Saffron Blues

Today is St. Lucia’s Day. One of my fellow church choir/bell choir members tried to make Lucia buns in honor of Hedwig, the Swedish foreign exchange student living with them this year. She spent $18 on saffron for the buns, only to have the dough fail due to yeast that was too old. Undaunted, she went back to the store to get more saffron and good yeast, and was going to try the buns again yesterday. I don’t know if they are going to have someone wear a crown with flaming candles.

I have mixed feelings about saffron, liking it best in East Indian rice and chicken. It is too weird for me in sweet pastries. I know its difficulty at harvest makes it so expensive. I have always wondered if we could grow the crocuses it comes from in our garden.

What is your favorite recipe that calls for saffron? What are your experiences either with, or as, a foreign exchange student? Where would you have wanted to go as an exchange student?

32 thoughts on “Saffron Blues”

  1. I like it in a shrimp with linguini recipe I have. Lots of garlic too, and if I recall, it’s in a cream sauce. Too lazy to check the recipe right now. 😉

    Never had an exchange student in my house, nor have I been one. Would have liked to go to Europe the UK, France, Italy maybe) when I was in HS, but I wasn’t too adventurous back then.

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    I have always avoided using saffron due to the expense of it, so I have no favorite. However, I used to have big fantasies about being a foreign exchange student. But there was just too many barriers in the way in my teen years and my young adulthood. (Basically my mother would fall apart at the thought of any of us being far away). My own personal barrier was that if I was gone for a period of time, then I would not know what was happening in my world. My primary fantasies were about Norway, British Isles (England, Ireland, and Great Britain) and the Netherlands.

    The families I knew who hosted foreign exchange students made big commitments to those programs and tended to bond with those kids. The students who were placed in my little home town were invariably disappointed—nobody wanted to come to Iowa. They were all focused on California and New York City. LeMars, Iowa was not on the list of preferred places. My sister and her family hosted several exchange students in Central Iowa: a boy from Romania and a girl from Japan. The boy is now a businessman in Romania doing extraordinary things. He was so capable and extroverted that the experience was joyful. The girl had a great deal of anxiety and was way too young to be in the program. My sister really extended herself to assist this student, because the pressure of her family to succeed was intense. Somehow my sister became aware that if this child failed and she returned home early it would shame her for life and have outsized consequences, so they hung in there long beyond what I ever could have done.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Several of my Danish “relatives” (including in-laws) sent their high school aged kids to the US as exchange students during Trump’s so-called presidency. One was in Ohio, one in Michigan, and one in Kentucky; all of them in small towns in rural settings. The two in Michigan and Kentucky were sent back to Denmark before the end of the school year as result of the pandemic, but apparently they had really positive experiences while they were here.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I’ve never had any compelling reason to make anything that called for saffron; there are so many other good choices that don’t.

