Have you ever dreamed of being a tall blond Swede?
I may not be able to morph you into the statuesque physique of a Swede or cause you to instantly have blond hair and blue eyes, but I know how you can feel like part of the Northern clan.
You can be a Swede, Dane, Finn or Norwegian this weekend, thanks to the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation. The foundation is hosting the 22nd annual ScanFair Saturday and Sunday at Portland State University. ScanFair is a smorgasbord of sights, sounds, tastes and traditions associated with a Scandinavian Christmas.
My grandfather 'Iver' Iverson was proud of his Norwegian heritage and happy to share the culture with his grandchildren. When we were little children, he would sing folk songs to us as he twirled around the room, attempting to teach us Norwegian folk dances. Part of his family still resides on the family homestead in Norway, a place my brothers and I visited years ago. The colorful costumes, music and dancing and the traditional foods are enchanting to me. For many years, Christmas Eve dinner was ludefisk (lye-soaked cod) and lefse (potato flatbread), until Grandpa got up the courage to tell my mother he really wasn't fond of ludefisk. It seemed that wasn't her favorite part of the celebration either, so we allowed that tradition to be replaced.
Mike O'Bryant, executive director of the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation, tells me there are two special events at ScanFair I don't want to miss: the Pickled Herring Eating Contest on Saturday at noon and the Traditional Crowning of Lucia Queen of Light on Sunday at 1 p.m.
There will be much more than that to experience. You will find Scandinavian foods and items at ScanFair that you won't find anywhere else. You can sample lefse, Swedish pea soup, Danish aebelskiver, Swedish meatballs and longonberries, pickled herring and flat bread, fruit soup, cardomon bread, little sweet Scandinavian pancakes and Varm Kor - Swedish hot dogs - for those wishing to eat something a little more 'American.'
Lake Oswegan Eila Chrisholm will be among the vendors, selling her imported handcrafted knives. She told me I would find a wide variety of Scandinavian crafts and gifts to purchase, including Rosemaling designs painted on furniture and furnishings, plates and bowls, photographs, hardanger (Norwegian cut-work embroidery) and porcelain dolls in traditional Scandinavian costumes.
You can also purchase books, trace your family's Scandinavian roots and check out the foundation's language schools.
There are two stages packed with music and dance performances both days. Wilho Saari will play the kantele, the Finnish national instrument. Saturday night you can learn traditional folk dances at the ScanFair Dance. It begins at 7:30 p.m. with a lesson for beginner dancers and ends at 11 p.m.
From the SHF Web site www.scanheritage.org, I learned the group was offering a Swedish Christmas Cookie class and I was just in time to add my name to the class list. Taught by Kathy Fant, a Swede from LaCenter, Wash., the demonstration class drew a crowd of about 25 men and women, including two other Lake Oswego women, Mary Burgess and her mother Merle Burgess.
Aside from lefse and gingerbread people, my mother didn't include other Scandinavian foods in her holiday menus. I asked classmates what Scandinavian treats they made for the holidays and learned that cardamom bread and aebelskivers were very popular holiday traditions.
Kathy led us through preparations for three cookies, Mormor's Syltkakor (Grand-mother's Jelly Cookies), Berliner Kranser, a wreath-shaped cookie and Honungsbatar (Swedish Boats). Kathy is an expert cookie baker: She bakes more than 5,000 cookies each year. She needs three ovens to keep up with the demand and though she says she doesn't bake every day, I bet she bakes at least a small batch of cookies each week.
Kathy offered a few tips for perfecting your cookie baking. First, for softer cookies, take the cookies out of the oven before you think they are brown enough; second, let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for five minutes before removing them to a wire rack. Third, store them in airtight containers when they are completely cooled.
The following cookie recipe was my favorite of the cookies Kathy demonstrated for the class. It is an elegant cookie, but simple and quick to make, so even if you don't look Swedish, you can bake like one!
Lake Oswego High School physics teacher Tom Smith (a.k.a my younger brother) spent his junior year of high school as an exchange student in Norway. While there he became rather proficient with the language as well as with cross country skies and ice skates. He shares these phrases with us:
Vær så God - An invitation to eat, translates roughly to 'Eat so good.'
Tok for Maten - 'Thanks for dinner.'
God Jul - 'Good Yule!'
Bon Appetit - Eat Locally!
Makes about 2 ½ dozen
Kathy is a big proponent in using plastic gloves when she bakes. Use only food service quality gloves, nothing with talcum powder.
These honey-flavored cookies can be made in tart pans or in a jelly roll pan and then cut into the boat shape. Either way they are wonderful!
1 cup softened butter
½ cup unbleached flour, all purpose
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Using plastic gloves, mix by hand in a medium mixing bowl to form soft dough. Roll out to a 1/8 inch thick on parchment paper, or press 1 inch balls of dough into small rectangular tart pans. Press dough until about 1/8 inch thick, trimming off excess at top of form. Place filled forms on cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
1 ¼ cups chopped sliced almonds
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup honey
3 Tablespoons melted butter
¾ cup whipping cream
Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. When melted, add remaining ingredients. Do not boil. Filling will be thin. Use a gravy ladle to spoon filling into partially baked cookies. Bake 10 more minutes until lightly brown around edges.
Cool slightly before cutting into diamond shapes or removing from forms.
ScanFair is open Saturday, Dec. 2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 3 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The ScanFair Dance will be held Saturday from 7:30 to 11 p.m. The festivities will be held on the third floor of PSU's Smith Memorial Center, 1825 S.W. Broadway in downtown Portland. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, $3 for children ages 6 to 12, 5 and under are free.
Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached by phone at 503-635-8811 or by e-mail at brandalllakeoswegoreview.com.