Christmas traditions, particularly those involving food, often honor our ancestors. Throughout the Midwest where Swedish immigrants settled, the dishes placed on the julbord (Christmas table) tell stories about who we are, where we come from, and where we are heading.
In exploring these holiday customs, Patrice Johnson begins with her own family’s Christmas Eve gathering, which involves a combination of culinary traditions: allspice-scented meatballs, Norwegian lefse served Swedish style (warm with butter), and the American interloper, macaroni and cheese. Just as she tracks down the meanings behind why her family celebrates as it does, she reaches into the lives and histories of other Swedish Americans with their own stories, their own versions of traditional recipes, their own joys of the season. The result is a fascinating exploration of the Swedish holiday calendar and its American translation.
Featured dishes include yellow pea soup (ärtsoppa) and Swedish pancakes (Svenska plättar); assorted Swedish cookies like pepparkakor, rosettes, and meringues; meatballs with pickled cucumber; the julhög, a breakfast pyramid of bread, cheese, fruit, and cookies; and so much more. Come, raise a glass of punsch, hear tell of holidays past, snack on cardamom bread, and celebrate jul the midwestern way.