    In my high school class of over 800, there were a couple of foreign exchange students but I didn’t know them or anything about them. My high school experience was such that I felt like a foreign exchange student myself.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Guess I lucked out. With rare exceptions, I don’t need a compelling reason to try something new. This is especially true as far as food is concerned. Which reminds me, did anyone read the review of Bro’s, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Lecce, Italy written by Geraldine DeRuiter? It sounded like an extremely expensive, four-hour food nightmare.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My class was about the only class over 50 years that did not have a FES. As a teacher I found them a mixed bag. We had one in about 1980 who was sent home after 3 weeks because he interrupted everything to give tirades against the U.S. My favorite was a girl in about 1983 who was a delight, but struggled to tone down her behavior to American standards, such as about alcohol. She was Australian. Her language foibles were a delight. She once announced in chem lab when someone sat down in her chair, “Hey, you pinched my seat.” she is a friend on fb. 25 years later she moved back to the US to marry her boyfriend from when she was here. She travels all over the world with an IBM job. She says she got the job because of her foreign exchange background. A close friend social studies teacher and his elementary teacher wife have hosted 9 students. They often go visit them, all from Europe or central America.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. My mother picks up the pestle and mortar and does to the saffron what the clerics have done to her country,
    pours in steaming water till the liquid in the bowl becomes the Caspian swallowing the sun.
    it smells like a home I have not returned to in 10 years.
    pound for pound,
    the most expensive spice in the world.
    worth more in its weight than gold.
    if customs found it, they would surely throw it away,
    but my grandmother is a high stakes smuggler.
    her currency is my mother’s joy.
    every time she visits, she brings some in her luggage,
    and my grandmother always comes through,
    and my mother always becomes a festival of lights.
    looks at my father,
    reminds him that it is her saffron.
    approaches me with the same enthusiasm I had as a boy catching a fish.
    holds the small packet between her thumb and her index finger and says,
    you cannot find saffron this good in America, Amir.
    you cannot find saffron like this anywhere, but Iran.
    and this is where I learn the limitations of the American dream,
    that you cannot find here what you already have.
    and I laugh because if customs found it they would surely throw it away,
    and I laugh at how borders can make the most valued feel worthless.
    but, thankfully, they were not victorious this time,
    nor are they ever,
    because my grandmother is a high stakes smuggler.
    her currency is my mother’s joy,
    and my grandmother always comes through,
    and my mother loves to feed her boys.
    so my mother does what Iranian mothers do best,
    and we eat until the diaspora dissolves,
    until it’s time for my brother and I to fight over who does the dishes,
    my mother exclaiming to my grandmother,
    these boys are American –
    they never learned taarof.
    I tried to teach them, but they learned all their manners from their father.

    – Amir Safi

    Liked by 4 people

  6. The co-op I frequent has saffron in the bulk containers, so if I were to try a recipe I would go and buy a teeny amount. I’ve never tried it, though. If the poet’s mother is to be believed, it wouldn’t be the same quality if you buy it in America.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. No special dish with saffron. I use it rarely. But for an exchange I have plenty to say. My family and I were both heavily involved with American field service when I was in high school. We had a exchange student live with us when I was a junior. He was from France. When he first arrived he and I didn’t get along but after a few weeks we figured out how we could be useful to each other. He stayed in touch with my family for many years in fact my father put him through architecture school in Paris. Unfortunately we did eventually lose touch, he moved around a lot and every couple of years I try to find him online and have not been successful.

    I did apply to be a foreign exchange student. I knew all of the people on the committee because I was the head of the AFS club at school but I did not get selected. The two gals who did get selected, one of them was rejected by New York who had the final say so back then and one of them was only accepted for a summer program. One of the women on the committee did tell me several months later that I had done an excellent interview and that they all wanted to recommend me but they were kind of afraid that it would look like favoritism because I knew them all and was so heavily involved. I don’t know if that’s true or whether she just said it to make me feel better but it did make me feel better at the time.

    My mom also worked in the AFS hierarchy, won a couple of awards and for years was the home where troubled students went (If they didn’t get along with their host families or something like that). In fact just over Thanksgiving one of her former students from 40 years ago came and visited her over the holiday. They had a great time.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I was introduced to saffron when I was twenty-two by a Danish boyfriend. He had at some point had a Spanish girlfriend whose Catholic family put the kibosh on their romance due to his Nordic roots and Protestant leanings. Fortunately, they had been together long enough for him to learn to make a simple and delicious dish of ground beef, saffron, and fresh tomatoes, served over rice. He made it for me, and I was hooked; so good. I still make it occasionally when fresh tomatoes are in season. It’s key that all of the ingredients be top quality.

