Thursday, December 07, 2006

Celebrating Christmas with the Swedes

Last Saturday, I drove up to San Francisco to attend the Swedish Christmas Fair, held at St. Mary's Cathedral. The flyer promised a St. Lucia pageant and crafts for sale, as well as open-faced sandwiches, glögg (mulled wine), and Swedish waffles. I was intrigued — and open to any opportunity to learn more about the food and traditions of other cultures.

L-Train, who is Swedish on her mom's side, and I, who is not at all scandinavian, arrived right around lunchtime and found a long line in the cafeteria. There were many options for the open-faced sandwiches: shrimp and hard-boiled egg, anchovy and hard-boiled egg, salmon, cheese, and meatballs with lingonberry jam. The shrimp looked good — so good, in fact, that it was what most people were ordering, and therefore, it was gone by the time we reached the table at the front of the line. We both opted for salmon instead. I could have gone the meatball route, but I've had the meatballs at IKEA and wanted a different culinary experience.

The salmon sandwiches were spread with a thin layer of butter, then topped with lettuce, smoked salmon, and thin slice each of lemon and cucumber. I had been excited about the fact that this particular sandwich was served on a dark brown bread — until I noticed that they must have run out and that they had assembled mine with just regular old wheat bread. L-Train commented on the butter coating, saying that her grandmother (or was it her mother?) would put butter on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (My father later confirmed this apparently European style of dressing a sandwich when he told me that his mother, who was the daughter of German immigrants, used to make butter and jelly sandwiches.)

I also decided to get what they called a "Christmas soda": a cola-like drink called Julmust. When asked what it tasted like, I couldn't describe it. It tasted medicinal, like a spiced cough syrup. L-Train had a similar inability to describe its taste. Greacian, who also joined us, couldn't put a name to it either. Whatever it was, the flavor came from an "aroma" containing hops and barley, as well as "spices."

It was hard to ignore the huge sign announcing the presence of waffles, so to make up for the lack of shrimp, we indulged ourselves. The waffles were thin, crisp, and wonderfully light and buttery. Each set of five hearts was topped with real whipped cream and a dollop of strawberry Smuckers. It was surprising how something so simple could be so good. Later, I picked up a jar of cloudberry jam, which I'd never heard of before, much less tasted — but I imagine it would taste very good on homemade waffles or even pancakes. I even have a carton of cream waiting to be whipped into shape. (I also got an adorable children's book called Boo and Baa Go to Sea, about an eventful trip to go picnicking on an island, and an ornament of a very little girl wearing a very large stocking cap that was so cute I couldn't resist.)


sher said...

Wonderful post!!! How I wish I could find cloudberry preserves here. Everything looks fabulous in your photos.

Teresa said...

Thanks, Sher! I still haven't tried those preserves, but I hope to soon.

Michael Doss said...

My mom also put butter on our PB&J sammiches - of course, watching her cook now, she puts butter on everything. Of course, her food is fantastic...