Foods We Miss
by Jennie Gruber
My mom will be the first to tell you her mother wasn’t the most exciting of cooks. We’re talking Midwest here, people: salt poured over fresh fruit, and salad made by opening a jar of mayo and a can of peas. But Grandma B’s freezers were always full of “ice cream pies” made of crumbled vanilla wafers and mint ice chocolate chip Dreyers. And she always baked us fresh Kringla.
Kringla is a Norwegian buttermilk pastry in the shape of a figure eight. It requires no frosting or decorations, and it’s not particularly sweet. It’s meant to be eaten in the morning smeared with butter on the flat-bottom side, with a strong cup of coffee. True to its origins, the Kringla is a very, very sensible pastry.
Since Grandma B passed away when I was 12, my mom and sister have occasionally taken it upon themselves to make Kringla. And it’s not that they don’t try their damnedest, but, predictably, it just doesn’t taste the same. Once upon a time, I reasoned that my childhood eating was the same as every human’s experience, and that foods as simple and warm as my grandmother’s Kringla were available to all, but only during their yearly visits to Iowa or in the very occasional freezer-bag care package sent to California. I miss the time in my life when I fully appreciated every moment, savoring and appreciating each bite, because I knew that my opportunities for experiencing that taste were not endless in number.
If Kringla were available at coffee shops, or even made daily in my home, it would lack the charm of a food accessible only through the efforts of a lovely, thin old woman whom, in my youthful naiveté, I thought was the only person in the world capable of making it. But really, she was the only person who could make it the way I remember it.