German’s chocolate was not invented in Germany or by Germans. In 1852, a man named Samuel German invented the first practical sweetened chocolate bar. Samuel German was employed by Baker’s Chocolate Company, America’s oldest chocolate company. Very little else is known about Samuel German. According to some accounts, he was an American baker, and according to other accounts, he was an Englishman who emigrated to the U.S. If you look at the package carefully (pictured below), you will see that the label doesn’t say ‘German Chocolate.’ It says ‘German’s Chocolate.’ Note the apostrophe and ‘s’ after the word ‘German.’ Before Samuel German’s invention, chocolate bars were unsweetened. Unsweetened chocolate bars are made for baking and beverages, not for eating.
GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE ISN’T GERMAN EITHER.
The recipe for this popular cake was invented by a woman in Texas named Mrs. George Clay. She worked for the Baker Chocolate Company, which makes German’s chocolate. Her recipe first appeared in print in a Dallas newspaper in 1957. She called her dessert ‘German’s chocolate cake’ because German’s chocolate is the principle ingredient. The cake was an immediate hit. The recipe was reprinted in newspapers all over the United States. Within 1 year, sales of German’s chocolate shot up by over 70%. Over time, most magazines and cookbooks dropped the apostrophe and ‘s’ after ‘German’ when reprinting the recipe. Today, most cookbooks and bakeries just call it German chocolate cake. It is now widely believed all over the world that German chocolate cake is a traditional German dessert, which it is not. Ironically, many restaurants in Germany now sell German chocolate cake because American tourists expect and demand it. Many German restaurants in the U.S. also serve German chocolate cake for the same reason. Several U.S. presidents have served German chocolate cake at state dinners for German politicians in the mistaken belief that German chocolate cake is a German dessert. The first U.S. president to do this was Lyndon Johnson, who served German chocolate cake at a state dinner to honor German chancellor Ludwig Erhard in 1963. Erhard had never seen German chocolate cake before and asked what it was. The most recent U.S. president to serve German chocolate cake to honor a German statesman was Barrack Obama. I don’t know if Donald Trump has ever served German chocolate cake at the White House. It is widely known that he has a sweet tooth. Trump’s favorite candies are Starburst and See’s chocolates. Incidentally, See’s gets their chocolate from the same place I do – the Guittard Chocolate Company. And remember, ‘National German Chocolate Cake Day’ is June 11.
My favorite real German dessert is apple walnut strudel. My Aunt Johanna used to make it for me when I was a boy. First, she selected the apples. She was fussy about that. She would point out to me at the produce store which apples were good for strudel and which were no good. Some types of apples turn to mush when you bake them. Then she made the puff pastry by rolling out dough until it was as thin as a sheet of paper. The dough covered a sheet of plywood that she kept in her kitchen. Then she folded the dough over and over with butter between the layers. It was a big job. A few minutes after Aunt Johanna put her strudel in the oven, the odor of the apples, cinnamon, sugar, and butter all caramelizing together filled her apartment. It could make a dead man salivate. I have never had strudel anywhere as good as Aunt Johanna’s. Most commercial bakeries in the U.S. make apple strudel with canned apple pie filling, which is just awful. Aunt Johanna was one of my elderly relatives who staunchly denied being German, even though she spoke with a German accent that was thicker than molasses in January. She also spoke in the imperative. They say that Italian is the language of love, but German is the language for giving commands. Aunt Johanna would say things like: “Mark, come into the kitchen. You eat a piece of strudel, and you will like the strudel.”
Today, it is easy to make great apple strudel at home! The time-consuming part of the job is making the puff pastry, but now, really good frozen puff pastry dough is available nationally. It wasn’t available in my Aunt Johanna’s time. I recommend Trader Joe’s all butter puff pastry or Dufour puff pastry. I don’t recommend Pepperidge Farms puff pastry, which unfortunately is the only brand that most supermarkets carry. It contains no butter and is made with palm oil and corn syrup. Yuck. Pepperidge Farms puff pastry looks buttery, but that is because there’s yellow food coloring in it. Selecting the right kind of apples is still very important. My first choice is Granny Smith. They retain some firmness when baked, and they are tart, which offsets the sugar in the strudel. If you want a somewhat sweeter apple that bakes well, try Golden Delicious. Strudel doesn’t have to be made with apples. It can be made with other kinds of fruit as well, including pears, cherries, and blueberries. Whatever kind of fruit you use, always make sure that the fruit is fresh and top quality.
