Charivari Life - Discombobulated Craziness

Charivari - the word has as many definitions as the number of charms that can hang from a silver Charivari.

Growing up in northern Italy, with my maternal grandmother only a few hours' drive away in Bavaria, a Charivari was a heavy silver chain, laden with Anhaenger, or charms. All I knew about Charivaris was that my mom's Grossvater had one that was enviably heavy, each link dangling a memento associated with a personal milestone: coins minted during anniversary years, a piece of crystal, maybe a rabbit's foot or bird claws, and maybe even a Penisknochen. And, yes, Penis in German has the same meaning as it does in English. And, no, I don't why anyone would want to sport one of those. But that's just a small bit of those traditions I grew up with.

I've always loved the word Charivari and always wanted to have my own. Wonder whatever happened to Grossvater's?? Maybe that's where my charm bracelet obsession started. It's a visual and tangible reminder of joys of life. Some are purchased to mark occasions, some are gifts and reminder of occasions of their own.

For me Charivari has become a metaphor for the journey of life, that beautiful silver chain hefty with accumulated memories. Some poignant. Some funny. Some so personal that the mere memory leaves one trembling and speechless. Some lost in translation, like the Penisknochen. Ahh...

It's also a metaphor for thoughts and conversations. One minute it's all about What was the name of that great vino we had at that restaurant up on the Tollway? The next it's about watching the coyotes in the field down by the creek this morning, soaking up the rays of sun trying to stream through the cold fog. Or Would you do chemo? Or Kann man denn Strudelteig ohne Mehl machen??? (Translation: Can strudeldough even be made without flour??? And believe me, that one's like at the top of my list!! After all, what's winter without Apfelstrudel?? My mom's apple strudel would be my "last meal," bar none. Apple strudel? It's nothing like what most Americans think of as apple strudel. It's the Bavarian pastry of homemade dough stretched and pulled so thin you can read through it, then smeared with sour cream, topped with thinly sliced apples (the perfect combination of a few different varieties) that have been sprinkled with lemon juice, sugar and a bit of cinnamon, rum soaked raisins, all rolled up like a whirlpooled jelly-roll, gently laid to rest in a pool of melted sweet butter, and baked until the most incredible scent leads you by the nose to keep checking the oven and making sure it's done. Oh. My. Gosh. I have burnt my tongue and palate too many times to count. Apfelstrudel. The stuff of dreams. It will be a future blog, complete with pics and recipe. Once I figure out a gluten-free version of the dough, I'll add another charm to the bracelet. Gargantuan milestone.

And so, here's where Charivari kind of doglegs to another of its meanings. You see, it also means something like "discombobulated craziness." And Katzenmusik, or catmusik -- let your imagination run wild with that one :)

Discombobulated craziness = my life. Not in a bad way. Just in a crazy way, that makes me smile. Like when you examine the charms on a bracelet. Sometimes you smile really big, or just knowingly, or sweetly.

And before life gets too discombobulated, I have dessert. It makes what follows a tad easier to swallow. Tonight we had a berry dessert that my mom's been making for decades. Not sure where she got the recipe but she recently gluten-freed it and it's just as awesome. No pics, but that's because it's always gone before the steam settles enough to get a closeup. Try it, you'll like it:

Mama’s Blueberry Dessert

Preaheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup sugar, divided use
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup polenta
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup gluten-free AP flour mix* (like Bob's Red Mill)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 cup milk (of your choice)
3 - 4 cups blueberries** (thawed, if frozen)

Directions: Put the stick of butter into a casserole and place in the oven to melt while assembling the rest of the dessert.

Mix together ¼ cup sugar and the lemon juice. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the remaining 1 cup sugar, polenta, and remaining dry ingredients. Stir in the milk, then the berries.

Once the butter is melted, remove the casserole from the oven and carefully pour the batter over the butter. Pour the sugar and lemon juice mixture over the batter, and bake about 45 minutes.

Serve as is, with cream, ice cream, crème fraiche, or whatever floats your boat.

An guaten….Bavarian for bon apetit!

* If you aren’t gluten-free, substitute ½ cup AP or whole wheat pastry flour
** I’ve used different combinations of berries: bluebs, cranberries, raspberries – all good

1 comment:

  1. I love the charivari analogy of life. Just saying the word makes me feel good. And that's always a welcome - a good feeling, especially in a sentimental and cozy sort of way. It's like going back into a dream of old memories, good times where I just plain feel good. Oh, how nice. How sweet. Only, what melancholy, knowing one can never really go back. Wouldn't that be something?

    But thanks to the very lovely escape of the charivari express, that my little sister set back into motion on the tracks leading from childhood memories to grown up realities - and back - I'm happy to take the occasional trip that makes it a point to stop by Apfelstrudl station. All aboard!! Do I hear a nose honk? I think it's hereditary - because, every time I blow my nose - I hear a voice from the past saying: "All aboard!" Another amulet to rival the Penisknochen? A nose with a hanky attached to it? Oh never mind!

    I'm just glad that I can get aboard the charivari train with my favorite sister. I love her.


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