Holiday Memories: Every Christmas holds something uniquely special

My favorite holiday memory isn't a memory of a special Christmas, it's a memory of EVERY Christmas, no matter what the situation or the weather. That's Swedish and that's the way it was and still is.

On Christmas Eve, the family would get together - Grandma, Grandpa, Mother, Daddy and me, three aunts and two uncles and their children for the annual smorgasbord.

There was no liquor allowed in Grandma's house, but there was plenty of food. If it wasn't complicated to make, it wouldn't do for the meal. For weeks in advance, we planned and cooked and all the women helped. One big item was the potatis korv, or potato sausage. We bought the casings (animal intestines) at the local Swedish deli in Denver, ground up the pork, beef, potatoes and onions, stirred in the spices and stuffed the casings by hand. After boiling for an hour on the big, black wood stove, it was so delicious it makes my mouth water to think of it.

On the other hand, another necessity was lutefisk. We bought dried codfish that looked like a board, soaked it, boiled it and covered it with a cream sauce. It TASTED like a board!

Many weeks in advance, Grandma would get a pig's head from somewhere and boil it. She cut off the meat and jelly-like substance, wrapped it in cheesecloth and placed it in a crock with salt, pepper and onion in the cold basement coal bin covered with a heavy lid. After a while, it looked like a sort of molded meat and she called it "head cheese" or pressed silta. It wasn't bad tasting if you didn't get involved in the making. We also made tiny Swedish meatballs or kotbullar.

There was limpa, or delicious homemade rye read and a flat bread called hardtack to be served with kumin ost, a caraway cheese. We had sill, or marinated herring, bruna bonor, a sweet and sour bean dish and the usual olive, pickle and celery plate. For dessert they made a light marchinaise whipped cream and cherry pudding and spritz, a butter, flour and sugar cookie squeezed through a special tool to make interesting shapes.

I was always too full to eat the cherry pudding, but my youngest cousin, who was allergic to everything, ended up with only an olive on his plate!

After that wonderful feast we all piled in the cars and drove through the snow to the Lutheran church - a candlelight service - to end up the delightful evening.

Believe it or not, when my grown children are nearby, we try to reproduce that smorgasbord of the past and the Swedes enjoy every bite!


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