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A Romance Of Tompkins Square by Thomas A. Janvier

Produced by David Widger

A ROMANCE OF TOMPKINS SQUARE.

By Thomas A. Janvier

Copyright, 1891, by Harper & Brothers

Whether the honey shall be brought to the boiling-point slowly or rapidly; whether it shall boil a long time or a short time; when and in what quantities the flour shall be added; how long the kneading shall last; in what size of earthen pot the dough shall be stored, and what manner of cover upon these pots best preserves the dough against the assaults of damp and mould; whether the pots shall be half-buried in the cool earth of the cellar or ranged on shelves to be freely exposed to the cool cellar air--all these several matters are enshrouded in a mystery that is penetrated only by the elect few of Nuernberg bakers by whom perfect lebkuchen is made. And the same is true of the Brunswick bakers, who call this rare compound honigkuchen, and of the makers of pferfferkuchen, as it is called by the bakers of Saxony.

Nor does the mystery end here. This first stage in the making of lebkuchen is but means to an end, and for the compassing of that end--the blending and the baking of the finished and perfect honey-cake--each master-baker has his own especial recipe, that has come down to him from some ancestral baker of rare parts, or that by his own inborn genius has been directly inspired. And so, whether the toothsome result be Nuernberger lebkuchen, or Brunsscheiger peppernotte, or Basler leckerly, the making of it is a mystery from first to last.

It was because of this mystery that the life of Gottlieb Brekel had been imbittered for nearly twenty years--ever since, in fact, his first essay in the compounding of Nuernberger lebkuchen had been made. He was but a young baker then: now he was an old one, and notwithstanding the guarded praise of friends and the partial approval of the public (notably of that portion of the public under the age of ten years that attended St. Bridget's Parochial School) he full well knew that his efforts through all these years to make, in New York, lebkuchen such as he himself had eaten when he was a boy, at home in Nuernberg, had been neither more nor less than a long series of failures.

In the hopeful days of his apprenticeship all had seemed so easy before him. Let him but have a little shop, and then a little capital wherewith to lay in his supply of honey, and the thing would be done! He had no recipe, it is true; for he was a baker not by heredity, but by selection. Yet from a wise old baker he had gleaned the knowledge of honey-cake making, and he believed strongly that from the pure fount of his own genius he could draw a formula for the making of lebkuchen so excellent that compared with it all other lebkuchen would seem tasteless. But these were the bright dreams of youth, which age had refused to realize.

In course of time the little shop became an accomplished fact; a very little shop it was in East Fourth Street. Capital came more slowly, and three several times, when a sum almost sufficient had been saved, was it diverted from its destined purpose of buying the honey without which Gottlieb could not make even a beginning in his triumphal lebkuchen career.


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