Last week as we drove down through the San Pete Valley, we picked up a map published by some sort of tourism commission. The map showed three different tourism "zones" in southern Utah, including one called "Little Denmark." This was essentially the San Pete Valley, including Mount Pleasant, Spring City and Ephraim and Manti. It reminded me of a folklore conference I once attended where they discussed cultural expressions that occurred spontaneously, versus consciously manipulated tourism features. Another example would be "Bridgerland" versus Cache Valley. Cache Valley extends beyond Utah's border, but "Bridgerland" (i.e. Utah's portion of the Cache Valley cultural tourism zone) ends neatly at the border.
So when we passed the sign proclaiming we had entered "Little Denmark," we started looking for expressions of Danish culture. Certainly, a hundred years ago the area was heavily influenced by Scandinavian culture. Swedish and Danish surnames marked most local businesses. When I asked locals about their heritage, most were clear that they descended from Danish pioneers. But when I looked for contemporary expressions of Danish heritage, I couldn't find any. PLEASE CLICK HERE if you'd like to participate in a survey about your family's Scandinavian food traditions.
I specifically asked several people if they had eaten Danish food recently. Some with Danish family heritage couldn't recall any Danish food items at all. Others noted that they had eaten an apple dumpling at the Scandinavian festival held each Memorial Day weekend. It appeared that the Scandinavian festival had become the repository for Danish heritage. It holds the heritage so securely that there is none to be found during the remainder of the year.
Ephraim and Manti both have their Co-operative Merchantile building still standing. Both now house touristy little crafty shops. When I asked about Danish food, many people directed me to the Co-op as a possible source for a Mormon Danish cookbook. The Manti Co-op had nothing, but the Ephraim Co-op had several cookbooks. Some had Danish recipes, and there was one that was the production of the local women's Relief Society. This local cookbook was filled with recipes for lasagna, chile verde and hamburger/macaroni stew. This cookbook also had several recipes bearing Danish-language names, but no provenance.
All in all, I came away thinking that the "Little Denmark" moniker was all tourism and no actual Danish culture. There is a body of culture there that I believe holds Scandinavian heritage intact, but it is not evidenced in daily life.
Do you have any multi-generational ethnic heritage that you express at least once a month?