A strawberry fest renaissance

Take the lead from the traditions of Norwegian church communities and celebrate the sweetness of strawberries this summer

strawberry fest!

Photo: Thomas Wolf, www.foto-tw.de
Norwegians and Americans alike celebrate the arrival of sweet, juicy strawberries each year.

Victoria Hofmo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

South Brooklyn has a slew of churches founded by Norwegian émigrés. Some are Lutheran of course, but Baptist, Free Church, and Methodist denominations are also represented. In my many years visiting, working, and volunteering in these various churches, I have stumbled across photos, circa 1990s, of strawberry fests.

I had never attended one, so I began to ask about them. Naturally, these celebrations occurred in June when those delicate ruby bites of sweetness are at their peak. The strawberry desserts were in some cases accompanied by entertainment that lasted for hours—a type of talent show.

After some research, I discovered that although these festivals are not restricted to one region of the U.S. and not specific to Norwegians, Norwegians certainly do love them. Perhaps that’s because the memories of those luscious Norwegian berries were too precious to sacrifice when they settled across the ocean.

The Norway edition of the famous off-beat Lonely Planet Travel Guide recommends a Norwegian festival and suggests a café where one can indulge in these dainty delicacies: “You’ll also find strawberries in profusion, commemorated in an annual Strawberry Festival, usually on the last weekend of July. … About 6k up the Andalsnes Road, Jordbærstova honors the valley’s mighty strawberry. So stop in for a fat slice of gooey, creamy svele, the local pancake specialty that is served with strawberries and cream.”

So it seems quite plausible that these festivals were transported from the old country; their recipes certainly were. What a sad world it would be if one never experienced a bløtkake (Norwegian cream cake), often filled with strawberries, or Verdens Beste Kake (the World’s Best Cake), which is often topped with a cacophony of fruit, including plump strawberries.

In a post on her website Minnesota Prairie Roots on July 1, 2010, Audrey Kletscher Helbling gave many kudos to celebrating a wonderful strawberry festival in Moland Lutheran Church. The event began with a Norwegian service in the Old Stone Church, built in 1875, and then continued on to Moland Lutheran Church. But strawberries were not the only tasty fare on hand. In fact, Helbling stated, “For all you foodies out there, here’s a little secret. Some of Minnesota’s best down-home food is served in church basements.” I concur.

I suggest a strawberry fest renaissance. I know we started a festival in my church last year. Why not attend one this year? You can find them throughout the country, including in many Sons of Norway lodges. Go out and savor—each morsel is a mouthful of summer.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.