Friday, May 8, 2009

Oma - Amsterdam to Lübeck


Holstentor, Lübeck  (Wikipedia )
One of the reasons I started this blog is so I could record my mother's incredible life. Whenever I tell anyone an Oma story, it always leaves them asking for more. It is a long, difficult story, but with Mother's Day around the corner and one hundred posts behind me, I suppose there is no time like the present to start telling the story, little by little, whenever the mood strikes me. Oma's Birth

Singelgracht and Munttoren,  Amsterdam (Wikipedia)
Oma was born out of wedlock in Amsterdam in 1926 to a German mother, Alma, and Dutch father, Gijsbertus. 

Soon after, Alma brought her baby back to Lübeck, her hometown in Germany. One can only imagine the terrible stigma associated with single motherhood in that era, which may have played a large role in Alma's decision to drop her baby off at the local orphanage, but more likely, she was either incapable or unwilling to raise my mother. Whatever the reason, it is clear that Alma never bonded with her baby. Oma still speaks sadly about the time she walked across town to ask for money to see a movie but her mother refused to give her even a pfennig.
Marienkirche, Lübeck  ( M+MD at Flickr)
Fortunately for my mother, her grandmother, despite being already very old and almost blind, couldn't bear the idea of having her grandchild in an orphanage so she rescued Oma and raised her until she was eighteen. About Lübeck Lübeck is a beautiful ancient city, settled soon after the last ice age. Its impressive tower gate, named The Holstentor, is the last remnant of the Brick Gothic wall that once surrounded the city 500 years ago. The Holstentor appeared on the former 50 Deutche mark note as well as on the 2006 special edition of the German 2 euro coin and it is featured as a landmark in the popular computer game Simcity 3000. But my favorite depiction of the gate is on the logo of the famous marzipan brand Niederegger. My mother tells a wonderful story of how marzipan as invented:
“Once upon a time, Lübeck was surrounded by the enemy. Luckily, the city was fortified with an impressive wall and the enemy could not enter the city. But, of course, this meant that nobody in the city could get out either. The enemy was patient because Lübeck was a beautiful, strategically-located harbor town worth waiting for. Unfortunately for the enemy, Lübeckers are very stubborn and strong people so it took a very, very long time before there was no food left and the citizens’ resolve began to waver. The only foods left over were some almonds and sugar, found in the basement of the town hall's reserves. They ground the almonds and sugar together to make mandelbrot@@, almond bread, and doled out these final pieces of "bread candy" into rations for the whole town. One little boy, decided to go to outside the Holstentor gate to talk to the enemy. "Are you still here? You know you are wasting your time because we still have lots of food left over. In fact, we have so much food, we even have candy." He took the mandelbrot out of his pocket and started eating it right in front of them. Disillusioned at the prospect of a prolonged wait, the enemy decided to leave. The little boy was declared a hero and the town lived happily ever after.”
I always loved this story because it was so empowering for children.
In my opinion, Niederegger marzipan is the best tasting marzipan because they guarantee that their product contains two third almonds by weight and they add a small amount of the bitter almond extract and rose water to give depth to its flavor. It is often thought marzipan has Arabic roots, and some may say that the rose water is proof of its lineage, but I choose to believe my mother's story. If you ever have the good fortune of being in Lübeck, Café Niederegger is an essential culinary stop where you feast your eyes with the beauty of the marzipan sculptures:
Niederegger Cafe display window, (M+MD at Flickr)

Niederegger marzipan fruits, GaijinSeb at Flickr
have a cup of coffee with marzipan cake,
and visit the museum upstairs to see the life-sized marzipan sculptures representing those who played a major part in the history of marzipan, from Magellan to Father Christmas.  Not pictured: “The Persian”.
Marzipan Salon, Niederegger Cafe (GaijinSeb at Flickr)
I just looked at the title of this section and realized that I didn't tell you much about Lübeck but I told you a lot more about marzipan. Now you know where my priorities are. 

17 comments:

Kacper said...

I enjoyed your mother's story incredibly, and am looking forward to reading more.

It is so good to reconnect with your own roots... Thanks for sharing!

Kacper

A Cuban In London said...

Hahaha! That's what happens when you have a sweet tooth :-)! Your mother's life is incredible and I look forward to reading more. The images are striking and you're quite right: it was a stigma at that time to have a child out of wedlock. EVen nowadays people still turn their noses up whenever they hear of someone giving birth to a baby whose father's done a runner. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

paris parfait said...

What a wonderful story! And marzipan! Such a delight, always.

Relyn said...

I've always thought of marzipan as more of an art form than a food. After seeing these pictures, I'm sure that I was right all along. You've managed to whet my appetite. Both for marzipan and for more of Oma's story.

Ruth said...

I am rather ignorant of marzipan as candy or history or art or anything. Now I am far more interested thanks to your story. Stories connect us!

Ontheroad said...

I love marzipan, stories and you have shared both so well, I'll be sure to come back.

Tot ziens.

JOYCE said...

What a wonderful tribute to your mother! I love it. I can't express what a wonderful idea I think yours is.
From someone who also had 2 Opas and 2 Omas....and an "Omoe"

Postcards and Coasters said...

What an interesting story about your mom and her home land...and the candy I must try! Beautiful pictures!

Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elizabeth said...

Oma, een woord dat zoveel herinneringen herbergt. Hartstikke goed dat je op deze manier ons een kans geeft om herinneringen op te halen aan "ons oma".

Groetjes Elizabeth

Yoli said...

Thank you for sharing a part of your life. For these breath taking images and for being always an endless source of beauty and fascination.

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

Thank you for sharing this great story about your mama and her home land - beautiful tribute and so enjoyable to read...
Love your photos too :)

dutchbaby said...

Dear Kacper,
I'm so glad you enjoyed the story.

Dear Cuban,
It's true, the stigma still lingers. I can't imagine what it was like back in the 1920's.

Dear Paris,
Thank you!

Dear Relyn,
I found the photos on Flickr. I hope you get to taste Niederegger marzipan one of these days.

Dear Ruth,
"Our stories connect us" That is such a great sentiment. Thank you!

Dear Ontheroad,
Hartelijk bedankt!
Welcome to dutchbaby.
Tot straks.

Dear JOYCE,
You are so lucky to have known all your grandparents!
Wecome to dutchbaby.

Dear Postcards,
I don't know if you have a Cost Plus in Arizona, but ours carries Niederegger marzipan. I show the packaging in the middle of the post.

Lieve Elizabeth,
Ik ben zo blij dat je goede herinneringen van jouw oma hebt.
Groetjes!

Dear Yoli,
You flatter me - I blush.

Dear Here, There,
I am so glad you enjoyed the story. I wish the photos were mine but they were borrowed. I gave attribution under every photo I borrowed.

CC said...

Love the stories and especially the marzipan!
Your photos are beautiful.

Your Mother's story is so heart wrenching.

dutchbaby said...

Dear CC,
I'm glad you like the stories. Maybe you can illustrate the marzipan story...

I wish I could say the photos were mine, but they were borrowed from other sites.

julochka said...

i read the story of marzipan to husband, who loves marzipan. he wants to know which war. and which enemy. :-) men.

dutchbaby said...

Dear Julochka,

Men indeed. Tell him it's probably some Dane who fell for the little kid's story. Aw shucks, did I strike a nerve there?

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