    When I first moved to the West Side in 1975, Morgan’s Mexican Lebanese Market sold “saffron” in sandwich-sized plastic bags for about $6.00. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. In retrospect, I wonder what the heck it was? Whatever it was, it did add some color to whatever I put it in, but there was no discernible taste to it. Not at all like saffron which, even in small quantities, has a very distinct taste.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. No, it looked exactly like threads of saffron, but no amount of pounding it in my mortar with a pestle and soaking in boiling water could get it to give off much in the way of flavor or scent.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, Bill, that must be what it was. I know it said “saffron” on the bag, but I was really disappointed that it had no flavor. I suppose, for the the price, I shouldn’t have been expecting more than a little color.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well, what can I say? It never occurred to me to do so, though perhaps it should have. After all, I know that some recipes specify “Mexican oregano” and I also know that some recipes will specify “Spanish chorizo” which is completely different than the chorizo they sell at my local Mexican market.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. I was never a foreign exchange students. I don’t think it was a “thing” in Denmark when I grew up. Had it been, I would have loved to spend a year in Italy, Greece, or France – in that order.

    We’ve had two foreign exchange students, both from Denmark, live with us and attend their senior year in high school here. Though neither came through official AFS channels, both were generously included in their activities and field trips, and we attended many functions with other host families. There were a couple of students who had to be re-homed because they didn’t get along with their host families, but mostly, it was a positive experience for both parties. Many of them have stayed in contact, and their families have visited each other. I’ve hear countless success stories of very positive experiences, but there were a few horror stories as well. Two students were sent back to their respective countries for serious infractions of the rules, though I have no idea what those were.

    My late friend, Anne, had a male exchange student from Japan live with her family in Anoka when she was in high school. They became life-long friends, and visited each other numerous times over the years.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. OT – Thought I’d share this information about a free concert coming up on Thursday:

    FREE Courtroom Concert featuring Songs of the Season – Carols by Minnesota Composers

    Courtroom Concerts

    Thursday, December 16, 7:00 pm
    Central Presbyterian Church
    500 Cedar St.
    Saint Paul, 55101

    There’s also a concert at noon that same day. If you’re interested in more information, let me know, and I’ll post what I know.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I have a little container of saffron here that I’ve used maybe once in a decade. I should just try adding it to SOMEthing.

    One of my best friends in high school had a French student live with her family, out on a farm,circa 1965. Micheline was pretty self-centered, and wasn’t happy about being so isolated. I think the year was a bit rocky for all involved. It burst my bubble about what I fantasized a French girl would be like.

    My sister got to go to Leeds, England for a summer via AFS. I’ve always envied her that..

    Liked by 3 people

  12. When I was in high school my mom was the art teacher and what does well acquainted with the head of the AFS program in Bloomington schools
    I situation arose where a student from Germany was very unhappy in the home that he had been placed in and he was someone that I was familiar with and friends with so we took him in and enjoyed having him as our guest for that year that year there was also a student from Spain and the Spanish student and German student were both excellent hippies but had a different take on life the Germans name was tail and he ended up coming back and being very disgruntled with America
    he thought America view Germany like the presentation and hogans heroes with all the Germans being dumb and in fact it was the American capitalist system that he had a problem with and he thought we all should become Marxists the other foreign exchange student that year was from Spain his name was Ignazio father was a friend of Salvador Dali and was very successful as a tulip entrepreneur
    Ignacio and Theo were very good friends and while Theo came back disgruntled Ignacio called back so pleased with his memories and his friendships from America that he just wanted to chat which I thought was quite unbelievable at the time because long-distance phone calls from Spain were so expensive but in hindsight he had more money than he knew what to do with
    he died at about age 30 of a brain aneurysm and I will have to look up Theo to see if he became politically active in Germany I suspect he did

    my sister was an AFS student that went to Switzerland for a year and absolutely loved it I can’t imagine a better place to go hang out with a family for a year than Switzerland and she is very thankful of her experience there

    my east Indian friends that taught me how to do my Indian cooking had a small container with threads of saffron in it that they covered and cherished like gold I don’t believe I’ve ever cooked with it but I have eaten saffron dishes and like truffles they’re nice but it’s nothing that I would spend the money on generally speaking

    PJ asked for punctuation and I can’t do that but maybe putting it in paragraph form will help

    Liked by 5 people

  13. Hedwig’s parents are opera singers, and her host parents are very musical. She has settled in very well with the family, and the two little girls in the host family will miss her terribly when she goes back to Sweden.

    Liked by 5 people

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