NAW welcomes new food editor
For Daytona Strong, cooking is a window into her Norwegian heritage—and a way to share it
Norwegian American Weekly
I still remember all those holidays gathered around the table—just my parents, paternal grandparents, and me. Roast pork offset by rich, spiced medisterkaker. Vibrant steamed carrots contrasted with cabbage braised into vinegar- and butter-braised surkål. And, of course, the riskrem, creamy and white with raspberry sauce drizzling into a magenta pool at the bottom of the bowl. My grandparents and father had left Norway behind decades before, but even in Seattle my grandmother worked hard to share the family’s heritage in the ways she best knew how: its food.
People want to be the perfect parents, a new friend told me over sparkling wine and oysters on a recent Sunday. But the most important thing you can do for your kids is to show them where they come from. That’s been resonating with me ever since, and I think it helps explain why I care so much about Norwegian food—and why I’m excited to be the new Taste of Norway Editor.
Some years ago, as I watched my grandparents’ generation age and pass away, I realized that unless I took an active role in carrying on the traditions, they would fade into memory, just like those dear people who had shared them with me to begin with. Perhaps because of my grandmother’s hospitality all those years, food has been the language through which I can best understand my heritage. It’s how I share it with those around me, including my own children.
I remember seeing copies of the Western Viking—this paper’s predecessor—at my grandparents’ house when I was growing up, and I’ve been contributing to the Norwegian American Weekly for a few years. It’s an honor to step into this new role as food editor. Some people collect trinkets; I collect recipes. My bookshelves are heavy with Scandinavian cookbooks both new and vintage. It’s as if by cooking I have found a window into who I am and where I come from.
I suspect that many of you have your own stories like mine. I would like to hear them. I’m interested in the way that Norwegian-American families have passed down recipes from one generation to the next. I’m curious about how modern Norwegian cooking both differs from and looks the same as food from long ago. The New Nordic movement is equally intriguing, the way its chefs find inspiration in what the northern land and waters offer. I hope to explore all of this in the months to come. I also hope to open up a conversation with you.
We each bring different experiences and perspectives as we gather at the table. I want to know what role Norwegian food has played in your life: the memories it evokes, how it’s helped connect you with others, and—if you’re Norwegian—how it has helped you understand who you are and where you come from. We’ve created an email address just for this section: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free to write. I’d love to hear from you.
Norwegian Coffee Mousse (Kaffefromasj)
As much as I love reading the latest Nordic cookbooks, which frequently offer fresh takes on old classics, I appreciate the straightforward approach that vintage or traditional books often take. I’ve found various versions of kaffefromasj and similar desserts in books such as the 1970s’ Scandinavian Cooking by Beryl Frank and Norwegian National Recipes by Arne Brimi and Ardis Kaspersen. With little more than cream, sugar, coffee, and gelatin, kaffefromasj is rich yet light, a coffee mousse. It can be made with or without chopped almonds. I thought about adding a little cocoa powder or cinnamon but opted instead for some vanilla extract and a touch of salt, with some grated chocolate for garnish. Sometimes simplicity is best.
1 envelope gelatin
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup cold strong coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
scant 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
bittersweet or semisweet chocolate for garnish
Bring water to a boil and pour 1/3 cup into a small bowl. Immediately sprinkle gelatin over the top and stir until it dissolves completely. Set aside to cool.
Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. While mixing, add sugar in a steady stream, then gradually pour in the coffee followed by the cooled gelatin. Stir in the vanilla extract and salt. Spoon into ramekins or other individual serving dishes and chill until set, at least three hours or overnight. Grate chocolate over the top and serve.
Daytona Strong is a Seattle-based food writer and recipe developer. She writes about her family’s Scandinavian heritage through the lens of food at www.outside-oslo.com.
This article originally appeared in the March 27, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.