Every family has it’s traditions and Christmas is a time when many of those traditions get put on display. In my wife’s family it is tradition to reuse boxes, bows and wrapping paper that were originally used by their mother. Cancer took my mother-in-law way too early, so “the girls” (her three daughters) make a point of reusing gift tags, paper and boxes from Christmas long past to remember their mother. A typical gift tag could have 10 years or more of crossed out “from/to” names, but on every tag the oldest “from” would say “MOM”. You can imagine some of the confusion (and fun) when a name from a previous year does not get crossed out and the gift goes to the wrong person, or a “Precious Moments” box ends up as a gift box to a teenage boy whose girlfriend is attending her first family Christmas.. It has gotten to the point now that sometimes a year gets added to the “from/to” names for clarity.
I also brought a couple of traditions into our household and Christmas time has it’s share. My father started his Christmas season with Santa Lucia Day (December 13) and carried the holiday to Twelfth Night on January 6. He took the “Festival of Light” seriously and put lights on the large evergreen on the front lawn and all over the house. In Norway the lights are always white, because the light from candles are always white, but dad used a lot of colored lights. My mother, who did much of the cooking, got tired of so much turkey and ham being served between Thanksgiving and the end of Christmas, so she was always on the lookout for other foods to serve and normally puts out a leg of lamb on Christmas. This year we had Christmas Day at our house so we changed it up again and my wife and I made smørbrød (Traditional open-faced sandwiches) and Rice Pudding (similar to risengrynsgrøt, but with eggs in place of heavy cream).
In the early days of making smørbrød we would put a little meat and cheese on a slice of bread and call it a meal. That was until we started making regular trips to Norway to visit family and friends. Norwegian (and Danish) smørbrød take their offerings to an art form, especially in the older generation.
Our first exposure to the Norsk style sandwiches was at a luncheon in our honor, put on by a long time family friend in Oslo. The sandwiches we ate were far more that meat unceremoniously slapped on some whole grain bread, these were fine pieces of art carefully constructed to please the eye as well as the mouth. Solveig clearly took a lot of pride in serving her creations, and each time we traveled to Norway, be it with good friends or new acquaintances we developed a new appreciation for the maker and a connection to craft. Soon we were hooked on “building a better smørbrød!”
This year my wife made rullepølse (beef roll) and a beet salad for our smørbrød. I tried my hand at making chicken aspic with white asparagus as a garnish and a good hardy bread. (Note: bread is an important element in smørbrød, and not easy to find. But that is a topic for a different entry.) We had the typical smoked salmon with eggs (both hard boiled and scrambled), goat cheese on apples and a few other combinations.
A lot of work goes into the smørbrød, but all things considered, smørbrød for Christmas was a success and of course we finished it off with the rice pudding and a slice of mince meat pie with brandy sauce (not Norwegian but I still love it). Later that evening we poured ourselves a little homemade gløgg (a spiced wine) and our Christmas day was complete.
I hope everyone had a great Christmas. We are looking forward to a great and fun New Year.