Food, Festival, and Recipes

“Even when it seems that everything in the country is changing,” writes America Eats author Pat Willard, “church suppers remain pretty much the same as they always have. Or at least they feel as if they have, and that is just as good. Maybe this is because, beyond their services as a place of worship, churches function as the repository for a community’s history and people. Often, they are an anchor holding people in place, keeping the community straight and guiding it through the perils of everyday life” (Willard 2008, 150-51).

The Preserve Nordic Heritage Churches Project focuses primarily on architecture and decorative arts. But we also paid attention to food events and associated ethnic celebrations listed on church websites, Facebook pages, and other publications. This admittedly haphazard glimpse of church food traditions revealed mouthwatering examples: the ubiquitous coffee (so central to concepts of hospitality); lutefisk/lutfisk (literally lye fish–reconstituted dried cod); meatballs; potato dumplings (klubb in Norwegian, kropkakkor in Swedish); lefse (Norwegian soft potato flatbread spread with butter and sugar and then folded or rolled); fruit soup; Swedish potato sausage; pancakes (fried and baked); open-faced sandwiches; smorgasbords with a cornucopia of delicacies; and baked goods of all kinds at bazaars and holiday bake sales. Some recipes were learned in America, and adapted to the U.S. context. For both the cooks and the attendees at these events, they express much more than mere taste; they express ethnicity, faith, and community.

Recipes

Please enjoy the following recipes, generously shared by some of the churches that participated in the Preserve Nordic Heritage Churches Project!

Swedish Fruit Soup

From the Smorgasbord Committee for our annual Midsommar Festival at Dalesburg Lutheran Church,

Vermillion, South Dakota. The recipe below is one that we have used for years and is based on a recipe from Grace Lind (a long time member who has passed away).

Aebleskiver suppers and breakfasts are popular fundraisers in Danish American churches. Photo courtesy of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Viborg, South Dakota.
Aebleskiver suppers and breakfasts are popular fundraisers in Danish American churches. Photo courtesy of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Viborg, South Dakota.

Aebleskiver (Danish Pancakes)

A recipe from the Viborg, South Dakota United Methodist Women, used for the annual Aebleskiver breakfast at Viborg’s Danish Days.

Vinaterta and Kleinur (Icelandic Baked Goods)

From Gwennie Erlendson, maternal grandmother to Carol Beard of Vidalin Icelandic Church, Akra, North Dakota. The prune filling is typical of the northern part of Iceland where Gwennie was from. Always included with coffee and kleinur at the Vidalin September and June services.

Trio of Icelandic baked goods that are mainstays of Icelandic American church events. These treats were brought to the Preserve Nordic Heritage Churches Project training in Sioux City, Iowa by women from Vidalin Icelandic Church in Akra, North Dakota. Clockwise from top—vineterta (multilayered cake, here made with prune), kleinur (fried pastry), Bliss bars or hjónabandssæla (happy marriage bars). Photo by Laurie K. Sommers.
Trio of Icelandic baked goods that are mainstays of Icelandic American church events. These treats were brought to the Preserve Nordic Heritage Churches Project training in Sioux City, Iowa by women from Vidalin Icelandic Church in Akra, North Dakota. Clockwise from top—vineterta (multilayered cake, here made with prune), kleinur (fried pastry), Bliss bars or hjónabandssæla (happy marriage bars). Photo by Laurie K. Sommers.

Norwegian Meatballs

This recipe has been used by the Nora Unitarian Church women for our annual fall Smorgasbord since the early 1900s. Original attribution is to Julia Haugen whose parents were founding members of Nora Unitarian Universalist Church, Hanska, Minnesota.

Pannukakku (Finnish Baked Pancakes)

A mainstay for potlucks at Bethany Lutheran, Covington, Michigan, this Finnish staple comes from the great aunt of a church member.

Written by Laurie K. Sommers
Preserving Nordic American Churches Project Manager, 2017-2019

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