From one generation to another
Outside Oslo’s Daytona Strong reflects on sharing tradition in the kitchen
Sometimes it’s a grandmother’s wedding ring, other times a great grandfather’s Bible inscribed with handwritten notes about special dates. When it comes to family relics – those items that carry with them the legends of generations past – the object is not what matters so much as the intangible representation of those who came before us. In my family, we certainly have those physical items – a box of my late Grandma Agny’s yet-to-be-sorted jewelry, a sugar and creamer set my great-grandmother gave Grandma Adeline when she was young, for example – but it is the recipes that I treasure most.
The words – lists of ingredients, directions, notes – contain so many beloved experiences of times with family and friends, even if the memories were those from generations past. I never tasted a molasses cookie made by my great-grandma Josephine, for example, but I have her recipe, and I can imagine her stirring up the batter, putting the cookies in the oven and waiting patiently as they baked, then pulling the sheet carefully out of the oven as the spicy sweet aroma spilled out and permeated the air. Perhaps her black-and-white cat, Months, rubbed up against her legs, asking for food, while she stood at the oven, opening the door ever-so-briefly to check on the cookies’ progress.
Now, three generations later, I’m baking those cookies, and as I write this I have a batch in my kitchen, baked recently with my mom and grandma – Josephine’s daughter. I’m creating my own memories with Great-Grandma Josephine’s recipe, ones that I will always cherish.
Similarly, I just baked a batch of Grandma Agny’s Bryte Havrekaka for the first time earlier this month and am wondering what sort of experiences she associated with those cookies. I found the recipe in an old church cookbook, and it’s one of the few recipes of hers that I have. The instructions are limited, not specifying what kind of oatmeal to use or what temperature to use or how long to bake the cookies. But that’s part of the beauty of it; Grandma knew the fundamentals of cooking and didn’t need to bother with the details. I see the same thing when I bake with Grandma Adeline: Her recipes are often little more than a list of ingredients, and even though she hasn’t been baking regularly on her own for years, it all comes back to her when we’re together.
My mom and I are in the gradual process of creating a book of family recipes, a project dreamed up a year and a half ago over tea at the Sorrento Hotel. My hope is that others will someday be able to enjoy these recipes as well—perhaps reliving old memories, and certainly creating new ones. It is a record of family history through food, and also one that will inspire many more delicious meals shared with loved ones in the future. There’s no question that Grandma Agny’s Bryte Havrekaka will be featured. A simple recipe of only oatmeal, butter, sugar, and an egg, it’s hearty and decadent, yet delicate at the same time. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Agny Danielsen’s Bryte Havrekaka
Recipe courtesy of Daytona Strong
3 cups oatmeal
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
Melt butter in a saucepan and fry the oatmeal lightly. Stir egg and sugar together. When the oatmeal is cooled, mix it all together. Drop from teaspoon onto well-greased cookie sheet. Bake in a slow oven.
Daytona Strong is the voice of Outside Oslo, a blog exploring her Norwegian heritage and love of great food. She is the newest contributor to the Norwegian American Weekly. Check out her blog at http://outsideoslo.blogspot.com.
This article originally appeared in the Aug. 17, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.