Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Pantry Strudel: Alaskan Girls' Gab-n-Grub

Making new girlfriends might just be the hardest part of any move.

It's not hard to make friends that are girls, or girls that could be friends, or even, for that matter, acquaintances. Indeed, it's quite easy to make girl-acquaintances. But there really is something difficult about establishing the trust and the interest and the curiousity and the loyalty of a good girlfriend after a move to a new city.

When I moved to Alaska, I thought I'd be moving closer to my oldest girlfriends, gathered as they predominately are down in Seattle. And I was quite confident that I would have persuaded all of my girlfriends to fill my calendar with winter visits.

But things just didn't work that way. On the very same day I moved from Alaska, my best friend moved from Seattle to Manhattan. And the winter visits didn't occur with the frequency that I had anticipated. In fact, they didn't occur at all. (On that note, I am probably the only one surprised that most have announced the intention to visit, but a determination that it not be in the winter.) And there is also the factor to consider that my original travel budget, which I thought would fund a new epoch of visits to Seattle, has been re-directed to finance trips to Kodiak and Out to weddings.

So I haven't really had renewed proximity to the tried and true girlfriends that I had anticipated. And, I guess there is something about the Alaska winter that makes the Outside feel a world away. At a certain point, anything outside Alaska feels far and long, no matter how many actual hours the journey would require. So I didn't get to spend much time with my girlfriends and sometimes it feels like I am far from getting to do so.

But I'm making some Alaskan girlfriends, and I find this quite exciting. An achievement, as well as another indication of Fate's general blessing on this move to Alaska.

Recently, an Alaskan girlfriend threw a "Girls' Gab-n-Grub." I knew it was going to be a fun event for me when it was simply assumed that I'd be there even though I never responded, rsvp'd or demonstrating any of the other respectable ways of showing gratitude and allowing a hostess a full and fair opportunity to prepare for her party. I knew I was on the brim of establishing a good circle, when my consistently poor communication but fervent committment inspired much witty and merry banter, not frustration or irritation.

But before I had a chance to confirm this suspicion at the Gab-n-Grub, I had only 2 minutes between leaving work and the start of the party to prepare my contribution to the feast, which meant it was the perfect opportunity to whip up an ever-loved Pantry Strudel..........

1. Rush home from work. Wash feet or switch to shoes with socks. Alaskans don't wear shoes in the house, ever. So one must always be prepared to walk about barefoot as a sign of courtesy.

2. Take out frozen blueberries and blackberries from the freezer. Toss in a handful of each into a bowl. Toss a couple of spoonfuls of cornstarch and sugar in. Toss in a dash of salt and liberal sprinkles of cardamom and cinnamon. A spoonful of flour may also be good. Snap a lid onto the bowl. Put the covered bull in a plastic shopping bag. Put a handful of frozen cranberries into a ziploc bag - toss this into the plastic shopping bag too.

3. Take out the puff pastry from the box. Pull out one of the sheets of pastry, wrap it in aluminum foil, and put in the plastic shopping bag.

4. Take out a chocolate bar and a bottle of birch syrup from the cabinet. Put in the plastic shopping bag.

5. Debate whether or not to bring your dog.

6. Drive to the party.

7. Drink beer from a growler or wine from exorbitantly priced bottles. Even if you drink the beer - keep an eye out for someone opening up a gerwertzaminner or champagne. While meeting everyone, casually prowl around the kitchen for a saucepan. Pour the cranberries out of their bag into the saucepan, toss in some water and some sugar - and some gertie or champagne if you can. Boil it for awhile. When the cranberries are soft, smush them, and let it boil a little longer. Turn off the heat. Go back to being fully engaged in the banter.

8. Eat - taking bites of dinner between guffaws of laughter and exchanges of witty irreverances.

9. When dinner is pretty much done, and everyone is lolling around with full bellies and nourished wit, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees, grab one of the empty bottles of wine, pull out the puff pastry sheet, and roll it out flat.

10. Spoon the cranberry mush over the rolled out pastry sheet.

11. Un-clip the bowl with the corn-starched berries, and spread those out.

12. Borrow a meat cleaver, and bang up the chocolate bar until it's in little pieces. This also works at adding to the crescendo of the jokes. Sprinkle the little pieces all over the rolled out pastry sheet and berries.

13. Dribble the birch syrup over it all.

14. Fold in the side edges, and then carefully roll it up and pinch the seams.

15. Put it on a bakesheet and bake for 30 minutes or so.

16. Let it cool at first, if you are allowed to.

17. Serve - standing up around the stove. There's just something extra fabulous about irreverant conversations with girlfriends, next to a stove, eating chocolate.


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