So you think you know what is a danish? You’ve tried it at the Holiday Inn complementary continental breakfasts or seen the new offering at McDonald’s. They look so good, don’t they, glazed and glittery and jewel colored in the middle with jams of amber apricot and ruby cherry and indigo blueberry. You get it back to your table from the buffet and without fail you’re disappointed. It’s dry and disappointingly dense.
Well, you haven’t tried the danishes from Danish Pastry House Ltd. (366 Revus Ave., Mississauga, Ontario L5G 4S5, 905-278-4777). Tucked away in this hole-in-the-wall plaza that looks deserted at first, then a place for start-up accounting offices that aren’t very successful. Or maybe even a space for a mom who wants to turn her hobby of selling T.K.Maxx (or is it T.J. Maxx? I can never get that right) finds on eBay into a business. Here is where you find a bakery that’s open to the public for only 5 hours a week (Saturday 11am to 2pm and Sunday 12pm to 2pm.) And even if you build a visit to Anita’s shop (Anita is the creator and baker of the Danish Pastry House) during those two small windows of time, you’re not guaranteed to get the danishes you want because there was probably a line-up at the door before opening.
A word about Anita. Anita is a buxom blond with delicate features. She reminds me of actresses from the 1950s like Lana Turner or Grace Kelly. She’s a perfectionist. Ask her husband who helps her out on the weekends. He think it gets in the way of her productivity at times. She started baking her danishes in her home and when word got around to the Danish community that a real Dane was baking real danishes, they started placing orders. Soon her home kitchen was being put to commercial use. Some jackass in the neighborhood reported that she was running a food business out of her home and so she found this space to bake.
BIL (brother-in-law) thinks, “It was the best thing that could have happened to her.” Anita’s wholesale business is thriving. And just that morning when Sister and BIL took me to the shop, the Danish ambassador had stopped by to check out her shop and sample her pastries.
If you’re determined and lucky and make it into Anita’s shop you’ll get a danish or a dozen. And you’ll taste what a real Danish danish tastes like. The pastry is so light, the whole thing seems to collapse the moment it hits your tongue and melt down your throat. So when you scarf down four in a matter of minutes, it’s really not you–ask my mother; it’s the danish. Blame Anita, if you feel guilt and need to spread it around or transfer it. The fillings are minimal, just enough to give you a taste of chocolate, jam, or custard. The star of the danish is the pastry.
I’ve been to Denmark. Copenhagen specifically. Fran and I took an overnight cruise from Oslo in 2004 to the birthplace of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen and home of Lars Ulrich, one of the founders of the formerly popular heavy metal band, Metallica. We got into an argument about my lack of fiscal preparation for the trip.
Having a thin or empty pocket makes a person tight, at first just financially but eventually, always eventually, psychologically. You become scurrilous and stingy, pinching the pennies as well as your empathy and kindnesses to yourself and others.
Mother was the first person to warn me about this, telling me to always have cash on hand and to never forbid myself the small daily comforts and pleasures, like say a coffee on the way to work. Those small deprivations begin to work on you, she said, they accumulate like pebbles of resentment and anxiety in your emotional jar, and you find yourself hemming and hawing over whether to sit at a cafe in Copenhagen’s gorgeous Nyhaven, or “New Harbor,” and have a beer with your friend.
So Fran gave me a talking to and I snapped out of it. We had our beer and I stopped worrying so much and started to enjoy myself. I tried and succeeded in living like the lyrics to Bobby McFerrin’s, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Incidentally, I’ve been like that ever since. I wonder if Bobby’s been to Denmark.
The denizen of Copenhagen look like models. Was Andersen also a Nordic hottie? Everyone rides his or her bike and the last I heard the Danes are the happiestpeople in the world (Forbes, 2010). Except for Hamlet, I suppose (Shakespeare, 1600 or 1601). I don’t know how they stay lean and slender with danishes like Anita’s getting baked in their bakeries, but I get the happy part.