Thursday, November 12, 2009

On traditions (Norwegian lesson # 2 - observe and you shall be enlightened)

Christmas is still a long way off (fortunately, since I’ve only bought a couple of gifts yet), but we are entering the time when it is appropriate to start planning. To me, the preparations ahead are almost as important as the actual Christmas. The last few years, however, I’ve had next to no time for preparations since I’ve had lots of exams all through December, and in addition I’ve been working longer hours at the bookshop (wrapping more presents than what the average raggsokk does during their entire lifetime). This year, however, there are no exams. Bookshop, yes, but no exams. Maybe this will allow more preparations?

One of the main things you have to do pre-Christmas, is baking. My mom has always been a baker, and I’ve inherited her enthusiasm for it. According to ancient Norwegian traditions, a housewife with any pride will have at least seven types of “cookies”* made before Christmas. My mom usually makes about fifteen. Today, I doubt the seven-rule applies anymore for most homes, but baking and Christmas are inevitably connected in many people’s minds. Personally, I don’t feel like it’s proper Christmas without having made at least a couple of “cookie” types.

This year we started early. Since I am working most of December, I probably won’t come back to visit my parents a lot before Christmas. Consequently, if I were to participate in any pre-Christmas baking with my mom, it had to happen today, before I return to Oslo tomorrow (which reminds me – I might be scarce for a while, moving and all). Therefore, we embarked upon making smultringer.

Another tricky translation. According to a dictionary, a smultring is a doughnut, but I am here to enlighten you. A doughnut is a ring of fat, frequently with icing on top of it (as though you needed sugar on top of your fat). A smultring is a smaller ring of fat (actually, it’s dough deep fried in lard, but the effect is much like a ring of fat), but at least we would never in a million years as much as consider putting icing on it… As you might suspect, I’m not a huge fan of doughnuts (or icing), and no, I’m not that much of a fan of smultringer either. I like making them (even if the fat steaming up from the pot likely will give me grease stained lungs). I also like eating smultringer, in small amounts, and for Christmas, and ONLY if they are homemade. This might be why I object to doughnuts. Whereas doughnuts in my mind taste like what I imagine the inside of a McDonald’s employee’s hat tastes like, at least the smultring has a flavor besides the grease. And that flavor isn’t sugar. Also, it helps that smultringer are smaller than doughnuts, seeing as I tolerate so little of each.

Despite my slight contempt for the concept of deep fried “cookies”, it was fun to make today’s smultringer, and the outcome was good. We now have one out of seven (or fifteen) in the freezer. Chances are I won’t be around for the next six (or fourteen), so I cherished this occasion, even if the Christmas spirit wasn’t exactly in place yet. Hopefully that will come towards the end of this month.

* “Cookies” is not actually an accurate translation, but I’m having a hard time finding one covering what I’m talking about. In Norwegian, we use the word for “cake” – kake – for both cake and this other thing that I tentatively translated to "cookies", only we add a description. “Cookies” are småkaker [small cakes], while a cake, can, depending on what type of cake it is, for instance be formkake, sjokoladekake, bløtkake and so on. Cookies (as in actual cookies, not the translation “cookies”) is just one type of småkaker (or so it seems to me – having spent just three months of my life in an English speaking country, I cannot say for sure I fully understand the deeper meaning of the word cookie). A potentially better translation could be pastry, but then again, that seems too wide. I’m going to go with “cookies” (complete with quotation marks).


Joris said...

Look, it's a giraff! (and the only reason the blog deserved the tag "giraffes", yes? ;) ) said...

I only like smultringer from smultringshops. The home made ones are pretty icky...

My parents only make something like three sorts themselves, but they always beat seven by swappint with grandparents, uncles and neighbours. I only make two.

Watery Tart said...

The word you are looking for is TART!

*giggles at Mari's doughnut snobbery*

I LOVE doughnuts! All the better if you not only put icing on top but fill it with the stuff! In fact, never mind the cake... just give me a bowl of icing!

M.J. Nicholls said...

I love småkaker, smultringer and kake in equal measure. If they're giraffe-shaped, double bonus.

My girlfriend eats special low protein cookies with tough, almost rock-hard dough that are delish. Soft dough is not always best!

Cruella Collett said...

Joris - indeed. But what a good reason to giraffe shape them, no?

Marthe - maybe that's because you haven't tasted the ones I make... (Or because you haven't had proper American ones to compare)
And kudos for making two sorts! I think aside from my smultring shenanigans, I will stick to pepperkaker (and -hus) this year...

Tami - *snort* Well, if it makes you happy I'll pretend tart is an accurate translation ;) You can never have enough tarts!

Mark - huh. Low protein cookies sound like they need to be giraffe shaped.

Related Posts with Thumbnails