On Schmierkase, Baltimore, and Mornings After….

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On Schmierkase, Baltimore, and Mornings After….

Last Sunday I baked a Schmierkase. Now for those of you who may not be from Baltimore, for those of you who may not be German, Schmierkase is a very special kind of cheesecake. It is first a cake, and secondarily a cake with cheese – sort of like a cheese Danish on steroids. I posted a picture on a Baltimore Facebook page (Baltimore Old Photos) and received hundreds of hits. Obviously, this is something that touched memories.

Now, I am not a good cook, and I am even less of a good baker. But something called me to research this and give it a try. I’m sure you could find a more authentic recipe, I’m sure that the bakeries that sell them present a more professional image, but I was delighted with how mine looked.

As with most endeavors, the proof is in the tasting. So, that night, we had it for dessert. Alas, a disappointment. A bit over-baked, and not-quite-sweet-enough, even for my most-things-are-too-sweet palate. Undeterred, I, now with one attempt under my belt so to speak, pledged to try again.

But the morning after – ah, how often can we savor this? – the morning after, I cut a square (for a Schmierkase is traditionally cut in a square or rectangle) to go with my cup of black coffee. And, eureka! What a difference. I don’t know if it was sitting overnight; I don’t know if it felt my disappointment with my efforts; I don’t know if a cleansed palate is what you need, but it was delicious. And what a great way to start a day. A culinary disappointment turned around.

And I thought about mornings-after, how so often they are filled with recriminations for folly. Maybe we need more folly in our lives. I intend to work on that one. And I will try another Schmierkase. (And thanks to the Facebook reader who gave me the correct spelling.)

Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it (along with my observations, of course):

Ingredients:

For the cake:

2 c flour

2 tsp baking powder

¾ c sugar

½ c canola oil

2 eggs, room temperature

Pinch of salt

For the filling:

16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

(I know, real Schmierkase calls for cottage cheese, but try this – and use the brick kind, not the tub spread)

12 oz. evaporated milk

¾ c sugar

1 T flour

2 tsp vanilla

3 eggs, room temperature

For sprinkling:

Cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix all of cake ingredients together – it will look more like a dough than cake batter; press into a 13×9 baking dish, covering all the bottom and half-way up the sides.

In another bowl, mix all the filling ingredients until smooth – I used my immersion blender and this made it so much easier. The batter will be thin – pour over the cake and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake 60-70 minutes (when I do this again, I am taking it out at 60 minutes on the dot!) It should NOT be browned.

Cool, then cut into squares – or rectangles as the Schmierkase experts say!

Enjoy – and do let me know how it goes for you.

And if you like novels set in historic Baltimore, please visit my webpage and check out Another Sunday and Echoes from the Alum Chine.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

 

 

 

 

On Writing and Selling Same – Redux

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On Writing and Selling Same

Dorothy Parker is credited with saying, “I hate writing. I love having written.”  I agree. And let me add: “I hate selling. I love having sold.”

If this sounds a bit familiar to you (to those who memorize my blog posts), it’s because I wrote a post with this heading not too long ago – while agonizing over marketing my first historical novel, Another Sunday. And here I am again, back in that same misery, only this time with Echoes from the Alum Chine. And so, with this post, I once again share my wretchedness.

I’m in the midst of marketing (a less odious term for selling), setting up readings, sending out press releases, posting events on Facebook, and, I must add, writing blogs. It’s a nasty business, this marketing is, for those born without a silver tongue and a thick skin. Fortunately, as with most writers, I’ve had the opportunity to develop a relative resilience, born of a myriad of opportunities to be ignored or rejected by journals, literary and less-so, agents, and publishers, the latter holding the manuscript for months.

So not hearing back from some book sellers, high-tone reviewers – well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. And hurray to those who reached out, said yes, welcomed me and my book warmly. It makes their percentage-take a bit more palatable.

Marketing involves a great deal of planning, implementation, and waiting – there’s a long lead time. It is also a very left-brain activity. And I thought, hoped, that I had left all that “business stuff” behind when I decided to devote my days (and nights) to writing. Well, not quite.

Now, finally, after immersing myself in selling, pardon me, marketing, these activities are slowing down – not ending, but I’ll take slowing down as a gift.

This week, I returned to writing — another book, this time, as far as I know, set in the 40s and 50s, a new period for me. As I carried my files to the dining room table, I felt that I was coming home. Not that it’s easy. Having written is still way preferable to writing. But I’m loving it. And the research – Wikipedia, the Greensboro Library, and I are best friends again. And I do hope that no one ever investigates my web searches.

So, I would be delighted if you’d read my book, thrilled if you’d buy it, print or e-book. If you can make it to one of my readings, well, that touches my heart; if you would post a review to Amazon and/or Goodreads, I will sing for you.

So, thank you, dear reader. You are my tribe.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

On Gifts That Last Forever

Sometimes a book just appears in our lives — a delightful langniappe that stays with you, one that just might change your life. I happened upon Nuala O’Faolain’s Are You Somebody years ago – a chance encounter at the High Point Library, long before I ever dreamed that I could actually be a writer. I thought, reading her memoir, that if I ever wrote, that’s how I would want to do it. Her searing honesty stayed with me, and in every word that I put to paper, I endeavor to be as honest, as authentic, as she.