If you have a lease with me that expires on May 31, you need to take action soon. Your lease requires you to give me written notice by April 1 whether you are leaving or staying for another year. (An email is not a written notice.) If some of you are leaving but some of you are staying, you need to find new roommates right away. The tenants who be replacing the ones who are leaving need to fill out application forms, meet with everyone in your group who is staying, be interviewed by me, I need to run credit checks, prepare a new lease and get it signed by everyone, and get checks – all by April 1. That is why I said that whether you are staying or leaving, you need to take some action soon. If you are leaving, but some of your roommates are staying, this concerns you too. You are co-tenants. You need to make sure that the people who are staying have new co-tenants and a new lease with me by April 1. Otherwise, you could be on the hook for the rent after you have moved out.
Did you hear about this? A landlord in San Jose rented an apartment to 2 cats. See: Renting Apartment to Cats. The cats belong to a girl whose father pays the rent. High paid, high tech people in the Bay Area are famous for spending a lot of money on their pampered pets. That includes cat personal shoppers, dog bakeries, dog and cat psychiatrists, pet spas, pet party planners, and dog massage and stress relief clinics. I’ve been to Le Marcel Dog Bakery in San Francisco. The stuff they make is really beautiful but expensive. I once met a cat personal shopper. She buys and makes custom-made products for cats. Custom-made play and sleeping structures for cats can cost thousands of dollars.
King Christian X of Denmark and the Jewish Star. I have a friend here in Berkeley who was born in Denmark. I have known her for over 40 years. She is a retired U.C. Berkeley professor who grew up in Copenhagen during World War 2 when Denmark was under German occupation. She has told me several times that one of her most vivid wartime memories was seeing King Christian X riding through the streets of Copenhagen on his horse in a military uniform and wearing a yellow Jewish star on his tunic. I don’t argue with her about this, but that never happened. My friend is not the only Dane who remembers seeing this. Lots of people in Denmark remembered seeing King Christian wearing a Jewish star to protest the persecution of the Jews. A lot of Americans also remembered seeing photographs of King Christian wearing a Jewish star. I think the first time I heard this story was when I saw the movie ‘Exodus’ with Paul Newman when I was a teenager. The King Christian Jewish star story is in that movie – and in other movies as well. Now the story is partially true. King Christian X did ride through the streets of Copenhagen on his horse every day during the war and in a military uniform, but he never wore a Jewish star. This story illustrates a strange thing, collective false memory. It’s not unusual for an individual to remember something that never happened, but sometimes, hundreds or even millions of people distinctly remember something that never happened, and they all remember the same thing. Collective false memory has always fascinated me.
Casablanca. I know people who have seen the movie ‘Casablanca’ many times and who very clearly remember Humphrey Bogart saying: “Play it again Sam”, but that line is not in the movie. When people who have seen ‘Casablanca’ multiple times are asked what was the most memorable line in the movie, the Number 1 answer is always: “Play it again Sam”. The Number 2 answer is: “Drop the gun, Louie.” That line is also not in the movie.
Shazaam. This is even stranger than people’s memories of ‘Casablanca.’ Do you remember the movie ‘Shazaam’, made in the 1990s and starring the comedian Sinbad, who played a genie? A lot of people remember seeing this movie very well. Thousands of people have commented about ‘Shazaam’ and written reviews of it online. You can sometimes find DVD copies of this movie being offered for sale on Ebay. The only problem is that no such movie was ever made! So how come so many people remember seeing ‘Shazaam’? And what do you suppose people get, if anything, when they buy a DVD copy of this movie on Ebay?
The Mandela Effect. The Mandela Effect refers to people who remember of the death of Nelson Mandela in prison in the 1980s. This started in 2010 when a woman shared her memories online of the day that Nelson Mandela died in prison in 1985. Very quickly, lots of other people who also remembered the death of Nelson Mandela in prison began sharing their memories of that day. Thousands of people have now posted online their memories about Mandela’s death in prison on blogs and in chat rooms. I have read some of these memories. Many people distinctly remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the shocking news that Nelson Mandela had died in prison. However, Nelson Mandela did not die in prison. He was released from prison in 1990 and was elected president of South Africa. He died at his home at age 95. Although Nelson Mandela’s death in 2013 was front page news all over the world, people are still posting their online memories of the day Nelson Mandela died in prison.
