Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I've been researching Danish and Scandinavian food lately. PLEASE CLICK HERE if you'd like to participate in a survey about your family's Scandinavian food traditions. During the pioneer era, about 70% of the foreign-born emigrants were british, and about 25% Scandinavian, with the remaining 5% being assorted French, German, Swiss, Italian, etc. There were strongholds of Swiss-German in Providence (Cache Valley) Midway (Heber Valley) and St. George. Danish colonies were Hyrum (Cache Valley), and most of the San Pete valley around Manti. In the concentrated areas, Danish culture was quite pronounced.
In looking for food references, I came across a collection from my family (which I referenced last time). In that book, the author (in her 80s now) was talking about the feast for Santa Lucia she remembered in the 1920-30s. Also, she recalled a formal Christmas Smorgasbord. She noted that these days she doesn't include the lutefisk she remembered as a child, as most people didn't like it then.
Lutefisk is a dish prepared from dried cod or ling. I've found a reference from Brigham Young eating dried cod, but mostly it seemed like an exotic thing. I found two other references to dried cod from British-American sources. I also found a couple of Deseret News advertisements from the dry goods retailers Halliday and Warner in the 1850s mentioning codfish for sale (dried of course). But mostly the memoirs, reminisences and diaries of Danish emigrants don't mention Danish ethnic food. They say they ate weeds and mush for years before their farms got established. The only Danish things the pioneers report to have eaten were simple pastry sorts of treats made with milk and flour.
So there you go. It appears that our food traditions are dynamic, coming and going with the generations. It also appears that each generation latches onto what they think is meaningful, which might not be what the former generation thought was meaningful. For example, in the previous generation, lutefisk was seen as a Christmas dish. I think this is because it is a quintisentially Scandinavian dish, and Christmas is a time to celebrate heritage and ancestry. However, the generations before that used lutefisk as just a way to use up old food storage: dried fish from that nasty barrel in the closet.
So when your kids get old, will they look back on your use of foods from the cannery project as nostalgic?