Norwegians and Swedes and Finns, oh my!

Once, I got in a fight with someone who lives in South America after I asked about their heritage. Oh, the anger! "What'd I do wrong? It is a common question in the United States!" Thinking it might have been an issue of translation, I gave my example. "I'm Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish." Anger still. So I said it again. That person got startlingly huffy, replied "I never ASKED you what your heritage is. Italian, okay?," and walked away.

O. K.

For some reason, at work especially and with family, ancestry comes up and we talk about it. "Well, you're Norwegian, so you know that..." or "That's the Finnish in you..." or whatever. I don't really know much about my Norwegian or Swedish or Finnish heritage. I like knowing my grandparents' stories (all but one born in the U.S.) and shopping at Ingebretsen's, and I love making lefse with my mother, but I've never particularly wanted to travel that part of the world or find distant relatives or display traditional Scandinavian paraphernalia in the house or anything. So, I don't know why I talk about it, or particularly why I asked my foreign contact about ancestry. Where did I expect that conversation to go, anyway? Oh well.

Today the table in the breakroom was filled with traditional Scandinavian deserts that I had not seen or heard of before. Krumkake, rosettes, sandbakkelse and lingonberry sauce over cheese. "How could you not know these are Scandinavian?" Give me a break -- it's not like there are tons of Norwegian restaurants around, like there are Indian, Russian, Korean and Mexican! (Well, I did know about the lingonberries -- thank you Ikea!)

It got me thinking about today's immigrants, and the challenge of retaining cultural values and tradition. I started thinking about the melting pot/salad bowl metaphor, and current policy, practice and treatment of some immigrant and refugee populations. I thought about language acquisition and retention. Immigration today is a serious issue, and one that I care about, but tonight, I decided to look up what traditional Scandinavian food I've been missing out on instead.

Looking over this list of Norwegian recipes, the only ones I remember my family having were lefse (from the Norwegian family), lutefisk, herring and meatballs (from the Swedish family), and cucumber salad and cardamom bread (from the Finnish family). I didn't know that Svenskarnas Dag (Swedish Heritage Day) was even a day, or that it is celebrated less than a mile from my house every year in June, and I don't recall ever having the food served at that celebration during any family get-togethers. My Finnish grandmother was an excellent cook, but I don't particularly remember anything from this one list of traditional Finnish recipes. And, just because I went through a phase when I wanted to be Korean, I had to look at some traditional Korean recipes. Just for fun. Yummmmm.

And, on the off chance that my mother is reading this blog, I like the food we had growing up, and don't really feel that I missed out on anything. And I am really happy about bringing lefse for Christmas.

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