Monday, June 11, 2012


   This rustic cake gets a zing from a tangy lemon glaze. The sauce dresses up the cake for dessert (or brunch).

Lemon Cornmeal Cake with Lemon Glaze and Crushed Blueberry Sauce



  • 1 1/2cups(packed) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2tablespoons(or more) fresh lemon juice


  • 1 1/2cupsall purpose flour
  • 1/3cupyellow cornmeal
  • 3/4cupsugar
  • 3 1/2teaspoonsbaking powder
  • 1/2teaspoonsalt
  • 1cupbuttermilk
  • 2large eggs
  • 1tablespoonfinely grated lemon peel
  • 3/4teaspoonvanilla extract
  • 1/2cup(1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled
  • Crushed-Blueberry Sauce



  • Combine powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in small bowl. Stir with spoon until smooth and paste-like, adding more lemon juice by 1/2 teaspoonfuls if glaze is too thick to spread. Set aside.


  • Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides; line bottom with parchment. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl; whisk to blend. Whisk buttermilk, eggs, lemon peel, and vanilla in small bowl. Pour buttermilk mixture and melted butter into flour mixture. Using rubber spatula, gently fold liquids into flour mixture until just blended (do not stir). Scrape batter into pan; spread evenly.
  • Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean and cake pulls away from sides of pan, about 30 minutes.
  • Immediately run knife around sides of cake. Place rack atop cake in pan. Using oven mitts, hold pan and rack firmly together and invert cake onto rack. Remove pan from cake. Place another rack on bottom of cake; invert 1 more time so that cake is top side up. Stir glaze until blended. While cake is still very hot, drop glaze by tablespoonfuls onto cake; spread to within 1/2 inch of edge (some glaze may drip down sides of cake). Cool completely. Serve with Crushed-Blueberry Sauce.


    Disputed in the last Sunday in June, it is undoubtedly the event the Pisans feel most strongly about . On that one day they once more discover the heated opposition between the factions, ready to root for the colors of their own Magistratura (or Court. The ‘Magistratura’ is the political-military organization of a quarter or of the team which participates in the Game). The Gioco del Ponte virtually closes the events of the Giugno Pisano, reproposing, in the magnificent setting of the lungarni which are jammed with people (generally there are no less than 100,000 spectators, sometimes many more) the ancient historical opposition between the Parties of Mezzogiorno (south of the Arno) and Tramontana (north of the river). The actual battle is preceded by a historical

procession with participants wearing period armature and costumes (around 750 in Spanish style) and with the banners of the participating teams of the four ‘historical’ quarters of Pisa, represented on the city plan by dividing lines that coincide with the intersection of the axis of Borghi-Ponte di Mezzo-Corso Italia with the curve of the Arno: S. Maria, S. Francesco (Tramontana); S. Antonio, S. Martino (Mezzogiorno), to which are added the formations of S. Michele, Mattaccini, Satiri, Calcesana – for the northern part – and those of S. Marco, Leoni, Delfini, Dragoni – for the southern part.

    The Gioco del Ponte is a historical re-evocation, where elements of folklore fuse with the proud warrior tradition of the Parties, who fight for possession of the bridge, no longer with maces shields and ‘targoni’ (an instrument in wood still carried by the combatants during the procession, it is offensive and defensive at the same time, spreading out and rounded off at the top, sharp and pointed at the bottom) but challenging each other in a trial of strength which consists in pushing a

heavy "Carrello" (carriage) weighing approximately seven tons, set on tracks fifty meters long. The final victory goes to the Party which has won the greater number of battles, pushing the trolley into the enemy field and knocking over the staff with the banner with the colors of the enemy party.

