FOR AS LONG AS I C AN REMEMBER, I have loved to make things, both in the kitchen and out of it. I take after my mom in that respect; she has always been enormously creative, whether she was tole painting decorative plates when I was a child or carefully illustrating a church newsletter. Her talents extend into the kitchen as well. She and her mother, Nana, are both amazing cooks, and my family has always been very big on traditions, especially those that involve food. Growing up, we ate Sunday dinner together every week at the dining room table, either at our house or at Nana’s—and we still have regular Sunday dinners together! Nana taught us early how to set a proper table, and we were excited when it was our turn to help because we got to select the dishes, the tablecloth, the centerpiece, and the candlesticks. My family loves getting together for holidays too, and our traditions are deeply ingrained in us. We eat the same foods and do the same activities on the same holidays every year, whether we are gathered together to celebrate at my parents’ house or spread out across the country.
Being surrounded by delicious food and comforting traditions when I was a child set me on a course early in life that has led me to write this book. When I was young, my cousin and I decided to start a catering company when we grew up, and we spent the summer mailing our favorite recipes to each other. In high school I started keeping a binder full of recipes that I had torn out of magazines. I still have it on my cookbook shelf. There’s a little gold-star sticker next to each recipe that I tried and loved, and a few of the really memorable ones are still in regular rotation. In between college semesters one year, I was in charge of my family’s dinner menu for the entire summer. I think my mom paid me fifty dollars for all that work! I still have the piece of scratch paper that I wrote menu ideas on.
This book marries my longtime love of cooking and making with my beloved Norwegian heritage. My mom’s dad, Poppy, was born in 1929 to Axel and Asta Andresen, Norwegian immigrants who had settled in Utah’s Salt Lake Valley. Poppy spent his childhood speaking Norwegian and developing a love for pickled herring and open-faced sandwiches. While he didn’t pass on a love for pickled herring to his children and grandchildren, he did pass on a deep and abiding love for our Scandinavian heritage.
Sadly, very few of the traditional Norwegian recipes my poppy grew up with were passed down to subsequent generations. One of the most wonderful things about writing this book has been not only rediscovering and falling in love with classic Scandinavian foods, but also recreating some of the delicious recipes I’ve heard so much about in family lore. I’m excited to bring these lost treasures back to my family. I hope my children have fond memories of making Tante Tilda’s Norwegian Silver-Dollar Pancakes (page 4) with me the way my mom remembers making them with Tante Tilda. I want my children to carry on the tradition of serving Rødgrød med Flød (Raspberry Pudding with Cream), page 167, on Christmas Eve like they have for dessert every year at Nana and Poppy’s house.
Each chapter of this book will give you ideas for creating a complete gathering, a get-together of family and dear friends. I love that word: gathering. A gathering is comfortable and easy, almost effortless, intimate, full of good food and the best company. A gathering isn’t as stuffy or as formal as a party; it’s both coolly casual and supremely sophisticated. Along with the recipes and craft projects in each chapter, you’ll find ideas for styling, serving, arranging, and more. But feel free to add your special touch to these gatherings and make them your own.
If you have Scandinavian heritage like me, I hope you’ll be delighted to find old favorites alongside new recipes inspired by the flavors and traditions of the region. But even if you have no connection to Scandinavia, I have a feeling that some of these are destined to become family favorites just the same. Cookies for a school bake sale, open-faced sandwiches for a light lunch, cake for a friend’s birthday dinner—all of the recipes are as delicious on a regular weeknight as they are at a festive gathering. The Nordic-inspired projects in each chapter are perfect for holidays and festive occasions, but they also make for a fun crafting afternoon with friends or great rainy-day projects with kids. I’ve loved every step of this journey taking Scandinavian Gatherings from a daydream to a beautiful reality. I’m thrilled with the results—the recipes, the projects, the colorful artwork—and can’t wait to share my beloved heritage with you!
Copyright © 2023 by Bahen, Melissa. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.