A Thanksgiving tradition in Oslo

Anthony and Nicole Juvera are Brooklyn, N.Y. transplants who have lived in Norway for five years. Photo: Chelsea Ranger

Anthony and Nicole Juvera bring American traditions to Norway with Cafe Fedora

By Kelsey Larson

Managing Editor

Thanksgiving in Norway seems like a foreign concept, in more ways than one. This traditional American holiday is meant to bring families closer together over a table full of delicious food, and despite the fact that people in almost any nation can relate to this, the traditional American Thanksgiving is usually reserved for the good old U.S. of A.

But what about American expats living abroad? Do they still enjoy celebrating the holiday? When November rolls around, how do they survive without pumpkin pie, turkey and cranberry sauce?

For Anthony and Nicole Juvera, Americans from Brooklyn, N.Y. who have been living in Norway for the last five years (six years in May), celebrating Thanksgiving abroad has become a new, unique tradition.

“It is always an adventure celebrating the holidays in Oslo,” says Anthony Juvera. “We always try to do something different.”

In October of 2010, the couple started an underground supper club in Groland, Oslo to share their love for food.

“We were just tired of eating really bad imitations of ‘American’ food in Norway. Also, we wanted to showcase American food in its true light. There is more to us than just hot dogs, hamburgers and pizza!” says Anthony.

“True,” adds Nicole. “We realized that we could do it better, and when you say that each time after spending a fortune at dinner, ya really have to put your money where your mouth is!”

A typical Soul Brunch event. Photo: Chelsea Ranger

What started as a fun hobby for the couple soon transformed into a full-fledged cafe, located in the Frogner area of Oslo: Cafe Fedora.

“70% of our customers are expats,” says Anthony.

“Our cafe is a vortex for expats from all over the world, the U.S., Chile, U.K., Asia, Australia, Germany, Iran, Brazil and the list goes on,” says Nicole. “I love it! We all have a few uniting things in common: we want good food, good service and to meet new people. Such simple things to bring people together. I love our cafe!”

Two years ago, when the Juveras had their supper club, Bold Soul Kitchen, they made Thanksgiving dinner for 16 guests at their home.

“It  was total madness trying to prepare the full Thanksgiving spread for 16 Norwegians in a tiny apartment kitchen!” says Nicole. “They were so excited, so we tried to make everything they heard about on TV but never experienced. The most amazing part was seeing the excitement on their faces, then watching the feasting frenzy turn slowly into a food coma. That Thanksgiving was a true test of endurance and patience! I don’t know how our grandmothers had done this before! The awesome thing is that people here are more excited to experience these celebrations with us, so the mood is different, lighter.”

This year, the Juveras will host a Thanksgiving Soul Brunch at Cafe Fedora’s second location, called SAWOL Kitchen, in Groland. The Nov. 25 event will be a holiday version of their monthly Soul Brunch event.

“For Soul Brunch, we feature a live soul band Kenya & Nemor. I just love them,” says Nicole. “They are magic on stage. The food is an all-you-can-eat soul food buffet (something you can never find in Norway). We make fried chicken, sweet cornbread, baked mac and cheese, pancakes, bacon and eggs and pecan pie. There is also a full bar for bloody Marys, mimosas and the like.”

“This event is going to be the day that we showcase everything and anything that we miss making or eating,” says Anthony. “Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc!”

The couple is expecting 100 – 120 people to attend the Thanksgiving brunch, and excited RSVPs keep rolling in on Cafe Fedora’s Facebook page. “I’m hyperventilating! Do you have room for two?” asks one Facebook user on the event’s page. “Is Turduckin a possibility? Can’t wait to see the menu!” says another.

“As we have two locations now in the city, this event will be featured at our second location called SAWOL Kitchen by Cafe Fedora. It is a bigger venue and perfect for such an event!” says Anthony.

Clearly, the Juveras have tapped into something that there is a clear need for in Oslo, especially among American expats: the food and the company of a good Thanksgiving meal.

“The feedback is always positive, and especially from Americans who just moved here during Thanksgiving. You can almost see the relief on their faces that Thanksgiving for them won’t be so bad after all,” says Anthony.

And for them, owning the restaurants help them live in Norway without missing American culinary traditions quite as much. Although, there are a few exceptions.

“Now that we have our own restaurants, I don’t miss the holiday foods so much because we have learned how to make them from scratch,” says Nicole. “I do miss going to Chinese restaurants on Christmas from to escape from ‘turkey fatigue.’ Last year, however, I would have sold my dog for some candy canes! I could not find them anywhere and the craving was unbelievable!  Luckily, some of my customers brought them back from vacation for me. Also, I will take a good fresh margarita any day, those are really hard to come by here.”

But not to worry – “We still have the dog!” Nicole adds.

“Being of a Mexican background, it is tradition that we have tamales, but we are also American, so we would incorporate it into a traditional Thanksgiving dinner,” says Anthony. “I miss my mother’s stuffing, I can never make the turkey like my father, and also sitting down after to watch the game with my dad.”

But overall, Nicole and Anthony wouldn’t trade Cafe Fedora and their experience in Oslo for anything.

“I will say that my wife and I always feel truly humbled by what we get to do for a living everyday,” Anthony says. “Making people happy with food and sharing their memories of where they used to get this back home is what makes my day. I have a saying in my kitchen to all my customers: ‘I am not trying to cook better than your mama, I am just trying to make you miss her.’ I know I miss mine everyday when I am making fried chicken, mac and cheese or anything like that.”

“Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!”

For more information about Cafe Fedora, check out their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cafe-Fedora/133640666704759. Their two locations are: Cafe Fedora, Frognerveien 22. SAWOL Kitchen: Grønland 18. 

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