The Lindbergh Confessions. In 1932, the 1 year old son of the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped. A large ransom was paid to the kidnappers, but the child was never returned. The murdered body of the infant was eventually found in a wooded area near the Lindbergh home. The kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby was front page news all over the world. Within days of the kidnapping, people started walking into police stations across the United States to confess to the crime. Police were astonished at the number of confessions they got and the sincerity and detail with which some of these people told their stories. Ultimately, over 200 people confessed to kidnapping the Lindbergh baby. Some of these people were just publicity seekers, but most of them were ordinary people with no prior history of doing anything like this. Keep in mind that it was common knowledge that kidnapping and murder were capital crimes in New Jersey, where the Lindberghs lived. In other words, these people knew that they were confessing to a crime that was punishable by death. Most of these 200 people had never been to New Jersey, and some of them lived in foreign countries. There were people in England, Scotland, and Germany who confessed to killing the Lindbergh baby even though they had never been to the United States or ever traveled outside their home country.Editor’s Note: In case you were wondering, Yes, a great many articles have been published in psychiatric journals about both the Mandela Effect and the Lindbergh Confessions. And Yes, I realize that this is another one of my stories that sounds so improbable that people are going to check it out to see if I made it up. – Mark.
About King Christian X of Denmark. Although he did not wear a Jewish star, King Christian X was sympathetic to the plight of the Jews. How do we know that? In 1943, King Christian was tipped off that the Nazis were about to round up all the Jews in Denmark and ship them to death camps in Germany. The king asked members of the Danish resistance to meet with him at the palace to discuss this matter. The king told the resistance that they had a moral obligation to smuggle the Jews out of the country before the Nazis nabbed them. The king promised to help them with information and cash. True to his word, the king did supply them with much of the money they needed to finance the operation, and it was an expensive operation. A lot of people had to be bribed and paid off. (Everyone in Denmark knows the story of how the Danish resistance smuggled the Jews out of the county, but strangely, I’ve never met a Dane yet who knew that King Christian personally financed the operation.) At considerable personal risk, the Danish resistance along with many private citizens transported nearly all of the Jews in Denmark to Sweden in small boats. Sweden was neutral throughout the war. Below is a photo of a Danish fishing boat taking Jews back to Denmark in 1945 after Germany surrendered. Also below is a photo of King Christian X riding through the streets of Copenhagen on his horse during the German occupation. Notice that the king is not accompanied by bodyguards or policemen. What European king would do that today?
A couple of years ago, a tenant called me on the phone and told me that her dishwasher smelled bad and that the bad odor was getting worse. I went over to her apartment, sniffed inside her dishwasher, and said: “Your dishwasher smells like fish. Do you know why?” She told me that she didn’t know why but that maybe – just maybe – it was because she had been cooking salmon in her dishwasher. That left me confused. She then showed me a cookbook with a recipe in it for salmon cooked in a dishwasher. This was something that I had not heard about before. I told her to stop cooking fish in her dishwasher and to run the dishwasher twice with nothing in it except dishwasher detergent. When I got home, I went online and searched ‘fish cooked in a dishwasher.’ To my surprise, I found dozens of recipes for fish cooked in a dishwasher. (No. I’m not making this up, although this story may sound just too bizarre to be true. Go to Google and check it out for yourself.)
Cooking fish in a dishwasher is a really bad idea, no matter what anybody tells you. Predictably, your dishwasher will smell like fish. Even worse, cooking fish in your dishwasher could make you very sick. The heat in your dishwasher may not be sufficient to kill parasites and dangerous microorganisms like salmonella. The temperature inside a dishwasher doesn’t get anywhere nearly as high as the temperature inside an oven. That’s why there are plastic parts inside your dishwasher, but there are no plastic parts inside your oven. I also found recipes online for chicken, turkey, eggs, lobster, and lasagna cooked in a dishwasher. You should never cook food in your dishwasher. It isn’t designed for that. (Yes, everyone knows that you have to be very smart to get into U.C. Berkeley, but unfortunately, the SAT doesn’t have any questions on it like: “Should you cook fish in your oven or your dishwasher?”)
