What it is and What it isn’t
Upon re-reading of main title, I would like to clarify that this post is not about observing someone travel out of the room due to a meal of alien origin. Although, this has certainly happened to me either “vicariously” or in first person. No, this is about a yearning to travel somewhere when you are stuck at home (sitting in front of your computer, rain outside the window) reminiscing about where you have been and where you would like to be. This swivel chair traveling usually consists of glossy magazines and or Pinterest travel shots–which are frankly better than I remember it anyway. But, as it is November in the USA with Thanksgiving feasting just around the corner, my reminiscing has turned to food.
The Culinary Delights of Scandinavia (This is not an oxymoron)
The holidays, also, make us nostalgic for people we are missing. This includes my sweet father-in-law, Conrad Jacobsen. First, you should know, he is the son of Norwegian immigrants. This connection resulted in an epic trip to Norway and Sweden to meet the surviving relatives and tromp through streets of the motherland glimpsing ghosts of his family’s past. And of course, we had to eat. It seems that Norwegians like other ethnic food to their own (bakeries are an exception) and as such we struggled to eat “Norwegian” cuisine outside of the homes of relatives. But when we were lucky enough to eat with some long-nearly-lost Jacobsens, we ate simply, but exceptionally well. Open-faced sandwiches (smørbrød) were the most popular, anything seafood was fresh and wonderful. Oh, and, cucumbers and potatoes are a big thing everywhere. Baked goods are another category–they like to make them into shapes, secretly disguising that they are the same thing over and over. Doesn’t matter, all baked goods in Norway are awesome.
Some version of this open-faced shrimp salad sandwich was everywhere.
Shrimp Salad Sandwich (Rekesalat)
1 cup – cooked and shelled salad Shrimp
3 tsp – fresh chopped Dill
2 Tbsp – Sour Cream (Mayo is ok, too, but my family prefers the sour cream option)
salt and pepper to taste
(Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.)
One-thinly sliced Cucumber
Sliced hearty Bread – Jacobsens like Dark Rye
Line one slice of bread with cucumber slices; spread small heap of shrimp salad on top of cucumbers.
Serve with lemon wedges or do a pre-squeeze on top of shrimp salad. (3 main servings or many if bread is small appetizer size)
Olga Cooks for her Family of Five
The following are special recipes, as they come from my father-in-law’s mother, Olga Rodseth Jacobsen. Her family immigrated from Norway, ultimately living in the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard where they ran a small boarding house. It would be wonderful to wax poetic about all of her recipes for their brilliant epicurean quality. In fact, when I first received and made the precious family recipes as a young wife, I had my misgivings. Thoughts like “just think, you could have married an Italian” filled my head. But then there was the response of my father-in-law when I made the fruktsuppe, and the appreciation of Uncle Kurt when I made the Jule Bro and the delight of Auntie Elaine after a particularly trying bout with Rosette cookies (think cookies fried in smoking lard). Olga made straightforward old-country food that kept her family of five healthy. Here are some of our favorites.
Fruktsuppe (not a swear word) Scandinavian Fruit Soup
Soak for 2-3 hours:
1/2 cup-Pearl Tapioca
1 1/2 Qt.-Water
Juice of 1 Lemon
Boil for 30 minutes, then add:
1/2 cup-dried Prunes or Apricots
1/2 cup-diced Apples
1 cup-Grape Juice
Simmer for 30 minutes, then serve hot or chilled in small cups.
*Please note, Olga served this at the beginning of the meal, not as a dessert. This soup could be served as a dessert, however, when poured over ice cream or with a dollop of crème fraiche. We always have plenty leftover unless we halve the recipe. Therefore, since it keeps for awhile, use it as a topping for oatmeal or cream of wheat at breakfast; combine with an apple filling for pie or tart; and or add to plain yogurt and muesli. It is full of vitamins from the fruit.
Farmor’s Norwegian Meatballs
(You may want to halve this recipe as it makes 9 dozen meatballs.)
Mix together in really big bowl with wooden spoon:
2 lbs.-ground Beef
1 lb.-ground Pork or mild Pork Sausage
Add with electric mixer:
3-Eggs, slightly beaten
3 cups-mashed Potatoes (can be made with potato buds)
Chill for a bit (you and meat mixture). Then form into 1 1/2″ diameter balls.
Melt in large, heavy duty skillet:
Brown meatballs on all sides 9 (maybe Medium heat depending on your burner). Set meatballs aside as they finish browning in large saucepan.
When finished with the browning process, use the same pan with drippings to make the gravy.
For Gravy add/mix together in pan while scraping up pan drippings:
1/2 cup-minced Onion
Water by half cups
. . . until you reach desired thickness. Combine gravy and meatballs in the larger of the two pans; cover and simmer for about 1 hour. Serve with your favorite potatoes and cucumber salad.
*In case any of the Jacobsen cousins are reading this, the recipe was copied down by Olga, originating from her mother-in-law Anna Kirstine Knudsen Jacobsen, then to Auntie Elaine Jacobsen Whinihan, and ultimately to me.