Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hipp, Hipp, Hurra! The World’s Second Largest Parade Celebrating Norway Happens in Seattle

Some of Allrecipes’ talented staff members are passionate about other parts of the planet, so when a big holiday comes up in their favorite country, it’s the perfect time to share the love, along with special recipes! This week, it’s ‘Syttende Mai’ for the Norway lovers in the group!

Confession: A few of us at Allrecipes adore Norway’s brown goat cheese. It’s called gjetøst in Norwegian (pronounced “yiet-oast”) and it’s sold in big blocks that look like bricks. You shave off paper-thin slices using a cheese plane, a handy tool invented by clever Norwegians (who also invented the paper clip and the Evinrude outboard motor). Slightly sweet, slices can top heart-shaped waffles or crisp rye flatbread.

Heart-shaped waffles topped with Norwegian goat cheese
We’re all about Norway this week because Thursday, May 17th, is Syttende Mai, or the Seventeenth of May, Norway’s largest national holiday (after Christmas). The date commemorates the signing of Norway’s constitution in 1814, when Norway was declared an independent nation after centuries of Swedish and Danish rule. Norway officially became independent in 1905, in what is one of the world’s only peaceful transitions of power.

All over Norway on May 17th, in every town small and large, there are parades of school children and adults carrying Norway’s flag with its red, blue and white cross—along with marching bands and countless speeches by dignitaries. What is most significant about Syttende Mai (pronounced “Soot-n-duh My”) is its non-military aspect. By involving children, the holiday looks to the future while honoring the past and Norwegian history. In Oslo, the parade begins at the royal palace with Norway’s royal family waving from a balcony as throngs of marchers swirl past and walk down the city’s main street past the Parliament buildings.

Given Seattle’s Nordic immigrant history, particularly in its Ballard neighborhood, May 17th is a really big deal—and has been since 1889. The neighborhood hosts a day-long Syttende Mai Festival with a luncheon at the local Sons of Norway Lodge, kids’ activities, concerts, and at 6:00PM, the largest Syttende Mai parade outside of Norway, with more than 100 participating groups watched by 20,000+ spectators. If you have any Norwegian or Viking genes, you have to be there! We always end up going, sitting on the curb to watch the sights and grabbing a pølser (Norwegian-style hot dog) wrapped in lefse, traditional wheat or potato flatbread. (The style depends on which region of Norway the cook is from.)

Rita and Allie Spangler at Ballard's Syttende Mai parade

Some of the smallest Norwegian-Americans in the Ballard Syttende Mai parade
Allrecipes cooks have shared 252 Scandinavian recipes on the site. (Check out the top 20 here.) For a taste of Norway in May, we’re sharing some of our favorites. Try waffles with gjetøst (the Ski Queen brand in a red wrapper is sold in most major supermarkets) or topped with spoonfuls of raspberry or strawberry jam and whipped cream. Norwegians love sweets, so everyone adores treats such as pannekaken or crêpe-like pancakes, thin cookies like krumkake made using an iron. Main dishes can be from the sea or the farm. In southwest Norway, hearty lamb dishes such as farikal and caraway-seasoned cabbage testify to the country’s farming heritage. Farther north along the fjord-etched coast, cod and salmon—often salted and cured as gravlox—are favorites.

Traditional Norwegian potato lefse  
Norwegian krumkake
Gravlox served as an open-face sandwich
As they say in Norway--and Ballard--on Syttende Mai, “Gratulerer med dagen!” (Congratulations of the day!)
Rita Spangler
Judith Dern
Sonja Groset


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