Clumsy fingers slowly pry the container open, and the soft release of air magnifies into a loud whoosh. I cringe. The white wooden bunk harbors me as I hunker down with the forbidden candy, hoping against hope to avoid discovery. The shiny red hearts tempt me as my four-year-old conscience pales in comparison to the need for sugar and subterfuge. I slowly reach in with forefinger and thumb, pluck a single heart, and bring it to my lips. The sensation of cinnamon unrolls across my tongue as I reach for another, which sticks to spit- and sweat-moistened hands. Red coloring seeps along the fingerprint grooves and under my nails. My exaltation almost culminates, but gloating gradually turns to chagrin as the tongue-numbing hotness envelops my mouth, sucking the moisture out and releasing it from my eyes. The spice soon paralyzes distress along with my tongue, however, and joy creeps in: Tasty Joy.
I’ve meandered quite a bit in my journey since that first memory of cinnamon hearts. Moving back and forth between Canada and the American South as a kid provided contrasting experiences and exposed my young palate to varied cuisines. A splendid homemaker, my mom turned out fragrant chocolate chip cookies after school, layered delicate trifles for special guests, and slow cooked piping hot venison roasts on Sunday afternoons. From hearty sauce-baked meatballs to dainty butter tarts, our home streamed forth myriad flavors, smells, and tastes.
When the chance arose to live in Paris for a year after college, my taste buds anticipated the trip almost more than the rest of me. My French family filled their roles as ambassadors of French cuisine impressively. I tried everything from homemade pot-au-feu to creamy foie gras during holidays, enjoyed the excellent simplicity of quiche with green salad and fresh crusty baguettes with cheese platters at home, and devoured couers fondants au chocolat and homemade crepes on the kids’ birthdays. And throughout it all delicious wine flowed.
My journey took an unexpected turn when I fell in love with Tor, a Norwegian, and decided to move to Scandinavia to be with him. We built a home together in Denmark, where, after a long grey winter, Danes flock to the sidewalk seats of cafés to enjoy a beer and smørrebrød at a lingering lunch, basking in spring’s first rays of sun. Now living in Gothenburg, Sweden, one of my favorite things is when the Christmas festivities end, and by the time Fat Tuesday rolls around, Semla buns appear in every bakery and grocery store and café windows display the cream-filled treats, adding cheer to the dark winter months. Although the traditional Norwegian fare that Tor loves challenges my culinary skills, some of my proudest accomplishments include a perfect Kvæfjord Kake and the Christmas Ribbe, a whole side of pork with a bubbling layer of crackling that melts in your mouth.
This blog explores memories and chronicles the tasty joy (and sometimes eye-opening shock, regretful disgust, or puzzling ambivalence) that accompanied them. My recipes are inspired by the time spent growing up in Canada, the American South, and rural Pennsylvania, my college years in Florida and the year spent in Paris, and also the last few years of living in Scandinavia. Some recipes you’ll find here evolved from the past, others are shaped by what I’m currently reading, seeing, or experiencing, and a few look to the hopeful future.