International Week, Day One: Scandinavia

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I thought it might be fun to do something different this week.  Each day will feature a cookbook or two of the cuisine from a different country around the world, or maybe a famous chef from a foreign land.   Since I love Scandinavian cooking and my husband is a Finn, why not start there? 
 I have enjoyed  the Cooking Scandinavian book for over thirty years.  I bought it for 25 cents at a garage sale.  Published in 1963, the book is just as much story as it is recipes; and delightful stories they are.  As young women on a culinary adventure, Shirley Sarvis and Barbara Scott O’Neil spent a summer sampling their way through the kitchens of the best home cooks of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.  In each town  visited, they managed to track down the local prize cooks who came from all walks of life. They would find their prize cooks in many ways.  They once trailed a woman in a bustling open-air market as she picked out food for her family.  Another time they saw a “well-fed looking husband” and assumed his wife must be a great cook.  Once on a ferry boat they selected someone simply because she “looked like a good cook.”  This sounds more like it could be a cooking reality show with amusing consequences!  But in the end, the women learned that Scandinavians love to eat – and eat well.  A good recipe lasts through many generations. For Scandinavians, the pursuit of good food absorbs a lot of their attention and energy, which they happily offered to these women on a mission.  The book contains the best of home cooking with breads, jams, cakes, soups, potatoes, fish, eggs, and endless recipes from smorgasbords.
I just found Cooking the Scandinavian Way recently at a book sale.  Whenever I go to book sales, it’s the older, worn out, and well-loved ones that I go for first.  The author of this book expressed the same sentiments as the young women, that Scandinavians take the pleasures of eating very seriously.  There is nothing they enjoy more than the gathering together of friends and family for a festive meal, with all the traditional customs.  Scandinavians are very progressive, but when it comes to eating, they enjoy ritualistic traditions such as celebrating Easter Eve with a smorgasbord and boiled eggs; buns with almond cream and milk are enjoyed on each Tuesday during Lent; and the Lucia festival on December 13th has families enjoying Lucia buns and coffee.  My Finnish husband still has to eat a herring  on New Year’s Eve, which is supposed to bring good luck in the new year. 
Our two daughters lived in Helsinki for a time, and while there, traveled throughout Scandinavia.  They learned so much about the customs and food, many of which are written in these two lovely cookbooks.  Their favorite meal was Karelian pies with egg butter, but they were not included in either of these cookbooks.  I’ll just have to keep my eyes open for some more wonderful Scandinavian books at the next book sale.
Kara and Kristina in the fijords of Norway.

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