Monday, December 16, 2019

Holiday Traditions

My traditions all revolve around Scandinavian foods. I was adopted and raised by a Swedish/Norwegian Mom (and after her death, a Norwegian StepMom). I strongly relate to Luther League, lutefisk (as a science experience), and the art of Norwegian seduction (yah, you have some nice snow tires, you betcha). I am also married to a Swedish/German husband.

I have also received the Christmas instruction in the art of making food that can be classified by the FDA as a sedative. Like lefse, an unleavened flatbread made 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 pm Christmas day with thin sliced Danish ham and cheeses.

But most of Mom's Scandinavian Christmas dishes were of the cookie/dessert variety, mostly made at 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.

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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, 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.

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 of 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 during the Christmas season are my way of regrouping after 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. While they were alive I always spent at least one vacation week a year out West at my parents. There, I'd just give Mom, and after her death, 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.
This year there will just be some snacks for any friends that stop by including my Mom's recipe for hot onion and cheese dip which everyone asks for the recipe for.

2 cups chopped sweet onion
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 teaspoon Paprika
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (I like Heavy Metal Heat from the Scoville Brothers)
1 cup mayo (do NOT use non-fat).
dash of cracked black pepper

Mix and top with 1/2 cup grated fresh parmesan and a dash more of paprika.
Bake at 350 F. for 30 minutes until bubbling around the edges.

Serve with crackers, Swedish flatbread, or lefse.

Then there will be a large Christmas dinner that my husband will help me prepare - a large roast with sides of fruit and walnut salad, coleslaw with cinnamon, potato gratin, green beans, yeast rolls, lingonberry preserves and cookies for dessert.  It's a Scandinavian meal that will bring back memories of days when we had a family dinner table meal every night except the Saturday barbecue night. 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 beef and fresh vegetables, 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 have that, treasure every moment.
The Johnson Family


  1. A most delicious and lovely post. I copied the cheese and onion dip and can't wait to try it.

  2. We have never seen Scandinavian food. It looks yummy.

  3. And what time should we plan to arrive for dinner? Sounds really delicious:)

    Woos - Lightning, Misty, and Timber

  4. oh we will try the onion and cheese dip, that sounds super tasty!

  5. I'm with the OP Pack ... what time is the serving happening ... shall we bring anything?

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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