Thursday, August 27, 2009

You Wanna Talk or Eat?













So two guys walk into a grocery store on the Greek island of Symi. One guy says to the other guy, "Hey, what are those two greek citizens arguing about?" The other guy laughs and says, "They aren't arguing...they're buying grapes." True story.
It is only a slight overstatement to say that nearly everywhere we went in Greece people were apparently buying grapes, because they were talking loud and getting louder, talking at the same time as everyone else in the vicinity, and gesturing wildly. In restaurants, on the street, in stores, inside their houses...loud, emotional, seemingly important conversations were happening all around us. Other than the sheer number of stray cats in that wonderful country, the emotional investment that people put into everyday conversation was perhaps the biggest culture shock we encountered on our trip to Greece.
On the other hand...I met an older couple from the upper midwest today and the husband declared that he and his wife were "not loud talkers." I hadn't asked him if they were, but he felt the need/desire/importance to inform me about that aspect of their interpersonal communication style. True, I do spend 8 hours a day as someone to whom people may feel it is important to admit this fact, so it was not inappropriate that he told me about their quiet habit, but it wasn't the fact that he told me they weren't loud talkers, it was the sense of pride I felt he implied when he said it. "We are not loud talkers." Okay.
We...my family...on the other hand, cannot make that claim. We most definitely are loud talkers. And please, infer neither a sense of pride in that statement nor a shred of shame...it is simply a well known fact. I come from a family of five - two sisters, me, mother and father. And were I to try to tease out the loudness gene, I believe that mother and younger sister would not be carriers. They talk, plenty, at a loudness level within the normal range. Father, older sister and I make up for that. 1 + 1 + 1 does not in this case equal 3 speakers. Somehow...be it competition, familial acoustics, or a deep seated survival instinct...when one of us enters a room already occupied with one of the other louds the volume more than doubles. But it's not merely loudness for loudness sake...it's excitement, enthusiasm, discovery, momentum, laughter. Nik once made the observation that my father and sister make more noise doing a crossword puzzle than most people do watching a football game...right, like Nik has ever watched a football game.
And I really don't think that the greek shoppers felt stronger emotions about grapes than did my midwestern quiet couple. Nor do I think that the quiet talkers lived lives of blunted emotions, compared to their Mediterranean counterparts. It's about expression, learning, and comfort, and culture. Remember that annoying perfume commercial from the 70's? If you want to get someone's attention...whisper. Try that in Greece (or in my family) and you end up with zip.
...So a speech therapist and a nurse walk into a Russian patient's room. The nurse says, "Hey what is that Russian man's family so mad about?" The speech therapist laughs and says, "They aren't mad, they're just talking about grapes." True story.

Chocolate Bobka
Based on Chocolate Coffee Cake, Pastries From The La Brea Bakery
(Makes 2)
Dough
Milk.................................1/2 cup
Yeast (instant).....................3 tsp
AP Flour............................3 cups
Sugar...............................1/4 cup
Salt.................................1 tsp
Baking Powder....................1/4 tsp
Spice...............................1/4 tsp nutmeg, cinnamon, or allspice
Butter..............................8 oz, cubed
Eggs................................2, lightly beaten
1. Combine the dry ingredients in bowl on stand mixer.
2. Add the butter and beat with paddle until butter is in pea-sized pieces.
3. Add the milk and the eggs. Beat briefly until dough comes together.
4. Knead a few turns on counter, form into large rectangle (3/4 inch thick), wrap in plastic and let chill for several hours.
Filling
Sour Cream.......................1 cup
Chocolate Cake Crumbs.........1 cup
Bittersweet Chocolate..........2 1/2 oz, chopped
Egg.................................1, beaten
Assembly
1. Roll dough to 1/4-inch thick rectangle on floured surface.
2. Spread dough with sour cream, then top with crumbs and chocolate. Press the crumbs and chocolate gently into the sour cream and dough.
3. Roll the rectangle towards you, with the long side of the rectangle facing you, keeping it tight and even, lengthening it slightly as you roll. Seal edge. The log should be about 24 inches long when done.
4. Cut the log in half (2 12-inch pieces). Working with one piece at a time, slice the log in half horizontally. Place the end of the pieces together at the top, diagonally, and twist them together gently, leaving the cut sides at the top. Place on lined baking sheet. Repeat with second piece of dough. Cover with plastic and let rise 2 1/2 hours in warm place. It will not double in size, but will be slightly puffy.
5. Brush with beaten egg and generously top with streusel.
6. Bake at 350 for 1 hour, until streusel is nicely browned.

4 comments:

The A Team said...

Mmmmmm. Yummy!
Paige is the loudest talker EVER! I have taken this quote from my sister's girlfriend's brother (directed to Alona):
"(Name) your volume's at a 10, and I need you at about, a three."

Jackie said...

SO TRUE! But I don't understand the connection to the food...

T said...

Yes, the connection with food is very subtle - because I made a mistake and left it out. The bobka recipe is really called Russian Coffee Cake...prompted by the loud russian family. But I goofed and called it chocolate coffee cake. oops.

Linda said...

You don't think Mom got the loudness gene? One time in Joslin's I heard a familiar laugh and went down the escalator and all the way over to the women's clothing department and there she was . . .