Wednesday, December 11, 2013

European films / Snow / Christmas cookies

The EU Film Showcase offers the fantastic opportunity to see many different films which would otherwise be inaccessible to an American audience. A friend and I spent part of our Saturday afternoon enjoying an Estonian/French co-production called A Lady in Paris. (Talk about a great combo of languages to listen to - both the many-voweled Estonian and the universally loved French!) The lady in question was an older Estonian woman who left her country at the end of World War II, and spent the rest of her life living a rather French lifestyle in Paris. After a suicide attempt, a caretaker from Estonia is hired. The movie offered some interesting insights and commentary on what it means to love, to belong and to adjust to life in a new culture. (Interestingly, I am also currently reading a memoir, Almost French, about a young Australian woman who falls in love with a Frenchman and moves to Paris to live with him. She writes in great detail about the difficulties of fitting into a different culture.)

Yesterday the threat of snow paralyzed the DMV, and many workplaces closed for the day. It did snow somewhat heavily in the morning, but stopped earlier than forecast. I decided to make the most of this sudden day off, and convinced a friend to join me for a two-part German movie, Der Turm (The Tower). The film was set in East Germany, and spanned the years 1982 to 1989. It was a riveting look at the life of a privileged East Germany family during that historic time period, and I can now recommend it in addition to the two German movies I mentioned in my last post.

With Christmas a few weeks away, the local Latvian church hosted its annual Xmas bazaar this past Sunday. When I arrived, I quickly made a beeline for the stand selling baked goods. The church ladies spend many days preparing a variety of Latvian goodies, including the popular Christmas cookies known as piparkukas. I'd talked these up to a couple of friends and thus needed to snag some of these fantastic Latvian seasonal delicacies.

For a number of years, some friends and I would get together well before Christmas to make the piparkukas dough according to a recipe that my mom has used for quite a while. The recipe had come from a woman in Milwaukee named Anna Pukite. Last year I did not meet my friends and make the dough, but one friend shared the recipe and lesson with a family visiting from Latvia. Lo and behold, this month the recipe was described published in a Latvian magazine by the woman who had learned it here in the U.S., just once again proving how small the Latvian world can be.


  1. Very little difference between Puķītes kundzes piparkūkas and the Chicago standard... I think this is the typical recipe of the Latvian American who arrived after WWII. Will have to see what Zeberīnas pavārgrāmata says! We've a log of dough in the fridge, now to find time to make the cookies.

  2. Zeberinas calls for a couple of tea- or tablespoons of pig fat, which is not something I typically have at home. ;-) And buying a can of Crisco for just that amount seems silly. The thing I've come to not like about Pukites kundzes is the corn syrup, as I'd rather use some combo of honey and molasses. I was able to track down my friend Anna's gluten-free version of Zeberinas, but it seems that I might not find the time to try it out this year.

    1. The Chicago recipe has no corn syrup, only honey, dark brown sugar and molasses, and the fat is divided between lard and butter. I advocate the lard, it adds to the taste and texture in my opinion. Do you use some sort of gluten free flour? We're making piparkūkas today - this year's batch of dough is not working with my Kitchenaid pasta attachment... Wish me luck!


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