Tuesday, December 11, 2012

In Norway for the Holidays

Jeffrey and I have really enjoyed learning about some the Norwegian holiday season.  Of the many traditions, the food has to be one of the most unique.  The grocery stores here are filled with Christmas or "jule" food and drink like:
  • Pepperkaker - a gingerbread-type cookie in fun little shapes.  They are supposed to be easy to make at home, but the store-bought ones are so tasty.
  • Julebrus - Christmas soda! The bottles are decorated with Santa and reindeer.  There are two kinds that I've seen - brown and red - but the ones in the glass bottles are the best. I also mistakenly bought sugar-free julebrus... it was a sad day in the Burro house...
  • Juleøl - it seems like every brewery has a Christmas beer.
  • Pinnekjøtt - re-hydrated, salty pieces of lamb rib.  Not my fave, but our Norwegian friends love it.  
And the list goes on.  One of our more memorable experiences was dinner coordinated by good friends at City Bistro in Stavanger.  This restaurant wasn't chosen just by chance.  It is actually one of the few and best places to eat Lutefisk and Smalahove, so of course we ordered one of each.  

Wondering what's on Jeff's plate?
I got a little worried when the waitress brought out four shots of Aquavit without even asking if we wanted any.  We learned that the shots were considered an appetizer before the Smalahove.  I kept wondering why Jeff would need this sort of liquid courage... and then his plate was served.

Smalahove is half a sheep's head.  Not just the meat from a sheep's head like I'd imagined (and was still a little repulsed by) but actually a sheep's head.  Teeth, tongues, eyeball, cheeks - everything (except the brain)! I'd never seen anything like it.  Needless to say, Jeffrey downed those shots pretty quick, and he actually enjoyed his meal.  He said the eye was the best.  I also ate my Lutefisk and am grateful for the experience, but I don't think I'll be adding steamed fish that's been soaked in lye to my recipe book. 

Since we enjoyed our traditional Norwegian meal, we felt it only appropriate to invite some friends over for Thanksgiving!  We should have taken more pictures... but cooking so much food makes for a hectic day.  On the menu was turkey (obviously), giblet gravy, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, corn, homemade rolls and two pies - pecan and pumpkin!

There was almost no room in our tiny dining area for the table, but we made it work.  Good thing we all like each other!

Thankful for friends!

Now, we are getting ready for Christmas.  It sure FEELS like Christmas with these sub-freezing temperatures and a few inches of snow.  Our neighborhood has put up some garland and the houses have decorations in the windows - it's very festive.  I was lamenting that our tree wasn't going to fit in our house and Leif Christian let us borrow their tree once he realized we would enjoy it longer (generally, my Norwegian friends won't decorate until the 23rd or so and everything comes down around the New Year).  I'm so happy to have a tree in our living room with our one little strand of lights plugged into a converter and ornaments from our travels.  It's actually our first Christmas tree to decorate together since we've been married :)

We've had much to be thankful for this year, but we are especially thankful for our friends here in Norway that have become our family-away-from-family.

Happy Holidays!

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