mmm... feels like grandma's kitchen
we stopped on minneapolis' lake street today, to pick up on the aura and forty pounds of nordic delicacies at ingebretsen's. though the neighborhood changes with each successive wave of immigrants, ingebretsen's hasn't changed too much since 1921.
amanda uggen emigrated to st. paul, though she would regularly venture across the mississippi for ingebretsen's magnificent deli counter. she's been gone for several years, but i can still feel her each time i crowd in among the familiar scents and the other grandmothers taking numbers at ingebretsen's busy counter.
here's this year's christmas eve menu, adapted from grandma amanda's:
- sweet gjetost and havarti cheese, along with smoked fish and flatbrød
- lefse and limpe bread or julekake, with butter, sugar, fresh lingonberry sauce and cloudberries
- pork ribs, cracked lengthwise and baked [not barbecued]
- potatoes, mashed and sweet
- something green -- beans or broccoli or ...
- cookies! some combination of fattigman, krumkake, sandbakkels, rosettes, berlinerkranser ...
- rice pudding with fresh raspberry sauce
the pudding is served in glasses, but only one glass contains the almond entitling the bearer to a special gift. i don't know whether my grandparents were true to the traditions on their family farms, much less their fidelity to their norwegian and swedish heritage. i suspect that each generation adapts the menu based on individual tastes and local circumstances.
in this uggen's house, we made a strategic deletion from the menu. tor and hope were forced to taste lutefisk -- described rather well by garrison keillor as a repulsive gelatinous fishlike dish that tasted of soap -- but only once.* it seems cruel to serve vile lutefisk repeatedly, especially to those too young to toss it back with shots of aquavit.** still, my grandmother savored it, served with just a little ... oh no! you can't be serious! ... maple syrup. i suppose someday we'll animate another batch of lutefisk in her honor, perhaps in the shed way behind the house. i mean, the stuff was flying off the shelves at ingebretsen's tonight.
no deli can return me to my grandmother or my favorite christmas eves, but i'm happily amazed that i can still catch a whiff of her kitchen on lake street.
*more keillor: "this dread delicacy would be put before me and I’d be told, "Just have a little." Eating a little was like vomiting a little, just as bad as a lot."
**it would be difficult to improve on the explanation offered here, so i will quote it at length: To understand the relationship between aquavit and lutefisk, here's an experiment you can do at home. In addition to aquavit, you will need a slice of lemon, a cracker, a dishtowel, ketchup, a piece of lettuce, some caviar, and a Kit-Kat candy bar.
1. Take a shot of aquavit.
2. Take two. (They're small.)
3. Put a bit of caviar on a bit of lettuce.
4. Put the lettuce on a cracker.
5. Squeeze some lemon juice on the caviar.
6. Pour some ketchup on the Kit-Kat bar.
7. Tie the dishtowel around your eyes.
If you can taste the difference between caviar on a cracker and ketchup on a Kit-Kat while blindfolded, you have not had enough aquavit to be ready for lutefisk. Return to step one.