Slow down- sweet pretzels

Only three weeks left until Christmas . I realise that fact when I make a plan for the coming blog posts and all the recipes I would like to share with you. Although I am reading “In praise of slowness” written by Carl Honoré, my own life is far from being the synonym for slow.
I miss our home. I miss our garden, rays of sun while setting down behind the Bakony mountains. I miss the warmth of our tile stove and the sight of seasonally changing costume of our fruit trees. I miss peace and never-ending stillness. As if I left in the little house my ability of aligning myself with the rhythm of nature.
My ‘rational me’ understands that this is temporary, that everything has its own time and very soon I am going to cook dinner in our old-new summer kitchen and our house will be filled up with light coming from the garden. However emotions win over rationality and the sense of rootlessness can be so overwhelming that I have to fill this gap. Mostly by to-do’s, with not urgent, but hurried projects and impossible deadlines. When we cannot control circumstances we often look for something that we can keep under control at least. Only as long as life warns me with first softer than later more evident signs: Slow down.
It starts with the Chinese delegation which comes to visit Budapest and slows down than stops traffic completely on a Monday morning when I need to go to the capital city and have a schedule planned for every minutes. In the next 2 hours I try to imagine myself sitting in a café and turn on the volume of Stan Getz and João Gilberto and drink my latte that I brought from Veszprém and which is already cold.
Slow down.
I park my car at the first opportunity and go running to the office where I had an appointment. Trying to minimalise my delay I don’t even take off my coat, just open my laptop, which exceptionally doesn’t want to wake up, processes take ages. To make my digital life even more complicated my mobile phone’s battery goes off. From that moment my day becomes really quiet. No email, no messages, no phone calls.
Slow down.
I still don’t want to notice the little signs and start my way back home driving in my usual pace. My family is waiting for me, and anyway is already dark outside, and I don’t like driving in darkness… Suddenly my car slows down, power of engine drops and a sign on the dashboard lights up indicating a problem of engine control. My little car’s first problem after 10 years. Maybe it wants to message me this way.
Slow down.
In the next few days I am still not willing to give up my usual rhythm. Not even when I get a migraine and Áron convinces me with a lovely but definite voice to not to go to check our renovation. I am sitting on a chair, my eyes closed and just waiting to get better- and of course to be able to do something.
Slow down.
Finally the next morning when I want to leave house, I cannot find my key. I start searching. It is nowhere. I am crawling on all fours in the hall, look into every corner and check even the most impossible spots. I remember that I wanted to find a document in our boxes in the garage the day before, maybe I left it there. No. It seems like it has just evaporated. My mother is not available, Áron comes home and gives me his key, finally I can start my day. A few corner away from my studio my heart skips a beat. The studio’s key is on my key-chain, which moved to a mystery place. That is the only key I have.
SLOW DOWN.
In that moment I finally understand, maybe because it is already so obvious that it cannot be ignored. I slow down. A couple hours later my mother finds my key in her bag. I get a few extra keys, so something like that won’t happen again and I reschedule everything. I am sure I will get the “important’, the ‘urgent’ done, my to-do’s won’t run away from me and the huge project I wanted to finish this year, can wait until January.
In that afternoon Áron comes home with a big smile on his face. On the basement walls were built during that day so hight that it reaches already Áron’s waist. The week after next week the old roof will be torn down.
I start taking breath slower and I am thinking that it is high time that Advent- exceptionally- really becomes in my life what it is for: preparation and waiting. We finish something and we start something new.
We agree within our family that we replace gifts with hand-made small surprises. My father makes jokes and says he is going to knit socks for us. Although there is no chance he would ever try, we are secretly still hoping.
So there is already an intention for slowing down. However, to make it real is more difficult than I expected. Deciding and doing it alone seems to be more difficult, so if you feel like joining me in this intention to prepare ourselves for Christmas and New Year slowly, than we could celebrate every little success together or cheer each other up after another rushing day.
Every idea or useful tips and tricks for slowing down is very welcomed, please leave a message in the comment section.
And so long
Until then I take the pretzel cutter out of the cabinet which I found among my grandmother’s kitchen tools. I have never seen her using it, but I plan to try it since a long time. To work with it takes time and requires attention so it is a perfect fit to this occasion. I put together a linzer cookie dough and slowly cut pretzels, sprinkle them with nib sugar so they look like salty ones. Just no hurry.
Slow down…

Sweet pretzels
Ingredients:
300 g flour
250 g butter or margarine
1 egg
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 package of vanilla sugar
100 g confectioner’s sugar
grated lemon zest of a lemon
1 pinch of salt
nib sugar for decoration

Grate butter or margarine, mix with the flour and baking powder. Separate the egg, add egg yolk, vanilla sugar, confectioner’s sugar, lemon zest and salt to the dough, preserve the egg white for brushing. Knead the dough well than put it into the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 200 °C. Roll it out to half centimetre thin and by using a cookie cutter cut pretzels. Brush each cookie with egg white, put them on a baking sheet lined with paper and bake them for about 10 minutes. (I suggest you to check the first bunch of cookies, because baking time can depend on your oven. Knead the rest of the dough together, and roll and cut it again until you used and baked all of it. sweet pretzels from the Taste of Memories country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com sweet pretzels from the Taste of Memories country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com sweet pretzels from the Taste of Memories country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com sweet pretzels from the Taste of Memories country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com sweet pretzels from the Taste of Memories country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.comsweet pretzels from the Taste of Memories country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com sweet pretzels from the Taste of Memories country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.comsweet pretzels from the Taste of Memories country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.comsweet pretzels from the Taste of Memories country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com sweet pretzels from the Taste of Memories country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.comsweet pretzels from the Taste of Memories country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com sweet pretzels from the Taste of Memories country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com sweet pretzels from the Taste of Memories country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com sweet pretzels from the Taste of Memories country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com

Judit Neubauer

Judit Neubauer

Judit Neubauer is a food photographer, chef and writer living in a small village in Northwestern Hungary. Her bilingual blog, Taste of Memories is about life in the Hungarian countryside. While she is bringing new life into the 90 year-old house and orchard of 18 fruit trees she cooks and bakes her family’s old recipes and tries to preserve traditions and old knowledge about how to live in rhythm and harmony with nature.

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