Stretching your imagination and your strudel

In 1976, minimum wage in Alberta was $2.75 and I was still too young to have a real job but not too young to write sappy poetry about the boyfriend or imagine the future.  The boyfriend was tall, blonde, the owner of a Pinto with a metallic paint job, and the grandson of a wonderful woman who made fabulous apple strudel.  What more could a young girl want in her imaginary future?  My imagination was stuck.  The only thing I could foresee was marrying that boy and eating his grandmother's strudel.

The strudel-making grandma liked me enough to invite me over after school to teach me how to make strudel.  I don't have a clear memory of wanting to learn how to make strudel but his grandma decided it was a good idea.  She probably wanted to get to know the girl her grandson was interested in.  She lived alone, and she might have been lonely.  One afternoon there I was - learning how to make strudel in grandma's kitchen.

Long ago grandma memorized the ingredients, the quantities, and the feel of the dough when it had reached the right consistency.  I asked for the recipe and was told there was no written recipe.  It was all in grandma's head.  Her mum had taught her in the old country.  Repetition, experience, and experimentation were the recipe.

The kitchen table was covered with a cloth.  The dough had been prepared earlier so it could rest.  Our job that afternoon was to stretch the dough across the table brush it with butter and sugar, pop the apple slices on and roll that sucker up.  Grandma went round and round the table stretching the dough over her closed fists, gently encouraging it to stretch just a bit further.  She showed me how to hold my hands and invited me to try.


I tried a few tentative stretches, sliding my hands under the dough and allowing it to roll over the top of my fists.  There was no pulling or tugging.  The secret was to help the dough stretch itself.  When your fists were in the right position, the weight of the dough as it hung was enough to stretch it just a bit further.  It was a slow process which we repeated over and over, following each other around the table.


I was worried about tearing the dough, but grandma wasn't. She knew the dough was springy and resilient, and she wasn't afraid of tears.  Grandma had the advantage of experience and she knew a few small tears weren't a problem.  We stretched and stretched and stretched.  Round and round the table we went, chatting as we worked.  Slowly, the dough grew until it covered the whole table.  It had become so thin you could see through it.


I never imagined dough could be that thin and transparent, yet still strong enough to hold the fillings inside. By experimenting with the dough, I learnt about the resiliency of it and the possibilities it offered.  I learned that a few tears didn't mean disaster.  As an adult, I am reminded that my imagination needs stretching too.  Sometimes it doesn't work at all and other times it is in overdrive with catastrophes abounding.   We get so busy doing life day by day we don't stop to intentionally imagine or stretch our imaginations and experiment with the possibilities.  Yet we are really quick to say "not by any stretch of the imagination."

You have probably heard and possibly used that phrase recently.  But have you thought about it? That statement means there is no possibility within your imagination of something occurring.  It's a definitive, closed statement.  It doesn't acknowledge the power of our imagination.  Part of having an imagination is figuring out possibilities. What possibilities or experiments are sitting on your imagination shelf waiting for you to get the courage to take them down and patiently stretch them out like the strudel dough?   Put your possibilities on the table, stop hiding them behind a closed mind. Invite others in to help, and start stretching your imagination.  Repeat, experience, and experiment that's the recipe for stretching your imagination.


  1. I wonder if this grandma is grandma Vriend, because the dough you describe is different from the Dutch specialy 'appeltaart'. It sounds like a German grandma to me. What a wonderful procedure, and I think you keep your imagination always growing by finding a new subject for your blog every week!


Post a Comment