16 February 2009

Bring Ethnic Culture Home to the Table

One of the best ways to ensure the continuation of ethnic culture is to EAT IT!

Pictured is the entrance to Olsen's Scandinavian Foods at 2248 NW Market Street in Seattle.

I sometimes attend events at the Sons of Norway Lodge in Ballard, which is an area of Seattle known for its prominent Scandinavian community dating back to the 1880s. During one visit in early February, I remembered that a Scandinavian foods shop sat only a block away, on NW Market Street. I decided there was no better Valentines Day gift for my mother than a taste of her childhood.

Walking in the door of Olsen's Scandinavian Foods, I was immediately taken by the warm, sugary smell of freshly baked krumkake--waffle cookies rolled into a cone and usually served stuffed with whipped cream. Krumkake are made fresh right in the store.

There are also plenty of award-winning selections of pickled herring, fishcakes, meatballs, cold smoked salmon, lutefisk, and other food selections sure to please those palate memories from the Old Country, whether that be Norway, Sweden, Denmark, or Finland. In particular, I was drawn to the shelves containing the goat cheeses, chocolates, and jams.

For my mother, who grew up on a Norwegian-American farm in rural Minnesota, I came away with a big box of Mor's flatbread, two packages of lefse, some Gjende cookies, and a jar of lingonberry jam. Okay, so it wasn't all just for Mom... My own favorites are the prettily packaged blocks of sweet and creamy Norwegian goat cheese. When I have some Ekte Geitost around, I can practically live on it. I love it for breakfast or lunch along with a few gluten free crackers, sweet Mango chutney, and a big cup of tea with milk. Oh, yum!

I had previously been buying my goat cheese at a local natural foods market. But, it occurred to me that without adequate support, neighborhood ethnic stores like Olsen's might quickly become a thing of the past, especially as the older generation diminishes. From now on, I plan to buy my goat cheese, lefse, and other traditional foods from Olsen's and other stores like it. I hope my ancestors will forgive me if I pass on the lutefisk, though. It's a taste I (gulp) never quite acquired.

Please support your local ethnic stores and delis--especially now, when a difficult economic climate makes it particularly challenging for small businesses to stay afloat.

Keep your family's ancestral culture on the table!

(This is a reprint of a 11 Feb 2008 entry from my other blog: http://nordicblue.blogspot.com.)

Chery Kinnick

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