Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Scandanavian Christmas

Today - we're putting healthy eating aside to start making those treats which we will share with friends and family this Christmas.  A smoothie for lunch and a light dinner may offset a few of the calories, but this is a day of not just baking, but of tradition, and the sharing of love.

I'm mostly Scot (not Irish as originally thought, which I only found out this year with the unsealing of my original birth certificate). But I was adopted and raised  by a Swedish/Norwegian Mom (and after her death, a Norwegian StepMom).  Therefore, I strongly relate to Luther League, lutefisk (as a science experiment), the art of Norwegian seduction (yah, you have some nice snow tires, you betcha) and I have been trained in the art of making food that can be classified by the FDA as a sedative.

Like lefse, unleavened flatbread make out of mashed potatoes, cream and flour and cooked on a griddle. I eat mine a common way, adding butter to the lefse and rolling it up (lefse-klenning in the mother tongue). Other options include adding cinnamon, or spreading jelly or lingonberries upon it. We'd also eat it for lunch with thin sliced Danish ham and cheeses throughout the holiday season.

But most of Mom's Scandinavian Christmas dishes were of the cookie/dessert variety, mostly made in the weekends prior to Christmas. One of those is Krumkaka which consists of a light sweet batter which is poured onto a hot mold and then quickly cooked and rolled into a cone shape while it is still warm. It's often served filled with real whipped cream, or just munched plain, while crisp, buttery and warm. (Note: photo was cropped to remove evidence of crime scene tape).

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Then there are the Rosettes. Also a batter in which a hot iron mold attached to a handle is dipped and the results deep fried and dusted with sugar. The cookie is light and delicate, almost like puff pastry, if done right. It looks easy. It is not. I've had many slip off the iron into the hot oil because the batter is too thin or the wrong temperature, only to resemble floating, fried .40 casings, and others that looked OK maybe, but would have ripped the dentures out of great grandma with their shriveled chewiness.
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But sometimes you get it right. Light, crunchy, fried perfection with just a hint of Cardamom.

Then there was fattigman, known as the "poor man's cookie", though our version was dressed up with a tablespoon of brandy to add to the heavy whipping cream, flour and butter. Like all of these recipes, it did require a special tool, one that is passed down from mother to daughter.

She'd make a dozen different cookies, which also included thin Swedish gingerbread moose, light and fluffy meringue cookies, thumbprint cookies with lingonberry filling, butter cookies, candy cane cookies, fudge, and my favorite as a child, a vanilla and chocolate pinwheel cookie that is consumed in 1/ 16th the time it takes to make them.

All the recipes seemed to call for lots and lots of flour. Why? Probably because my family could go through these cookies like locust on a summer day. Hours of work gone in minutes. I never knew how much energy, how much time, effort and love Mom and Grandma wrapped up in all those holiday treats until I tried to make them myself to share with coworkers and friends.  Only then did I truly appreciate the love that went into them.

These quiet times in the kitchen are my way of regrouping after a a long day or a long road trip. It's a time, wherein the faith I have, that can take a beating during the work week, is repaired, threads of hope and strength woven back into the areas that feel tattered as the leaves clinging stubbornly to the trees outside my window.

I love to cook for my friends and family. I've always spent at least two vacation weeks a year out West at my parents. There, I'd just give Mom, or later my Stepmom, a vacation herself and cook them three big meals a day, clean the house and do some light outdoor chores and keep them company while they got to put their feet up. Not much of a "vacation" for me, rest wise, but I loved how it made my parents smile and how good it was to hear them laugh.  Now I go out and visit Dad, the home nurse still helping with his personal care, but spending lots of time in the kitchen I grew up in, as even at 95, Dad loves home-crafted meals and Mom's cookie recipes as my husband keeps his home of 60 years in good repair.

I'll not go home to see him this Christmas. My Dad wants to be alone with his memories, not celebrating the holidays since my brother died, a blow after losing one other child and two beloved wives.  I understand.  There will be another time in a few short weeks where I can cook and entertain and spend time with him. So this Christmas, as I cook for my husband and friends, it will bring back memories of days when we had a family dinner table meal. Other than Friday TV night and barbecue night, all meals were eaten at that table, as a family with Mom and Dad and my brother.   I can't recall so much of what we talked about or exactly what each meal was, memory being not just selective but discriminating, in the end only as reliable as we are.

The dates and times and actual meals themselves are insignificant, but I remember the gathering, the smells of Mom's cooking, of laughter, of stories from school, from work, a discarding of weighty thought and the simple gathering of those you love, for nourishment of the soul. I can't recreate that through what I cook, or who I serve it to, but I still can remember how those simple meals made me feel, the redemptive power of the communion of family.

For those of you who still have that, treasure every moment.

And save a pinwheel cookie for me.

1 comment:

  1. You made love and tradition. No calories in that!



Thanks for visiting. Having been fortunate enough not to have to diet as a young woman - hitting middle age to find my Metabolism moved to Aruba and didn't even send a postcard was a rude awakening. Thanks for sharing the fun and the pain of getting back in shape. Note: If you are a stranger and include a link in your comment - it will not be posted, to ensure no SPAM or viruses are shared. Any link I post is tested first.