year I have a blog, I can't resist writing about it and sharing my story.

On September 11th, 2001, I was 16 years old. I had just started my Junior year as an exchange student in Napa, California (I had originally planned on spending my year abroad at a school located in Tribeca, but I didn't get in). I had been living in the US for 3 weeks.
It was a Tuesday. When I came out of my room that morning, the TV was on, which wasn't really all that unusual, except that instead of cartoons, there were the twin towers on the screen. It was the first time I had ever seen or heard of the World Trade Center. What a short acquaintance it would be.
I watched the first tower come down. I didn't realize what was happening.
Then we had to get to school. On the way there, in the car, we were listening to the radio.
The second tower collapsed. Nobody knew what to say, least of all I.
We watched TV all day at school. We were incredulous. I do remember a girl in first period saying that she thought Osama bin Laden was responsible, which I still find kind of odd.
This was the first time I ever heard of the guy.
My dad was scheduled to go to New York that day and I tried to get a hold of him all day. That's when I learned that you can't call Europe from most high schoolers' cell phones. The office finally managed to get him on the phone in the afternoon. There had been a minor work emergency that had caused him to miss his flight.
You know, I didn't grow up in a religious family. We're very secular. But that day, I really did believe that someone was looking out for my family. Still do, actually.
Over the following hours, days, weeks, even years, as more footage was published, we all saw things nobody forgot easily. People jumping out of the burning towers' windows, priests reading the last rites to those dying on stretchers just outside the buildings, fire fighters crying like infants.
I also experienced something great, though. American patriotism is oftentimes ridiculed in Europe. We find it naive at best, and maybe we're just a little jealous because we don't have it (the closest we got was during the soccer world cup of 2006). Especially during the first few months after the attacks, the outpour of patriotism was amazing. And they were so inclusive. As long as you weren't against America, no matter where you were from, you were accepted. We all had a common enemy, and despite all our differences (somehow, the Foreign Exchange Student seems to be one of the great stereotypes Americans love to entertain), we were similar enough all of a sudden to make living there easy for me and it brought the whole school closer together.
Just goes to show that sometimes good things can come from great evils.

I went to New York in the summer of 2002, when cab drivers had resumed honking at each other and most people had moved on with their lives. Still, the city was changed.

I went again last summer. Ground Zero is now a place where tourists go for sight-seeing and pose for pictures, huge smiles on their faces. I don't think they realize how inappropriate that is.
I didn't take pictures there, but I took the one at the beginning of this post outside of a fire station. I didn't know Keith Roma, but I am grateful for his sacrifice. If you want to learn a little bit about him, go here.

So, to honor him and all the other people who died that day, I made a quintessential New York sweet: Black and white cookies.
We have a version of them here in Germany. They have either black (chocolate) or white (sugar) frosting and are called Amerikaner (Americans). I'm pretty sure they were introduced here by the American forces who were stationed in Germany until not too long ago. I've been making them for years.

Black and white cookies, a.k.a. bi-colored Amerikaner (adapted from "Komm koch und back mit mir", a German kids' cookbook)

  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon butter
  • 5/8 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (divided use)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • a generous pinch of salt
  • 2.5 ounces milk chocolate
  • 2 ounces powdered sugar

  1. Mix flour, starch, baking powder and salt in a bowl, set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.
  2. Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and 1 tablespoon lemon juice and mix to incorporate.
  4. Sift dry ingredients over wet ingredients, mix just until no dry streaks remain.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a cookie scoop that holds about a tablespoon, set balls of dough on the baking sheet. The cookies spread a lot, so make sure you don't put them too closely together. I usually get about 12 cookies per baking sheet, but my sheets are big.
  6. Bake the cookies for 9-12 minutes. They should be golden around the edges, but still light in the middle. They will be soft when they come out of the oven, but will set after a few minutes.
  7. Let the cookies cool briefly until they are safe to move. Transfer them to a cooling rack and let them cool completely, flat side down.
  8. When the Amerikaner are cool, melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. Using a pastry brush, apply it to half of the flat side. Put the frosted cookies back on the rack to let the chocolate set.
  9. Sift the powdered sugar into a small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice and whisk until you end up with a smooth, spreadable mixture. If it's too firm, add a few drops of water or lemon juice at a time, until you like the consistency.
  10. Spread the sugar frosting on the other half of the cookies' flat surface and let that set, too.

I apologize for the lack of pictures. My camera has finally refused to work anymore, and the new one I want isn't available until October. Don't let that stop you from making the cookies, though. They're really good.

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