Thursday, March 5, 2015

Fastnacht Traditions

In my teen years, I participated in a youth program at the local Lutheran Church. It was a fun way to celebrate my German heritage while spending time with friends. We prepared and performed a new skit every year; one year, it was a Carol Burnett tribute, another year a variety show. I still remember lip-syncing the song “All for the Best” with my friend Debbie. What a blast. The best part? Eating fastnacht at the end of the evening. Why? Because my grandmother made them.

These weren’t your typical doughnuts found at Dunkin’, though. Authentic German doughnuts made the traditional way didn’t come easily. The time, effort and love blended into the delectable treats were not only food for our bodies, but food for our souls.

This year, I decided to pull out Grandmom’s recipe to pass the tradition along to my teen daughter.

 Step 1: The recipe

Having the right mix of ingredients creates the perfect doughnut, and the perfect environment for conversation and connection. When I hung out with Grandmom, the primary ingredients were love, hugs and smiles. She was a fun-loving woman who avoided conflict and I learned to observe moments of pure contentment watching her in action.
Step 2: Knead the dough

 This step took a bit of effort. The only way to get it right was to dive into that mound of dough and muscle it until the texture was just right. It was a hands-on experience, and relationships are no different. Simply being together, whether we were talking, cooking, cleaning or simply saying nothing, is what I remember about the texture of life at Grandmom’s house.

Step 3: Wait and wait and wait

I remembered thinking we’d never get to eat those doughnuts when Grandmom set the bowl aside, putting a towel on top so the dough could rise. The yeast would do its job only as long as we left it alone. Patience is probably the most important step in creating meaningful traditions, and without it the result will be an indigestible mess.

Step 4: Cut the dough

A few hours later, the overflowing bowl of dough needed shaping. We’d dump it all over a blanket of flour on the counter and roll it out, then cut into diamond-shaped portions to make it manageable. This is the only way those beauties could face the heat of the frying pan in the next step. Relationships are like this. At times, we need to cut back to shape our connections into precious pieces we can handle. It was in the little things, like a conversation about high school, or my current boyfriend, where I could ask Grandmom’s perspective on shaping and dealing with my own issues in life.

Step 5: Fry the dough

Ahhh, the heat. Now that the little beauties were rolled and shaped, they could be placed into the hot oil, resulting in puffy clouds of deliciousness, cooked to perfection. The heated challenges in life, like the oil, can turn our perfect little pieces into something more satisfying, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Step 6: Sweeten

A little sugar to sweeten the treat, like words of encouragement and time with Grandmom, gave the perfect finish to our tradition. The result? Heavenly perfection.