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  Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

Kaffee And Kaffeekuchen

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I have visited Baumbach's. I have heard Milwaukee drinking its afternoon Kaffee.

O Baumbach's, with your deliciously crumbling butter cookies and your kaffee kuchen, and your thick cream, and your thicker waitresses and your cockroaches, and your dinginess and your dowdy German ladies and your black, black Kaffee,where in this country is there another like you!

Blackie, true to his promise, had hailed me from the doorway on the afternoon of the following day. In the rush of the day's work I had quite forgotten about Blackie and Baumbach's.

"Come, Kindchen!" he called. "Get your bonnet on. We will by Baumbach's go, no?"

Ruefully I gazed at the grimy cuffs of my blouse, and felt of my dishevelled hair. "Oh, I'm afraid I can't go. I look so mussy. Haven't had time to brush up."

"Brush up!" scoffed Blackie, "the only thing about you that will need brushin' up is your German. I was goin' t' warn you to rumple up your hair a little so you wouldn't feel overdressed w'en you got there. Come on, girl."

And so I came. And oh, I'm so glad I came!

I must have passed it a dozen times without once noticing it--just a dingy little black shop nestling between two taller buildings, almost within the shadow of the city hall. Over the sidewalk swung a shabby black sign with gilt letters that spelled, "Franz Baumbach."

Blackie waved an introductory hand in the direction of the sign. "There he is. That's all you'll ever see of him."

"Dead? " asked I, regretfully, as we entered the narrow doorway.

"No; down in the basement baking Kaffeekuchen."

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Two tiny show-windows faced the street--such queer, old-fashioned windows in these days of plate glass. At the back they were quite open to the shop, and in one of them reposed a huge, white, immovable structure--a majestic, heavy, nutty, surely indigestible birthday cake. Around its edge were flutings and scrolls of white icing, and on its broad breast reposed cherries, and stout butterflies of jelly, and cunning traceries of colored sugar. It was quite the dressiest cake I had ever beheld. Surely no human hand could be wanton enough to guide a knife through all that magnificence. But in the center of all this splendor was an inscription in heavy white letters of icing: "Charlottens Geburtstag."

Reluctantly I tore my gaze from this imposing example of the German confectioner's art, for Blackie was tugging impatiently at my sleeve.

"But Blackie," I marveled, "do you honestly suppose that that structure is intended for some Charlotte's birthday?"

"In Milwaukee," explained Blackie, "w'en you got a birthday you got t' have a geburtstag cake, with your name on it, and all the cousins and aunts and members of the North Side Frauen Turner Verein Gesellchaft, in for the day. It ain't considered decent if you don't. Are you ready to fight your way into the main tent?"

It was holiday time, and the single narrow aisle of the front shop was crowded. It was not easy to elbow one's way through the packed little space. Men and women were ordering recklessly of the cakes of every description that were heaped in cases and on shelves.

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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