A Nordic Christmas: Jul-betcha!

One of the best things about volunteering at American Swedish Institute is participating in the continuing education programs that are offered us. This weekend during training for the Royal Christmas Exhibit, ASI Intern Kara Newby gave an in depth presentation not only on the exhibit itself but on the traditions represented in each display.

Each year for Christmas several of the main rooms in the mansion are decorated in the style of Finland, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, and Sweden. You can expect to see familiar Jul displays: table settings, Nisse, stunning Christmas trees, and the St. Lucia-Star Boy billboards. In addition are royal memorabilia and explanations of Scandinavian politics. But the most exciting thing I learned was about Icelandic Leaf Bread. The doilies shaped deep-fried biscuit dough is too intriguing not to attempt. I jotted down the recipe for use later this month.

After training I met with friends who hadn't visited ASI recently. We toured the mansion and my friends oohed and ahhed over each sculpted railing and painted ceiling moulding. They noted every fixture and chandelier while until yesterday I don't think I've ever taken time to look up. Sometimes I take that beautiful old building for granted, and it is wonderful to see her through fresh eyes.

We lunched at FIKA (Sadly they were out of cardamom buns. As popular as those rolls are, ASI could start a stand-alone bakery.). It is our Swedish friend Julia's last week in Minnesota and the first time she had Nordic food since arriving here a few months ago. "This gravlax is so good," she told me, noting that she was skeptical that Minnesotans could make cured salmon to rival the Swedish fish. FIKA won her over.

This coming weekend early lutfisk (and lutefisk) dinners are popping up all over the Twin Cities. I'll be enjoying my lye-soaked cod at ASI. And I will take the time to look up and admire the view.

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    Patrice Johnson