This first entry is a tribute to my mother, “mamma,”and my sisters, Eva and Cicci. We all share a long history of cooking and eating together. Growing up during the 70‘s and 80‘s in a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden, an era when Abba, Roxette, shrimp cocktail and steak on a plank were commonplace, we spent much of that childhood in the kitchen. While Eva and Cicci remained in Sweden and raised their families, I emigrated to the US, where I married and had two children. It’s been difficult, for sure, to live on a different continent than my sisters, but we stay close by traveling and vacationing together. We call, email and skype. Food plays a big part of our get togethers. We love to cook, whether we’re here or over there. Because we don’t see each other very often, every occasion becomes special, warranting a glass of red or bubbly. We laugh (at times cry), drink, prep, cook, eat, and drink some more. After all, we’re Swedes. We learned from our “mamma” how to prepare and cook meals, who learned from her mother. Our mother was an amazing cook and baker. She died in 1992. We carry on her legacy. It’s in our blood.
Mamma learned out of necessity how to bake and cook hearty and filling meals, loaves and loaves of bread and big pots of stews. Meals that would sustain a huge household. She learned how to cut cost and make a dollar (or as it were, kronor) stretch. She grew up on a farm, and from an early age, was required by her parents, mormor Ella and morfar Olle, to help with everyday chores. But mostly, she helped in the kitchen. “Mormor,” our grandmother, who was responsible for feeding everything and everybody who lived and worked on the farm, from livestock to family and the hired hands, ruled this domain with a firm hand. So mamma knew hard work, both from watching her mother and from doing chores. She married my dad and had us girls, worked full-time as a secretary, and now needing to cut cost for her own family, spent Saturdays baking. Hats off to her and her generation of women! She baked hålkakor, a type of circular rye bread, and many different kinds of baked goods, like cinnamon buns, that were laced with either cinnamon or cardamom, and were delicious. Simply the best!
The three of us helped in the kitchen. Mamma would have us mix and knead the dough for the cinnamon buns, roll it out flat (as I remember, this was hard work) before lathering it with butter and lots of sprinkling with spice. Make a roll, cut and bake. But not eat. They were to last all week, so we had to bag them and place some in the cupboard and some in the freezer. This made weekday snacks all the more special. I especially remember coming home from school and needing something to eat before heading to gymnastic practice, inhaling a few buns with a cup of O’Boy, a Swedish style chocolate milk. Yum, for an active teenager!
These cinnamon buns, or Kanelbullar, as they are called in my native tongue, can be found everywhere in Sweden; in grocery stores, cafes, and even gas stations. October 4th is the official Cinnamon Day, Kanelbullens Dag, a day when people go a little crazy, consuming thousands and thousand of these buns.
In think my sisters and I have our mother’s love of food to thank for becoming good cooks ourselves. By cooking, we keep her memory alive. It’s a way to pay tribute to her. She loved her family and showed this by serving us nourishing meals. She loved holidays and special occasions, spending days preparing meals for family gatherings. She taught us well. She left behind a rich legacy of knowledge. A tradition that I see reflected in my niece and my own children. They keep the traditions and enjoy cooking the old family recipes. This keeps the legacy alive. Whenever possible, we get together to cook up a storm. Here’s to family!