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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

Kaffee And Kaffeekuchen

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Cakes! What a pale; dry name to apply to those crumbling, melting, indigestible German confections! Blackie grinned with enjoyment while I gazed. There were cakes the like of which I had never seen and of which I did not even know the names. There were little round cup cakes made of almond paste that melts in the mouth; there were Schnecken glazed with a delicious candied brown sugar; there were Bismarcks composed of layer upon layer of flaky crust inlaid with an oozy custard that evades the eager consumer at the first bite, and that slides down one's collar when chased with a pursuing tongue. There were Pfeffernusse; there, were Lebkuchen; there were cheese-kuchen; plum-kuchen, peach-kuchen, Apfelkuchen, the juicy fruit stuck thickly into the crust, the whole dusted over with powdered sugar. There were Torten, and Hornchen, and butter cookies.

Blackie touched my arm, and I tore my gaze from a cherry-studded Schaumtorte that was being reverently packed for delivery.

"My, what a greedy girl! Now get your mind all made up. This is your chance. You know you're supposed t' take a slant at th' things an' make up your mind w'at you want before you go back w'ere th' tables are. Don't fumble this thing. When Olga or Minna comes waddlin' up t' you an' says: `Nu, Fraulein?' you gotta tell her whether your heart says plum-kuchen oder Nusstorte, or both, see? Just like that. Now make up your mind. I'd hate t' have you blunder. Have you decided?"

"Decided! How can I?" I moaned, watching a black-haired, black-eyed Alsatian girl behind the counter as she rolled a piece of white paper into a cone and dipped a spoonful of whipped cream from a great brown bowl heaped high with the snowy stuff. She filled the paper cone, inserted the point of it into one end of a hollow pastry horn, and gently squeezed. Presto! A cream-filled Hornchen!

"Oh, Blackie!" I gasped. "Come on. I want to go in and eat."

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As we elbowed our way to the rear room separated from the front shop only by a flimsy wooden partition, I expected I know not what.

But surely this was not Blackie's much-vaunted Baumbach's! This long, narrow, dingy room, with its bare floor and its iron-legged tables whose bare marble tops were yellow with age and use! I said nothing as we seated ourselves. Blackie was watching me out of the tail of his eye. My glance wandered about the shabby, smoke-filled room, and slowly and surely the charm of that fusty, dingy little cafe came upon me.

A huge stove glowed red in one corner. On the wall behind the stove was suspended a wooden rack, black with age, its compartments holding German, Austrian and Hungarian newspapers. Against the opposite wall stood an ancient walnut mirror, and above it hung a colored print of Bismarck, helmeted, uniformed, and fiercely mustached. The clumsy iron-legged tables stood in two solemn rows down the length of the narrow room. Three or four stout, blond girls plodded back and forth, from tables to front shop, bearing trays of cakes and steaming cups of coffee. There was a rumble and clatter of German. Every one seemed to know every one else. A game of chess was in progress at one table, and between moves each contestant would refresh himself with a long-drawn, sibilant mouthful of coffee. There was nothing about the place or its occupants to remind one of America. This dim, smoky, cake-scented cafe was Germany.

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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