Ingrid – September 18, 2017
I do not own a car, which is usually an asset for a city dweller like me. I live in an apartment in Lincoln Park with my roommate, Lindsay (also carless), and our 16-pound orange tabby cat, Marzipan. Parking in the city is horrendous, and truth be told, Lindsay and I have been known to amuse ourselves from our balcony, watching the drivers compete for a spot on Clark Street. I work in the Loop and take a quick “L” train in, or sometimes the occasional Uber on days I sleep in a little too long.
But last Saturday, I had a notion to visit Lindsay’s grandfather at The Danish Home. I’ve grown quite fond of her 93-year-old “Farfar,” especially since The Danish Home’s Tivoli Gardens and Casino Night on June 24, when he and I shared a few Carlsbergs and tried our luck at blackjack. Being without a car, however, the trip from Lincoln Park to Norwood Park, where The Danish Home is located, required some planning.
I wanted to get there early enough to have lunch, as Farfar has told me how yummy the lunch menu choices are at The Danish Home. A little weary of Uber, I decided to take public CTA transportation. Even though my apartment is only about 10 miles southeast of The Danish Home, I arrived an hour and a half later, having walked to the bus, then to the blue line on the “L,” then another walk to The Danish Home. Needless to say, I was a tad flushed when I greeted Farfar that afternoon.
“Wow, that was quite the trip!” I said as I flopped myself into a comfortable chair in the dining room. Regaling Farfar with the details of my journey, I noticed a nostalgic smile spread across his face. “I used to ride the DSB from Copenhagen to Roskilde to see Sigrid,” he said. I knew Sigrid was Farfar’s wife, Lindsay’s “Farmor,” who lived with him at The Danish Home until she passed away in 1994. “I could barely contain my excitement on that train. We only got to see each other every few weeks when we were courting,” he said.
“How long was the trip?” I asked. “It seemed like five hours to me,” he said, “but I think it was probably less than an hour.” Farfar reached into his pocket and pulled a dog-eared photo of Sigrid from his wallet. “Isn’t she a beauty?” he said, passing the photo my way. I braced myself, expecting to see the dour frown of previous photographic eras, but instead a doe-eyed girl no more than 18 smiled demurely back at me. It was as if she had a secret only Farfar could know. She was exquisite.
“Wow, Farfar, she’s a hottie!” I said. He snorted with laughter. “Do you know that I used to bring her my mother’s marzipan cake every time I rode that train?” I slapped the table. “No way! My cat’s name is Marzipan!” Farfar said, “I know; Lindsay told me. He’s a big tøsedreng…Speaking of trains, look at this article about coffee and cake sales on the Danish trolleys.” Farfar reached under his wheelchair and pulled out a copy of The Copenhagen Post. I glanced at the paper. “Farfar, it’s in Danish! And what’s a tøsedreng?”
“Oh, right,” he said and adjusted his glasses to read, translating in English for my benefit: DSB May Continue Coffee and Snack Sales on Some Trains. Reading on, his Danish accent still slightly detectable, Farfar conveyed that there used to be overpriced food trolleys on Danish trains, selling coffee, tea, water, nuts and marzipan that people who made the equivalent of $75,000 American dollars per year pushed around on movable trolleys throughout the train.
“Tøsedreng, Farfar?” I interrupted, my interest in its meaning only slightly greater than my shock at a 75K cart sales salary. “Sissy,” he said. “That cat Marzipan acts like he’s tough, but he’s just a big baby.” I had to agree.
“Anyway,” Farfar continued, “seems people are missing the trolley treats, so they’re bringing them back on a trial basis. But the people who sell the train tickets are also pushing the trolleys around, so they don’t have to pay someone a small fortune anymore. I wonder how their marzipan compares to Mor’s,” he mused.
I imagined his mother in a Danish kitchen lifetimes ago, lovingly making the still popular Danish treat. I did some mental math, figuring that if Farfar is 93, thus born in 1924, his Mor was likely born not long after my great-great-great-grandmother (GiGi, I call her) Olivia Rose founded The Danish Home, in 1891, with 11 other amazing women like herself.
“How great would it be to have her recipe! I’d love to make her marzipan,” I said. Farfar looked, well, far-far away.
“Believe me, so would I,” he said softly. “Farfar,” I’m going to find an old-fashioned marzipan recipe and bring you some the next time I visit you. And I may just take the train again!”