Saturday, March 23, 2013

Norwegian Heritage Day

Leif Erikson Hall, $4

Although the programming at the annual Norwegian Heritage Day at Seattle's Leif Erikson Hall focused on parades, prizes, dances, and speeches, it was sometimes be hard to hear what was happening over the sounds of crispbreads being crunched, lutefisk being sampled, and spoons scraping the bottom of bowls. 

Visitors to the upstairs lunch buffet could cap off a light meal of soup and open-faced sandwiches with one of the most stupefying desserts ever created.  Rømmegrøt is literally "sour cream porridge," a soup of sour cream, whole milk, and butter thickened with flour, seasoned with salt, and dressed for the table with melted butter, sugar, and cinnamon.  It's an historic and traditional Norwegian dish, eat both as a meal in itself, and as a special occasion dessert.  

I could barely keep my eyes open after finishing my bowl, an one woman I spoke with suggested that might have been part of the point.  During Norway's short but glorious summers it was common practice to send young people out to country to keep an eye on the grazing herds.  Back in their camps for the evening, a bowl of sleep-inducing rømmegrøt served as dessert might have helped to discourage the young people from engaging in any late-night hanky panky. 

At the Kaffestua downstairs, a busy team of volunteers offered made-to-order Norwegian treats.  Lacy krumkake wafers ($.50/each) were cooked in a special iron, then wrapped around conical wooden forms while still warm and pliable. 

Another specialty iron produced Norwegian waffles ($.50/section or $2/whole) with a distinctive heart shape.  

Over at the lefse station, rounds of dough were rolled out paper-thin, griddled until puffy and covered in brown patches, then covered in butter, sugar, and cinnamon and rolled into tubes for convenient snacking.  

The volunteer pictured made it look so easy that I imagined she must have been making lefse since infancy--but not so.  She explained that rolling out the dough was considered by her family to be such an important task, it was only entrusted to the most mature and responsible women.  Her own grandmother refused to teach her the secrets of the rolling pin until she was married with children of her own. 

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