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Another chance encounter, shortly after I moved to Greensboro, came again in a library, this time a tiny branch that was soon to be replaced by a modern, up-to-date location. This branch still had catalog cards, and was a delightful escape from the pressures of my very modern job. And there I discovered Miss Read, a sort-of 1950s answer to Alexander McCall Smith. Her tales of an English village where nothing really ever happened proved just the ticket to an evening of unwinding from a job where my brain was full-wired and ever-alert.

 

Barbara pym chronologically:

And then there are the lovely suggestions of friends, those who know more about you than you imagine. One such friend, from my Chicago days, looked at me shortly after we met and said, “I’ll bet you’d like Barbara Pym.” And was she ever right. Those stoic women-of-a-certain-age and their quiet courage certainly influenced me personally and in the characters I portray in my novels.

And now toStoner. Ah…John Williams’s book reached down into the depths of my heart, and I am ever grateful to dear Jane for recognizing that resonance.

 

And from my Raleigh days, I learned about E.F.Benson and Mapp and Lucia. Kathy, a quilter, a knitter, and a reader, opened my eyes to this writer and his fictional band of characters. I even visited Rye to walk the bricks that Miss Mapp and Mrs. Lucas had fictitiously trod.

Alice Steinbach passed away on Tuesday.

And finally Alice Steinbach’s Without Reservations. This recommended by a distant relative, whose reading menu I respect impeccably. I thought that it would be a worthwhile read, but was delighted to read of Steinbach’s honest insights on being on one’s own, of learning, digging deep, to find just who she really is.

So, this are just a few gifts that have made my reading life, or rather my life, my soul, fuller, deeper, more committed. I pass these few on to you with the hope that some, maybe even all, will do the same.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

On Gifts That Last Forever

Sometimes a book just appears in our lives — a delightful langniappe that stays with you, one that just might change your life. I happened upon Nuala O’Faolain’s Are You Somebody years ago – a chance encounter at the High Point Library, long before I ever dreamed that I could actually be a writer. I thought, reading her memoir, that if I ever wrote, that’s how I would want to do it. Her searing honesty stayed with me, and in every word that I put to paper, I endeavor to be as honest, as authentic, as she.

Product Details

Another chance encounter, shortly after I moved to Greensboro, came again in a library, this time a tiny branch that was soon to be replaced by a modern, up-to-date location. This branch still had catalog cards, and was a delightful escape from the pressures of my very modern job. And there I discovered Miss Read, a sort-of 1950s answer to Alexander McCall Smith. Her tales of an English village where nothing really ever happened proved just the ticket to an evening of unwinding from a job where my brain was full-wired and ever-alert.

 

Barbara pym chronologically:

And then there are the lovely suggestions of friends, those who know more about you than you imagine. One such friend, from my Chicago days, looked at me shortly after we met and said, “I’ll bet you’d like Barbara Pym.” And was she ever right. Those stoic women-of-a-certain-age and their quiet courage certainly influenced me personally and in the characters I portray in my novels.

And now toStoner. Ah…John Williams’s book reached down into the depths of my heart, and I am ever grateful to dear Jane for recognizing that resonance.

 

And from my Raleigh days, I learned about E.F.Benson and Mapp and Lucia. Kathy, a quilter, a knitter, and a reader, opened my eyes to this writer and his fictional band of characters. I even visited Rye to walk the bricks that Miss Mapp and Mrs. Lucas had fictitiously trod.

Alice Steinbach passed away on Tuesday.

And finally Alice Steinbach’s Without Reservations. This recommended by a distant relative, whose reading menu I respect impeccably. I thought that it would be a worthwhile read, but was delighted to read of Steinbach’s honest insights on being on one’s own, of learning, digging deep, to find just who she really is.

So, this are just a few gifts that have made my reading life, or rather my life, my soul, fuller, deeper, more committed. I pass these few on to you with the hope that some, maybe even all, will do the same.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

Almost here — Echoes from the Alum Chine….

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Oh, yes. It’s almost here, and I am so in love with this book. Excuse the hubris, but what mother doesn’t love her child?

Echoes from the Alum Chine is not available quite yet, but meanwhile I had to share this wonderful cover. Photograph by the iconic photographer of Baltimore, A. Aubrey Bodine. I think that it conveys the melancholy overtone of the story that follows three families in the aftermath of the 1913  explosion in the Baltimore Harbor of 300 tons of dynamite being loaded onto the steamer Alum Chine:  the Aylesforths, who live in the big house on Hollins Street; the Corporals, in the alley behind, and the Sherwoods, whose company insures the cargo.The story is told by the shy, forgotten Lillian Gish Corporal, who stands by and observes.

The Baltimore book launch is set for Saturday, April 22, at the Irish Railroad Workers’ Museum, 920 Lemmon Street in the heart of Hollins Street and Union Square (SoWeBo to those hipster Baltimoreans in the know).  I’ll be speaking to the group on “The Historical Novel: Fact, Fancy and Research,” at 11:30 a.m. The launch and book-signing will follow at 1 p.m.

I do hope that my Baltimore friends will be able to attend – as well as anyone (isn’t that a bit overconfident?) interested in Baltimore history.

The Greensboro launch will be later this spring.

So, it’s here – or almost here. And, after such a winter of political dread, I am ecstatic.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com Author of Another Sunday and Echoes from the Alum Chine