Saturday, April 26, 2014

Betty Crocker, Sara Lee, and Cardamom

In 2000, while we still lived in San Francisco, San Geraldo's second-cousin, Inger, and her family visited from Norway for a month. Linda and Tom decided to come for a brief visit at the same time so they could meet Inger, Jan Olaf, and their three incredible kids (ranging in age from 16 to 20 at the time).

Inger is a trained and exceptionally talented cook. (When she was a child in Bergen, Norway, many girls were sent to what Inger refers to as "Housewife School.") One morning, while San Geraldo and I were at our jobs at the University of California, Berkeley, Inger and Linda were alone in our well-stocked kitchen. (Click the photos for a better view.)

THE SAN FRANCISCO KITCHEN: THE BIG, BLACK, BALL OF FUR,
CENTER SCREEN, IS ONE OF OUR ORIGINAL "BROTHER CATS," DOBIE.
A GREAT KITCHEN....
EXCEPT THAT SAN GERALDO NEVER COOKED AND I DIDN'T CLEAN.

Inger was putting together the makings for something and, after searching in vain through the cabinets, asked Linda if she knew if Jerry (aka San Geraldo) had cardamom.

"Card-a-what?" asked Linda.

"Cardamom," responded Inger.

"What's that? asked Linda.

"It's a spice," said Inger.

"Well, what's it for?"

"For making sweet rolls," explained Inger.

Linda snapped, "Oh, I buy those!"

Inger laughed, but thought Linda could have been joking. She said, "But, you really don't know what cardamom is?"

Linda said, "Nope. And I'll bet you Leann [the other sister] won't know either."

Inger insisted, "Oh, but Jerry says Leann cooks and bakes. She has to know what it is."

Linda picked up the phone and dialed.

Linda didn't even say 'hello.' "Hey, Leann, what's cardamom?"

Inger was listening in and could hear Leann answer with her own question, "Is this a joke?"

"No," said Linda, "Do you have cardamom at your house?"

"What is it?" asked Leann.

"It's a spice," said Linda.

"Well, what's it for?" asked Leann.

"For making sweet rolls," said Linda.

To which Leann snapped, "Oh, I buy those!"

NOTE: When we got home from work, Inger told us the story. It turned out Jerry did have cardamom ... And he knew how to use it.

THE CARDAMOM WAS IN THE CABINET TO THE LEFT ABOVE THE GAS RANGE.

Linda used to always refer to herself as Betty Crocker (obviously, she was being ironic). (Click here to read more about Betty Crocker and her questionable connection with Linda.) Inger of course had never heard of Betty Crocker and finally demanded of Linda, "But I would like to know what this Betty Crocker looks like!"

Linda framed her own face with her open hands and beamed, "See?!?"

Inger now refers to herself as the Norwegian Betty Crocker.

(Click here if you weren't around to read my original sweet rolls story.)

LINDA (LEFT) AND INGER.  THE [OTHER] TWO BETTY CROCKERS.  SEE?!?

And as long as we're on the subject of baked goods,
here's Liza Minnelli singing about another American favorite...


28 comments:

  1. Poor Liza!! lol
    Cardamom is a wonderful spice...very unique scent/taste. I use it in a few baked goods recipes and sometimes sparingly on mashed potatoes/squash.
    I bet Inger was very impressed with Jerry for having it and wondering why oh wny the others didn't!
    Now I will give 'poor Liza' a listen,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jim:
      Inger was non-plussed. She assumed Jerry would have it. She was more UN-impressed that his sisters didn't have a clue. Poor Liza... but great talent.

      Delete
  2. Mitchell so interesting and funny situation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gosia:
      Our lives are filled with these.

      Delete
  3. I love the discussion about cardamom. Of course, I would take the part of Linda in that conversation. At least I've heard of it - it's one of those exotic spices - you know, any of the spices that aren't salt and pepper.

    What a wonderful kitchen! Why didn't Jerry cook in it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jo:
      OK. All I knew about cardamom at the time was that it was a spice (and I don't know much more now). As for that kitchen: Our jobs made us mostly unhappy. It seemed easier to go out for meals than to shop, cook, and clean!

      Delete
  4. what a lovely story. I should be more careful and screen potential new friends whether or not they are good cooks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Spo:
      Would that count me out or in?

      Delete
    2. You are top of the guest list: bring the cats!

      Delete
  5. Nice kitchen - apart from those piglet heads air curing on the side of the island. Are they oven gloves? I bought cardamom once.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Goodness, your word verification is getting a bit weird - onagies intestines - horrible!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elaine:
      We had a pig-themed kitchen going for a while (long story for another time). We actually still have those pig-headed oven mitts and their used all the time. Amazing. They've got to be more than 25 years old.

      I've also been experiencing some very entertaining word verification with one of the segments being a real world and sometimes creepily appropriate.

      Delete
  7. I always wanted to see inside that house!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Walt the Fourth:
      It was a fun space.We didn't think much of it from the outside when we were house-hunting and only went inside because we were already there... As we walked up the stairs from one floor to the next, we were very surprised. I'll do a blog post on the interior.

      Delete
  8. I recently experienced cardamom in Thailand in a shrimp dish. It was amazing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stephen:
      It's not just for sweet rolls!

      Delete
  9. Oh for crap sakes, now I have to go by cardamom - just to see what all the buzz is about!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cheapchick:
      You may want to reconsider. Apparently, it's not cheap. You might have to change your handle to Extravagantchick.

      Delete
  10. I use cardamom a lot in making stir fry or anything I whip up that has the slightest Indian flavor.
    And I NEVER knew you used it for sweet rolls!

    I BUY those!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bob:
      Thanks for the good chuckle (last night when I first read your comment and again now).

      Delete
  11. I love cardamon, and I've noticed that it's my Norwegian-American friends, and Swedish-American ones who seem to use it most. I use it for Chai.I'm not into baking sweet things or buying them, but this week I will be making a birthday cake for my daughter...Ginger-Apple Upside-Down cake.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kristi:
      How well do you think that ginger-apple upside-down cake will keep if you ship it to Spain? You don't have to worry about it getting tossed around in transit --- it already being upside down.

      Delete
  12. Nice kitchen Mitch...and you say you don't cook...that is a sin...lol I mean wasting a beautiful kitchen like that.

    saludos,
    raulito

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Raul:
      It wasn't wasted. Decorating it was fun. The caterers liked it when we had parties. And Inger cooked us some incredible meals there!

      Delete
  13. I consider myself a fairly good cook, but don't have cardamom on my spice rack. I grew up with parsley, basil, oregano, bay leaf and garlic - maybe a little cinnamon on toast. I never developed a taste for Indian spices like curry or cumin, or cardamom so I guess Inger would be frustrated cooking in my kitchen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Frank:
      Inger would go out and buy cardamom. She'd be impressed that you know what it is.

      Delete
  14. Nice kitchen!! I brought home a whack of cardamom (and other spices) from the market in Pettah in Sri Lanka last month. Love that stuff!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Knatolee:
      A "whack," huh? Must be some high-falutin cooking term.

      Delete

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