MN Masala: Nell’s Finnish Fruit Pudding (Velia)

By Jane and Chux: A few years ago, Chux planted black raspberries in our backyard.  These plants have flourished, and last summer we had a bumper crop of berries.  We had so many, we were able to freeze some of them.

Given our cold and snowy “spring” this April, we wanted to make something with these berries.  A reminder of the summer to come.  These black raspberries taste like sunshine.  They are also extremely complex in flavor with sweet and sour notes.  Since these berries taste good on their own, we decided to make my grandmother Nell’s Finnish berry pudding.

As a kid, I would spend time with my grandparents at their cabin in Michigan.  We would go wild blueberry picking at their top secret place with coffee-can pails in hand, handles made with bent coat hangers.

We would make this fruit pudding as well as pie with these fresh blueberries.  This pudding can be made with any fresh or frozen berry including blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries.

Today, I’m copying my grandmother’s recipe as she sent it to me in a letter over 30 years ago. 

For our black raspberry pudding, we used four cups of frozen berries, added ¾ cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons of tapioca, and ¼ cup of water.  You can adjust the sugar and thickener in your fruit pudding depending on how many berries you are using and how sweet you like it.  The pudding is delicious on its own, or over pancakes for brunch, or with ice cream for dessert. Continue reading

Can our lives be works of art?

By Sam Stern: I am not much of a philosopher but days like this one demand some big picture reflection. It occurs to me that I’ve entered a sector in the Circle of Life that is going to involve acknowledging mortality and saying a lot of goodbyes.

Because being upright and in a position to face the emotional challenges of the end-of-life sector is better than the alternative, I need to find, and share, a coping mechanism to serve me and minimize the pain of loss.

Recently I attended the funeral of Joan Mondale, our former Second Lady. I did not know her well, other than from her public persona. But one meeting in particular amounted to more than exchanging pleasantries at mutually attended political functions and I wanted to demonstrate the depth of my appreciation by paying my respects through my attendance at the funeral. Continue reading

Do words have power?

By Cindy Moy: The Husband, an American of Chinese descent, and I attended a wedding in a small town in Ohio.  Everyone was wonderful to us for three days.  One night we were walking back to our car with my in-laws and passed three teenage boys, sitting in a doorway along the sidewalk, drinking beer.  I knew what was coming.

They took one look at my family and began making karate chop noises.
My husband ignored them.
My in-laws ignored them.
I was upset.

When we got back to the hotel my husband said, “I can remember this weekend for the dozens of truly nice people we’ve met, or I can remember it for three drunken idiots on a sidewalk.”

The Husband was able to take away the power those teenage twits had used to try to intimidate him. Continue reading

What advice would you give to your future grandson?

By Sam Stern:

Dearest Beloved Grandson,

Although you are still in utero, I thought it might be a good time to start sharing life lessons for you to use as guidance in the years to come.

Lesson 1. Read. Learn to read. Love to read. I’m going to be up past my bedtime writing this tonight. If you are going to ignore Lesson 1, there’s no point in my bothering. Your Papa (me) started reading voraciously at a very young age.

As a result, I was able to travel through time and space from the comfort of my home. My vocabulary developed without having to resort to flashcards. My imagination flourished and I developed a moral compass from the stories I devoured rather than from sustaining a lot of negative reinforcement after blindly straying.

As a side benefit, if we think you’re precocious, we’ll give you extra attention. I spent hours playing Scrabble with your great-grandmother Pearl from the age of 8 or so on. I’ll never forget the joy she expressed when I was able to beat her. I look forward to experiencing the same joy sitting across the table from you.

You may be thinking that these benefits are too deferred. After all, I had to pore through some World Books, the Wikipedia of my day, to develop that vocabulary. Here’s a more immediate benefit. We’ll leave you alone while you’re reading and exercising your mind. Continue reading