Christstollen has been a feature in Dresden since 1530. According to various legends it was originally called Striezel and eaten during the weeks of fasting before Christmas and was made of only flour, yeast and water. Stollen has far more ingredients including butter, sugar, raisins, almonds, rum, lemon and orange pieces and special spices, but no eggs. Famous bakeries keep their recipes secret. I remember a woman who grew up in Dresden before WW II telling me how families would make an appointment with their neighborhood bakery for their Stollen to be baked in a 'real' bakery oven, properly and according to tradition. Lore has it that Stollen is supposed to represent the Christ child carefully wrapped up in white cloth. Thus, it is covered in a thick layer of confectioners' sugar. This absolute staple of Christmas in Germany (and a source of income for small businesses in the east that export it) made it onto the evening news here last week. The ticker on the bottom signalled that Stollen was now coming under scrutiny in the US because that thick white powdered sugar could be replaced with anthrax.
Of all the stories of the last few weeks why does this one strike me as particularly absurd? It is not because I live far away from any anthrax scare. I grew up in Brooklyn and my sister, who still lives there, was working for Associated Press in Rockerfeller Center when anthrax further added to the immense distress of every New Yorker immediately following 9/11. I remember sitting here feeling almost delirious at the thought of what could happen with that substance on the subways, for example. Yet the mere idea that basically Mom and Pop businesses in the area around Dresden could even conceive of the idea of misusing such a long held tradition is so far-fetched and off-the-wall that it has left me almost laughing at the thought.
I refuse to take part in this game, or so I told myself. I had a package to send out to a close friend in the US and instead of looking up what the new laws are, I decided to take out whatever I thought might look suspicious and so sent only half of what I had intended to. Of course, one could find a reason to take out almost everything. Were it not for the cost of air delivery, I could have sent everything and tested to see just what would pass the test these days. Whatever (I said to myself) along with the thought that this too shall pass.