Another Thanksgiving has rolled around and I hear the distant jubilation of far off Canadians ringing in their turkeys. If I twitch my nose and sniff a great sniff, I can almost smell a sea of spicy stuffing wafting across the big pond… just for me. In fairness to the turkey, I never agreed with such an abomination of inners, and have never once in all my years at a Thanksgiving table devoured the concoction—to my mother’s dismay of course. On the other hand, my mother’s cranberry sauce to this day leaves me perfectly pleased.
But the joy of squeezing at the dinner table among a sea of family members, who all revel in talking at once, was changed immeasurably the day I brought a Swede home for Turkey Day. Imagine flying all the way across the Atlantic to celebrate such a day with little ol’ me? The sizzling sweet potatoes begging for attention and the flaky apple pie I’d grown up adoring, quite recklessly left me dreaming of times to come… the unknown… the language… the food.
With a trip to Sweden in the works for Christmas, I could only assume that the delights of roast turkey would be appreciated as much there as it was in Canada. After all, it’s a bird that can feed a whole slew of hungry Vikings at one table. Oh, how wrong I was!
What was once the most glorious of all meals, the one meal you could almost taste on your lips months in advance, a meal enjoyed twice each year by just about every Canuck, was instantly shattered. Like the Canadians, the Swedes’ favourite meal, the meal that leaves them salivating at the mouth, is one that sent shivers down my spine.
Not just any herring. Herring in every dish possible, in any way possible, in any sauce possible. Herring with cooked onions in a dish of scalloped potatoes. Mmm Jansson’s Temptation, I write with great reservation. Herring in mustard sauce, pickled herring, herring and more herring.
Thank goodness for lax, or rather salmon, there is plenty of that at the julbord. Of course, you have a variety of other dishes where you gather in a queue to scoop up what you may. Meatballs and teeny, weeny prinskorv sausages, though we can’t forget all the potato and beetroot salads.
It’s true they do not celebrate Thanksgiving here in Sweden, but just the way Canadians have the same meal at Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Swedes have the same meal at Christmas, Easter and Midsummer, with the exception of strawberries. Midsummer offers a dazzling dessert of strawberries, as many as you can stuff into your body. It is truly magnificent.
Fortunately, the watchful eye of my future mother-in-law that first Christmas resulted in a small cooked ham, just the right size for one, has made its way to the feasting table each holiday, year after year since. She is a gem that woman.
The Swenglish Thanksgiving is representative of our Swenglish life here in the house at the top of the hill. We have two languages going on at all times, we have two Santas who come each year, “Tomten” on Christmas Eve who visits the house and hands out the gifts himself and the Canadian Santa who makes his way to us during the night then dashes back to Canada. We have prinskorv with turkey and bullar with brownies. We have herring in mustard sauce on sandwiches for breakfast with Kellogg’s Cornflakes in a bowl. We have pancakes for evening food and much to the chagrin of Swedes, pancakes for breakfast! We have mashed potatoes on hotdogs. Okay, that’s carrying it a bit far. Only my husband likes that!
So to Canadians far and wide, it doesn’t matter how you celebrate it, it just matters that you are thankful for the good in your life. Happy Thanksgiving!