I am back from a brief jaunt to Berlin, a city that captures the imagination and a sense of possibility because it seems (as contradictory as this is) cemented by a constantly changing face. I know this probably does not make sense, but perhaps I feel aligned with this perception of the city because I myself feel a bit like I am made up of the same person inside, with the same spine, in a more timeless and eternal sense, but am a constantly changing entity in every other way. Berlin looks and feels like that to me, while escapes to outlying areas and nearby towns reveal something less dynamic.
Berlin is a city that I never expected to like. Before I visited for the first time in 1999, everyone told me I would find it unpleasant (or had no opinion on the city one way or the other). Not that I have ever placed a lot of stock in other people’s idea of what I might like. In fact, I felt an energy even then that I cannot fully explain. That sense of energy remains unchanged and unique even if Berlin has changed remarkably in the decade-plus since I first visited.
My favorite way to experience a city can only be described as slowly and locally. That is to say, I don’t rush in and act like a tourist and try to pack every famous landmark into one week. I don’t make a special effort to visit landmarks or tourist sites. If I happen to visit one, so be it. I like staying among locals, behaving like a local (going to local spots, parks, shopping in the grocery) and this I did.
And no trip is quite complete without trying to bake in an unfamiliar country, with unfamiliar ingredients, in an unfamiliar (and sometimes ill-equipped) kitchen and making do with what is available. The catch this time was that I needed to bake something without sugar (or using diabetic sugar). What cookies would be best from among those I normally make with which to try this new experiment?
We went for Anzac biscuits, substituting the brown sugar with diabetic sugar and the golden syrup with honey. In this case I supervised someone else actually doing the majority of the putting the dough and cookies together, offering bits of information here and there. The cookies turned out well in the end, though it might be best to cut back on the amount of sugar called for in the recipe by up to half (the sweetness of artificial sugar can be much more intense than that of regular sugar). The cookies, without brown sugar, take on a lighter hue, but overall, those who ate them report that they are edible… and good.
Meanwhile, soundtrack du jour for the melancholy in me:
Cowboy Junkies – “200 More Miles”
“I’ve got 200 more miles of rain asphalt in line
before I sleep
But there’ll be no warm sheets or welcoming arms
to fall into tonight
I’ve got 200 more miles of rain asphalt in line
before I sleep
But I wouldn’t trade all your golden tomorrows
for one hour of this night”