This is a blog about the stories food tells
I spent my childhood on a small island in Northern Norway. My mother was a housewife cooking food from scratch. She grew up at a time when young girls went to school to learn the ”science” of being a good housewife, as her aunt did before her. I grew up with a mother who made delicious cakes like success tart, black pudding and comforting soups for the family.
Sweetened by the cold and bright summer
Next to our house was our very own potato and strawberry fields. Beautiful strawberries made extra sweet by the ever bright Northern summer. Bold and flavourful potatoes named Gold eye because of their yellow skin and ”eyes”. In one corner of the garden tall green stalks looked like weed, but was the finest rhubarb, the hardy plant which thrives in the rather cold North Norwegian summer. Other edible treasures in our garden were redcurrants and blackcurrants, they were sour and perfect. But the most important berries were wild.
Jewel of the Arctic
From the forest and mires, just a short walk from our house, we foraged blueberries, lingonberries and – the jewel of the Arctic – cloudberries. Cloudberries with whipped cream was the Christmas dessert. Wild berries were in abundance, so was fish. Our food was rustic and mostly based on fish, milk products and potatoes. As my mother said: ”Dinner is not dinner without potatoes”. My father was captain on a fishing boat and cod, halibut, coalfish and herring were staples at our table. Salads were rare and mostly meant iceberg lettuce. Greens meant carrots. Milk products were present at most meals and I grew up eating porridge almost every day.
Homebaked for the guest
If you came as a guest to our house, my mother would always offer you coffee and something homebaked. Even if you were just visiting us for 10 minutes. My mother took great pride in baking the cakes herself, and this tradition of baking is taken to its height on festive occasions such as confirmation and weddings. There is a picture of me from the time of my confirmation where I sit next to a table. If you look beyond the plastic earrings, the shoulder pillows and pastel colors, what is amazing are all the cakes. Big cakes, as we call them. The table is laden with 10 to 15 cakes which could match any French patisserie, not in meticulous decoration but in flavour. This has taught me two lessons. Cakes should be homebaked. And they should, at least on special occasions, be plentiful. I call this cake generousity, and it is a value I want to hold on to.
My mother inherited her aunt’s old and faded recipe book with its handwritten recipes from 1938. My mother is only a memory today, and so is my aunt. But the old recipe book is still there and now mine. The pages are faded, but as long as I cook, the memories will live on and continue to bring love around the kitchen table. Welcome to my Nordic Diner. Or as we would say Up North: Velkommen – og spis! (Welcome and eat!)
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