I can’t figure out why anybody would want to cook fish in a dishwasher. If an apartment has a dishwasher, it also has a stove. There are lots of apartments that have a stove but no dishwasher, but I’ve never seen an apartment that had a dishwasher but no stove. Take a look at the photo below. I copied this photo from a recipe for salmon cooked in a dishwasher on the Realtor.com web site. It seems to me that they should know better than to recommend something like this. Look at this photo and ask yourself – What sort of person would look at this picture and not immediately know that there is something wrong – very wrong – with this?
People put the strangest things into their dishwashers. I once had a tenant who ruined an expensive pair of hiking boots by washing them in his dishwasher. Here is a list of things that you should never put in your dishwasher.
Wooden items. The water and heat inside a dishwasher can warp and crack wooden items, like salad bowls, cutting boards, and utensils with wood handles, like steak knives.
Cast iron cookware. Seasoning prevents cast iron cookware from rusting, but a dishwasher will remove it.
Non-stick cookware. Most non-stick coatings do not hold up well in the dishwasher.
Aluminum cookware. Aluminum pots and pans can oxidize in a dishwasher and turn dull or even black.
Insulated mugs. The heat of a dishwasher can damage the vacuum seal between the inner and out walls. Once that happens, the mug will lose its ability to retain heat.
Sharp knives. They will lose their edge.
Dishes with big pieces of food on them. You don’t have to rinse dishes before loading them in your dishwasher, but you should scrape food off of them first.
Crocs. It might seem that the easiest way to clean Crocs and other rubbery footwear is to put them in the dishwasher, but the heat in a dishwasher can shrink and warp them.
Computer keyboards. Yes, people have done this. I know how hard it is to clean a computer keyboard and get the dust and dirt off the sides of the keys, but you will ruin your keyboard if you put it in a dishwasher.
President Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut off FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funds for California firefighters. Trump claims that California’s forest fires are the result of poor forest management by the state. In January, Trump tweeted: “Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forrest (sic) fires that, with proper Forrest (sic) Management, would never happen. Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!”
There are 2 big problems with Donald Trump’s argument.
1. Most really big forest fires in California start on Federal land, not land owned by the state of California. That’s not surprising since the Federal government owns 48% of all the land in California, including most of the forest land in the state. For example, this past summer’s Carr Fire started in a recreation area owned by the United States Forest Service. The fire then moved onto private land and then into the city of Redding itself, where the fire destroyed over 1,000 houses. The most destructive and deadliest wildfire in California’s history was this past summer’s Camp Fire, which also started on land owned by the U.S. Forest Service. It was the world’s costliest natural disaster in 2018. A long list of Federal agencies own big chunks of California real estate in addition to the Forest Service, including the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. All of these agencies are under the direct control of President Trump. While it is true that forests in California have been and are being badly managed, most of these forests are under the control of the president of the United States, not the governor of California.
2. Climate change and global warming are major factors in California’s forest fires. Over the past 100 years, the average temperature in California has risen by 3 degrees. In addition, the average annual rainfall in California has fallen. This warmer, drier air sucks water out of plants and the soil, leaving trees and grass drier than they used to be. The California fire season used to be late summer, but now, it is nearly all year round. California used to get some rain in late October that wet things down, but now, the rain doesn’t come until November or December. Global warming is not a controversial theory within the scientific community, but unfortunately, President Trump and most of the people in his cabinet believe that it is.
Sonny Perdue. The U.S. Forest Service is under the control of the Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue. Perdue believes that global warming is a hoax. He calls global warming “junk science” and “a running joke.” Perdue is also one of the neo-Confederates in Trump’s cabinet. For as long as I can remember, neo-Confederates have always frustrated me. I grew up in Maryland, which was a slave state until the end of the Civil War. When Perdue talks about slavery and the Civil War, he sounds like the pro-Confederate schoolteachers I had when I was a kid. When Perdue was governor of Georgia, he tried to put the Confederate battle flag back into the Georgia state flag, and he made April ‘Confederate Heritage Month’. Perdue believes that most slaves supported the Confederacy and that large numbers of them fought for the Confederacy too. Perdue’s claim that there was widespread support for the Confederacy among the slaves has come under a lot of criticism from historians, just as his speeches on global warming have come under a lot of criticism from climate scientists. When I was living in Maryland, I knew white people who shared Sonny Perdue’s belief that black people didn’t mind being slaves and that during the Civil War, their sympathies were with their owners and the Confederacy, just like in ‘Gone With The Wind’; however, I have never met a black person in my life who shared that view.