Saturday, May 21, 2011

Norwegian Pride, Swedish Food, and Norse Mythology

Norwegians celebrated Syttende Mai ["May 17th," Norway's Constitution Day] a few days ago (remember?), but our local Sons of Norway lodge waited until today for its annual Syttende Mai party so that we could take advantage of a weekend day to have a potluck picnic and play some outdoor games.  As Youth Director for our lodge, I was trying to figure out what I could do with the kids that would be Norwegian and fun.

I learned that Norwegians typically precede Syttende Mai with a community-wide dugnad ["volunteering"], tidying up the neighborhood before the big celebrations for Constitution Day--so I proposed the idea to the girls, who were "into" the idea of picking up garbage.  A Syttende Mai celebration usually features a barnetog ["children's parade"], and the girls were willing to do their best to put on a three-person parade; they have miniature Norwegian flags that they could wave, and they proposed wearing bathrobes instead of bunads [literally "costumes," but really they're traditional forms of dress that correspond to distinct regions in Norway; see this].

None of that came to pass, though, because the picnic was canceled on account of rain.  A continuation of days and days and days of rain, as a matter of fact.  The lodge president phoned this morning and said that we'll just have to make our Sankthansaften ["St. John's Eve," a Midsummer's Eve celebration; see this] picnic next month all the grander to make up for it.

But we made today a very Scandinavian-themed day anyway.  This is what we did:

One main event was the preparation of our weekly Scandinavian Saturday supper.  At long last, Susan took her turn as my helper (which has been delayed for over a month for various reasons each weekend), so I wisely suggested recipes that would take advantage of her culinary expertise . . . and she ended up making two of the three dishes!  (These recipes come from chef Marcus Samuelsson, who is Swedish . . . not a perfect match for Norwegian Constitution Day, but delicious food nevertheless.)

Scrumptious!  (Remember, you can click the pics for better viewing of the food.)

Susan made the majssoppa med rökt lax ["corn soup with smoked salmon"], a combination of baked potato, corn, canola oil, shallots, garlic, chicken stock, sour cream, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper puréed and then topped with peppercorn smoked salmon, chopped fresh cilantro, and tarragon.  The natural sweetness of the corn was a surprising element in an otherwise savory soup.  It had a thick, smooth consistency and wonderful flavors from the herbs and the fish.  Wonderful!

On the right of the plate is a slice of getost och kronärtskocka tårta ["goat cheese and artichoke tart"], which Susan made because it required a homemade crust, and I'm still a bit intimidated by the prospect of making pastry.  It gave us (her) a chance to use my new Scandinavian tart pan (remember?), too.  The crust consisted of flour, salt, butter, water, and chopped fresh thyme.  The toppings included olive oil, artichoke hearts, garlic cloves, balsamic vinegar, sun-dried tomatoes, anchovy fillets, kalamata and niçoise olives, fresh thyme, baked potatoes, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, herbed goat cheese, and grated Jarlsberg and Gruyère cheeses.  Chef Samuelsson writes that his recipe is "inspired by" his "love of Mediterranean flavors," and I can see that.  The flavors were bold, distinctive, and utterly delicious.

On the left of the plate is my contribution to the meal: Scandinavian skaldjurssallad ["seafood salad"], served in two scoops atop a bed of mixed greens.  It's a combination of baked potatoes, chopped shrimp, smoked salmon, crab meat, hard-boiled eggs, shallots, anchovy fillets, chopped fresh cilantro, and chopped scallion greens tossed in a dressing of freshly squeezed lime juice, mayonnaise, sour cream, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper.  The lime juice gave the dressing a light zing that worked well with the creaminess and with the seafood flavors and the pungent shallots and scallions.  All together, the three recipes made a great combination.

After supper dishes were cleaned up, we surprised the girls with a trip to the movie theater to see Thor.  They had an inkling what we were up to when, earlier in the day, Susan had brought the girls to the library (at the high school where she works) to select books on Norse mythology, in which I then had the girls find information on the god Thor to read aloud to us at the supper table.  (Once an English teacher, always an English teacher.)  The movie is based on the comic books, which are based on the Nordic myths . . . but I don't know enough about either the comics or the mythology to judge how accurately the movie depicted either.  I just know that we enjoyed the movie.  The action happened more in Asgard (the realm of the Norse gods) than on Earth, and the special effects showed an impressively realized world of advanced technology and magical powers.  And Suzanna called Chris Hemsworth, the actor portraying Thor, "hot," so there's that.

1 comment:

  1. I have seen previews for the movie and thought that it looked rather good. And I saw that Suzanna was impressed by the actor playing the part of Thor. She mentioned it on FaceBook! She's obviously growing up! ;-)
    The food looked scrumptious!