    While the origins of the game are lost in the mists of time (a legend attributes its institution to Pelops, the mythical founder of Pisa, who wanted to recall his native Olimpic Games; another to the roman emperor Hadrian who attempted to present a ‘Pisan’ version of gladiatoral combats on the shores of the Arno; and still another has it that the Games were instituted in memory of the battle on the bridge between Pisans

and Saracens on the occasion of the legendary episode of Kinzica de’ Sismondi), mention of a Gioco del Ponte does appear in 1490. It was Lorenzo the Magnificent who decided to transfer the game into its natural setting. Previously, as far back as could be remembered a sort of medieval tournament called Gioco del Mazzascudo had been held in the piazza delle Sette Vie (now piazza dei Cavalieri) between the Parties of the Rooster and the Magpie and which was thought to be the ancestor of the present Game. Originally the Gioco del Ponte took place twice a year: January 17th, the day of Saint

    Anthony Abbot, was the date of the so-called ‘Battagliaccia’, a sort of dress rehearsal of the ‘Battaglia Generale’ which almost always took place on the occasion of visits to Pisa of the various rulers and other noble guests. It continued to be held until 1782 when it was suppressed by Pietro Leopoldo on grounds of public order. After an extraordinary edition (1807) it lapsed into oblivion until it was re-introduced in 1935. Suspended because of the war, it returned to the bridge from 1950 to 1963. After another lengthy interruption, the event returned to its original magnificence in the edition of 1982.


   It isn’t hard to imagine that America and Germany shares a lot of similar customs and inventions. After all, roughly 17% of Americans are of German descent.

15. Chicken Fried Steak


   Although the origins about this delicious, plate swamping treat vary (I mean, we can’t even agree about who or where it was first served in the Lone Star State) most sources say that it is attributed to German and Austrian immigrants in Texas, who brought over the recipe for Wiener Schnitzel. Of course, Americans took it up a notch and really fried the heck out of that sucker and smothered it in gravy. It is believed that it started being referred to as Chicken Fried Steak, and not Wiener Schnitzel, during the war with Germany.

14. Ring Binder
Ring Binder 1

   The famous ring binder that we all come into contact with at least once a week (or daily if in school) is a German invention – and a relatively recent one, at that. Friedrich Soennecken invented it in Bonn, Germany, in 1886. The same year he also patented the hole punch (he must have seen Thomas Edison snooping around). The great innovation of adding a hole to the cover was also introduced by a German: Louis Leitz.   Interestingly, there is an ISO standard for the distance between the two rings on a double-ring binder, but no official standard for three ring binders.

13. Nutcracker/Story and Figuring
611829 Com Nutcracker

   The carving of nutcrackers began as a small, cottage industry in the wooded regions of rural Germany. They were, and are, known for their intricate detail and decoration.
Also, before the word nutcracker became synonymous with the Russian ballet by Tchaikovsky (and also synonymous with the ever hilarious short videos on America’s Funniest Videos), the Nutcracker was the hero of an early 19th century story by Berlin’s E.T.A. Hoffman. The story was later adapted for the famous ballet.

12. Gingerbread Houses

   The Gingerbread house was first noted in the Grimm’s Fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel, and followed in a little known German opera by the same title. After the show was first produced only days before Christmas, it became a holiday tradition in German Opera houses to build miniature replicas of the gingerbread house from the story. The tradition then spread to bakeries and, eventually, to homes.

11. Advent Calendars

   The origins of this Christmas tradition come from the German Lutherans, as early as the beginning of the 19th century. The calendar started off simple, a written way to count down the days until Christmas. Eventually, lighting 24 candles became popular. And, very early in the 20th century, Gerhard Lang was credited with printing the first Advent calendar. Several years later, he decided to add little doors that would open to reveal the date or a scripture. It wasn’t until after WWII that the calendars began to be filled with candies and treats for the days before Christmas.

10. Christmas Tree

   The tradition of decorating the Tannenbaum (hello, German word) dates back to the 16th century. Although it is documented that trees were erected in present day Estonia and Latvia in the 15th century, it was the Germans who really started the whole decorating tradition. They spruced up the tree with wax candles, fruits and trinkets and the tradition remained confined to the upper Rheinland region of Germany for some time. The idea eventually began to spread throughout the Christian world, when royal families from neighboring countries got wind of it. Hallmark, you can thank Germany for the bazillions of ornaments you sell every year.

