Today my favorite radio program comes on at three and I can listen to old jazz for three hours. I will probably spend those three hours finishing my painting of a very scary rooster, much larger than lifesize while my pot roast fills the house with its scent. At one I will start the pot roast we are fixing for dinner. Food and painting seem to be our primary focus along with reading these days. We are spending more time communicating via email with friends to be sure that they are all still healthy. As of Friday we have 92 cases on the island with 42 of them in the long term care facility where my friend lives.
I don’t mind the isolation at all. I am actually enjoying my time at home with my husband and my dachshund. We are doing more cooking together ( including the dog who is always underfoot when we are in the kitchen) and working on creating interesting menus from the freezer and the larder (it’s not called a larder because you lose weight). The house is cleaner these days too.
My husband has started seeds yesterday in the greenhouse and cleaned out all the hydroponic beds in preparation for planting. We pulled out all the groceries that have wintered over, so have a bushel of kale, chard, and green onions to use up before they go bad. I am making ribollita (a Tuscany soup) later in the week which will use a chunk of the kale. I didn’t have the canned cannellini beans for it so cooked up some to be ready. We have canned tomatoes in the root cellar and lots of garlic. I will use lonzino instead of proscuitto which I don’t have on hand. Should be ready for that.
This morning for Sunday breakfast, I made aebleskivers (apelskivers), a Swedish pastry/sweet bread ball. My favorite recipe is with buttermilk. You must have an aebleskiver pan to make them. We eat these with jam, berry syrup or maple syrup. Some folks sprinkle them with powdered sugar, but we do not. Too messy that way. I recently saw a recipe where someone fried meatballs in their aebleskiver pan. WHAT A DESECRATION! You would never be able to use it for its intended purpose again.
While I was waiting for my husband to beat the egg whites for the recipe, I was looking though the cookbook I was using, Notes from a Scandinavian Kitchen, but Morry and Florence Ekstrand (1980)which is still available through Amazon. I AM 3/8th Swedish, 1/8th Danish. When I was growing up we had occasional Scandinavian meals, Svenska kottbollur (Swedish meatballs), rullepolse (a rolled meat stuffed), Swedish rye bread, Nana’s cardamom buns (similar to hot cross buns) and, when Nana visited, Swedish coffee. There were a few other things as well, but these were the memorable ones. I make the hardtack recipe from this book and we are just about out, so that will be a project for next week.
While I was reading this lovely little cookbook, I was gaining some inspiration for later in this incarceration, oops, isolation. Morry and Florence included many interesting thoughts and vignettes from their earlier lives. Some of it a history of living in Scandinavian communities in America, most of which are very entertaining and great reading while the aebleskivers are cooking in their special pan.
I am always amazed at the diverse ingredients that were available in Scandinavia. I have to remember that the Vikings traveled and pillaged far and wide and many of the spices and herbs from the eastern Mediterranean were available to them, cinnamon, allspice, clove, ginger and much more, many of which are seen in a vast number of recipes, both sweet and savory.
The more common ingredients are prepared in very diverse ways to make them less boring and more palatable. The potato is used mashed, boiled, fried in pancakes, leftovers in dumplings, lefse, some hardtack, and a number of desserts. Soured milk or buttermilk is a standard household item and one that I purchase in half gallons or make my own from the last jug, like making yogurt. Dairy products were readily available as almost every rural homestead had a milkcow. Cream and butter figure heavily in the diet as does sugar. I could never understand the use of sugar in meat dishes like meatballs. I guess in a cold climate you are starved for calories.
The gathering meal that was popular in America when I was growing up was the smorgasbord. Seattle had the famous King Oskars on old Highway 99. We ate there occasionally. I can remember all the wonderful dishes to choose from. I still seek out good pickled herring. I even taught my husband to love it, to my chagrin. I went to Ballard (the Scandinavian enclave in Seattle) and purchased a two quart container of wonderful pickled herring. My husband turned up his nose and thought about gagging. I said, “How do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t tried it. Try it, you’ll like it.” He tried it and conceded it was pretty good. When I came home from work the next day and he was fixing dinner, I decided I would like a few pieces as an appetizer. The container was half empty. Boy, did he have a Swedish lunch, herring and hardtack. Now we can hardly keep it in stock. We eat it too fast. I which I could make it, but alas, I would have to catch my own herring!
Morry and Florence discuss the smorgasbord in their book. It would be similar to the modern potluck, but with a lot more small dishes of pickles and salads, meatballs, smoked, pickled, and cream herring, jellied eel, poached, smoked, and graavlox salmon, potato sausages, lefsa, hardtack, limpa (rye bread with anise and orange peel) and much more. One restaurant in Stockholm was noted for having over sixty dishes excluding the dessert table. If you find a copy of their book, these are just a sample of the cold dishes; there are hot dishes and more.
Of course, if it is a celebration and winter, glog or if warmer weather, aquavit kept very cold. Swedish coffee has several manifestations, some use the white of the egg in the mix, while others just throw the shells in with the grounds. My nana’s generation held a large sugar cube between the lower lip and the teeth and sucked the black coffee, very strong, through the cube. Later in life many had cavities in the bottom front teeth or they were missing altogether.
If this didn’t make you hungry, then perhaps you can go to a restaurant that is doing deliveries from their door to their parking lot or home deliveries, but I wouldn’t take a chance at that. My nurse friends tell me, “Assume everyone you meet has the virus.” If that is the case, I wouldn’t want them to prepare my meal. Besides, I am a better cook than they are.