In a shoe store located in downtown Copenhagen, my teacher recognized a familiar face. She approached her and asked, “Excuse me. You look familiar. Have we met before?” The woman smiled and said, “I’m Queen Margrethe”. Can you believe how down-to-earth this Queen of Denmark is? While studying there as an exchange student through UC Berkeley, I got to know a country of modesty and humbleness. Denmark is one of the most harmonious places I’ve ever lived. It has 100% literacy, very low unemployment, very low crime, free education, free medical care and no visible differences between the rich and poor. In that land of happiness, biking around the city at 2 AM alone was perfectly safe. Falling off my bike and breaking my arm also didn’t cause any major “headaches”. Danish policemen, who saw me falling, picked me up from the street and dropped me off at a hospital. The Danish doctor didn’t even ask for my ID and took care of me from operation to physical therapy for FREE. What matter to them most was my “well-being”, not how I looked or from where I came from. I loved the compassionate nature of many Danes I’ve met, especially Inge & Frede, aunt & uncle of my friend, Carol from Santa Cruz.
I love Inge and Frede to death. I used to cycle to their house all the time from my dorm room to have dinner with them. Inge was a fabulous cook, and Frede, who always served delicious alcoholic beverages with meals, often got me drunk. My head would start spinning after dinner, and Frede would take his bus ticket out and said, “Don’t cycle. Take a bus to your dorm with this ticket”. Graciously taking his ticket and kissing “good bye” on both cheeks, I felt so incredibly heart-warmed. Loving and caring, Inge and Frede always melted me away, no matter how cold it was outside in Denmark.
Inge is still around, but Frede passed away. In memory of Frede, I’m making a Danish Christmas drink (called “Glogg”) that he had introduced to me on the Christmas day. I’m also making Danish Christmas pastry called “Aebleskiver”, which Inge got me addicted to at the cost of 5 extra pounds over the Christmas Holidays.
For Glogg, I put 4 cinnamon sticks, 20 cardamon seeds, 30 whole cloves and an inch of grated ginger in 2 cups of water and boil for 10-15 minutes. And, I add peels of ½ orange and ½ lemon and boil for 5 more minutes. Then, I take the spices and peels out and add ½ cup raisins, ½ cup almonds, ½ cup sugar & a bottle of red wine to warm up. When the Glogg is about to boil, remove from the heat and serve with Aebleskiver.
For Aebleskiver, I didn’t have a right pan to make the apple-shaped Danish pastry, so, I am making a similarly thick, muffin-textured apple pancakes instead. First, I melt 2 Tablespoons butter and mix with 1 cup whole fat milk, 3 Tablespoons honey, 1 egg, 1 cup flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt and dash of cinnamon & nutmeg. Then, I heat a small thick fry pan to low heat and coat it with butter. Subsequently, I pour in enough batter to make an inch-thick pancake and place slices of apples in the middle. When the batter gets bubbly on the edge, I flip the pancake for a few minutes to cook the top side.
How does this Christmas pastry and drink sound to you? If you want something special to serve after exchanging gifts on Christmas morning, Aebleskiver may work great for your family. As for Glogg, it can also play the role of “warm mimosa” on a cold Christmas morning. I hope you & your family have a very happy, warm holiday! Merry Christmas!