9. Easter Bunny
Easter Bunny Wallpaper-4800

   The Easter Bunny, at least as we know it today, first appeared in 16th century writings in Germany. In the 1700s, Pennsylvania Dutch settlers brought the tradition of the Easter Bunny with them to the new world. Their children believed that if they were good, the Easter bunny would come and lay eggs and treats into nests the children made out of upturned hats and bonnets.

8. Easter Eggs Hunts

   While evidence on this isn’t as firm as some of the others, it is believed that the tradition of hiding Easter eggs was first started in Southern Germany. While the legend of the Easter bunny laying eggs in the grass had been around for sometime, the Germans decided to go all out and actually have children hunt for the eggs in hard to reach and see places. Leave it to the Germans to step it up a notch or two!

7. Gummi Bears
Gummy Bears

   I (and probably most American readers) always thought of Gummi Bears as an American product. The sweet treats were invented in the 1920′s by Hans Riegel Sr when he started the Haribo company. Not only do they produce Gummi Bears, and all other chewy candy under the Haribo name, but the company also makes all Trolli brands of gummy candy, like the popular gummi worms.

6. Prefabricated Houses

   Ha, take that one, you “American white trash” stereotypers! The pre fab home – oh come on, let’s just call them like they are – the trailer home was invented by Warner Sell of Berlin. After WWII, there was a need for places to house the U.S. forces occupying the area. Sell’s company manufactured over 5000 prefabricated houses, and the soldier boys lived it up in high style!

5. Here Comes the Bride

   First known as the “Treulich geführt”, the song that is forever linked to women in white gowns, was composed in 1850 by Richard Wagner for his opera, Lohengrin. Although the song is now traditionally played as the bride makes her way down the aisle, it was sung (yes, it even has original words to go along) in the Opera after the ceremony by the members of the bridal party. The video clip above is a good version of this song from the opera. Oh – and by the way, the OTHER wedding song (the recessional) is also by a German: Felix Mendelssohn – it is called the Wedding March and it is from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

4. Everything Disney Does

   From cashing in on Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White to name a few, to building a close replica of the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Disney movies and theme parks have relied heavily on German influence. Entertainment would be pretty dull if it wasn’t for Disney stealing from the Germans and Hollywood stealing from the Japanese (think J-Horror)!

3. American Picnic Items

   Just about all the ingredients to make a perfect ‘All-American’ picnic come from German origins. There is the hot dog, or a Frankfurter: a pork sausage that finds its origins in 13th century Germany. Then, you can’t forget the condiments. Ketchup, which was developed by Heinz, and Mayonnaise, developed by Hellman, both German immigrants. Of course some of those items are based off earlier recipes (Ancient Rome: ketchup; France: mayonnaise) but the favorites eaten today are definitely German. Then, of course, there is the Potato Salad. Although there are many different versions to this dish, one of the most popular variations is the tradition German potato salad.

2. Light Bulb

   Poor Heinrich Göbel. He is credited with developing the incandescent light bulb over 25 years before Thomas Edison had his bright idea. There was just one little thing Göbel forgot to do….apply for a patent. (Although, I will have to admit, that he was born and grew up in Germany but was in the US by the time he developed his idea). At least Tesla wasn’t the only one cheated by Edison.

1. The Hair Perm

   German hairdresser Charles Nessler invented a very early version of the perm. He used a mixture of cow urine and water to achieve those bouncy, poodle like waves. Smells good ladies. Before coming up with just the right mix of harsh and damaging chemicals, he ran test trials on his wife. Two of which burnt off most of her hair and resulted in scalp burns. I think that might be grounds for divorce. Thanks for giving me a dog’s hairstyle in the 4th grade, Germany!