When Carol Swenson gets together with her close friends at Christmas, she will have a special treat for them. Not exactly out of this world, but pretty close to it.
She plans to prepare a Swedish soup and salad luncheon for her friends complete with Scandinavian-themed napkins and decoration to complete the festive holiday ambience. These are items that come all the way from Lindsborg, Kansas, at a specialty store called Hemslojd.
“That’s where I get all my Swedish things from. My mother was Swedish Methodist, so I have that one side of the family” that hails from that Scandinavian country, said Swenson, the retired former director of the now-defunct United Lutheran Preschool on Northgate Drive.
Her late husband, Curt, who was a counselor and math teacher at East Union High School, was of Swedish extraction, while Swenson’s family roots go back to Denmark. Their combined cultural background served as the backdrop of the family’s annual Christmas celebrations, especially when their children were young.
“Some of the customs I picked up from my husband’s Swedish family, and it was more of Scandinavian cooking,” Swenson said.
She remembers her husband’s family boiling meat all day to make broth to dip bread into as part of the Christmas gastronomical feast. The meat would be a combination pork and beef, plus “a particular type of sausage – potato sausage,” she said.
“There’s a meat market in Lodi that carries it,” Swenson said. But she also knows of a store in Turlock and in Berkeley that carry these meat products for this recipe.
“It tasted good, of course!” said Swenson laughing.
While most of the cooking of this recipe was done by her late husband’s family, “I’ve done it too,” she said.
But with her two sons now grown and married with their own newly established families, Swenson said she has not done that kind of Christmas cooking in a long while.
“We’ve done a Swedish dinner at my younger son’s home. One year, my daughter-in-law did a Swedish dinner with some of these things. My granddaughter dressed up as Lucia with a crown and candles, and white robe and red sash to add to the festivities. But that was a few years ago,” recalled Swenson.
Older son Paul, a computer analyst for Stanislaus County, lives in Oakdale with his family that includes two young kids ages 2 and 3. Son Eric, an engineer, has his own company in San Ramon and lives with his wife and two children in Danville.
While the family honored both the Swensons’ Danish and Swedish cultures, “We had more Swedish than Danish cooking. I’ve fixed some, and I’ve combined them because they are so similar,” Swenson said.
Since Norway and other Scandinavian countries were “all together at one time, they have very similar dishes and things,” she said.
Above are two recipes from Hemslojd in Lindsborg, Kansas, where Swenson orders her Swedish Christmas items. The store has an extensive collection of Scandinavian recipe books. These are two recipes that are available from their web site – www.hemslojd.com.
Norwegian Butter Cookies
From the Recipe Book: Lutheran Church Basement Women
¾ C butter
½ C sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 C flour
¾ C cornstarch
Melt butter and cool until lukewarm, add sugar and beat well. Add well beaten egg, vanilla and dry ingredients sifted together. Drop by spoonfuls 2 or 3 inches apart. Bake 16 to 18 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Norwegian Meat-filled Potato Cakes
From the Recipe Book: Norwegian Recipes
6 C cooled mashed potatoes
1 C flour
½ tsp salt
¼ lb finely cubed pork
Mix first 4 ingredients together. Roll out on a floured board. Cut in cakes ½” thick. Brown meat and onion in hot fat in a skillet. Place mixture on half of the cakes. Cover with other half. Press edges together. Boil 2 quarts salted water and drop in cakes. Boil 10-12 minutes.
— ROSE ALBANO RISSO
209 staff reporter