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1950s Archive

Norwegian Journey

continued (page 3 of 3)

The following evening, our last in western Norway, brought equally pleasant diversion. We joined one of the folklore tours to which Bergen tourists receive an invitation three nights each week during the summer months. Norwegians greet the visitors with such warmeh that we quickly lost the awkwardness that usually afflicts a large group of ill-assorted tourists. For us, the high point of an enchanting evening came when we had supper in a farmhouse. At the door of the long low dwelling appeared an imposingly handsome man dressed in his native costume, which included knee breeches and white stockings. At his side stood a small blond girl of six, also in charming native costume. When our host had finished his speech of greeting, his arms wide in the age-old gesture of friendly welcome, a stooped ancient played us into the house with a gay country melody, bowed on a twangy fiddle. By the time we had crossed the threshold, we were no longer tourists but honored guests; boys and girls in the national costume invited us to sit down at long community tables. Some of the youngsters passed trays of smorbrod, openfaced sandwiches of sausages and fish; others whirled about in the local dances and invited us to join in the fun. The twanging of the old man's fiddle became progressively more rapid and the dance more active as the evening wore on.

Our young hosts brought us bowls of rommegrot, the buttery porridge which forms a staple of the Norwegian country diet. In this rude climate, people must eat heartily, and Norwegians consume awesome quantities of butter, cream, and cereals. With the porridge we munched flatbrod, another country specialty. This hard chewy bread is so sturdy that in the old days a housewife baked a whole winter's supply at one time.

For dessert we received lefser, small triangular cakes filled with butter and sour cream. Norwegians are justly proud of their baking. The little Norwegian cookbook that we brought home as a souvenir reverses the usual order of recipes and proudly lists the cakes first. Some of the specialties have their counterparts in other countries, such as the thin, crisp fried cakes called fattigmann, named for poor men, although their recipe calls for ten egg yolks and heavy cream. But some, such as the kransekake, or garland cake, are uniquely Norwegian. For this cake, graduated rings of almond meringue are piled pyramid fashion. Zigzag lines of royal icing decorate it. Paper snappers, marzipan flowers and fruits, and petits fours cling to the sides of the cake, fastened with caramel syrup, and at the top flies a tiny Norwegian flag. The kransekake appears at weddings and confirmations throughout Norway.

By the time we finished our lefser and drank lavish quantities of coffee, our visit was at an end. Bergen was our last stop in Norway, and our evening at the farmhouse left us with the most pleasant feelings for the country and its gracious people.

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