Friday, July 3, 2009

Sankt Hans

The second thing I want to write about before I dash out of here on vacation: Also known as "St. John's Eve," Sankt Hans is a Northern European tradition to celebrate midsummer and the summer solstice and has been around since the time of the Vikings. In Denmark Sankt Hans always takes place on June 23. We heard about this celebration from friends and Alan's colleagues and decided to visit the Hobro marina to check out our local festivities. The first thing I noticed was the throng of people walking to the event site. It seemed that the entire town of Hobro was there. It was clear that this is an important annual tradition for Danes.

The second thing I noticed, or rather heard was the sound of beautiful American gospel music. Standing on the bed of a tractor trailer was a wonderful Danish choir singing the most soulful renditions of gospel. It was a sight to behold.

All around people were picnicking, buying cake or ice cream from vendors, drinking beer, laughing, playing, and--what caught my attention, roasting bread rolls on sticks like Americans do with marshmallows.

I surveyed the scene and noticed a woman doling out the raw dough to kids and adults alike. The dough gets applied to a stick and then one sits patiently (hard for kids!) while it cooks over a bed of hot coals. What a fun tradition.

I looked up Sankt Hans on Wikipedia and the other useful tidbits are that "it is the day where the medieval wise men and women (the doctors of that time) would gather special herbs that they needed for the rest of the year to cure people."

Every Sankt Hans has a big bon fire which is lighted to ward off evil spirits. "In the 1920s a tradition of putting a witch made of straw and cloth on the bonfire emerged as a remembrance of the church's witch burnings from 1540 to 1693. The burning sends the witch away to Bloksbjerg in the Harz region of Germany where the great witch gathering was thought to be held." While the fire burns, Danes sing Vi elsker vort land, "We love our country."

Enjoy the photos. Anatole was thrilled with all the dogs at the event, can you tell?! . Now I REALLY have to get going.

Watching the clock

Okay, I have two hours before I have to run to the post office, gas up the car, and pick up the family to officially begin our summer vacation. I should be packing snacks, finishing the laundry, and making sure Anatole has his favorite toys in the car. What am I doing instead? Getting my last post in because darn it, I'm going to miss my daily musings about food. In fact, I might just post twice today because there's two items I want to share before I take off.

First let's talk about cherries. A couple days ago, while weeding our gigantic yard (no grass but LOTS of bushes, trees, and more weeds than you've ever laid eyes on), I stumbled upon the most spectacular surprise: an enormous cherry tree. In our yard! I have never been so excited. To have a beautiful, fruit baring tree in my own yard has always been on my wish list.

Although I picked a bunch today they're not as ripe as I was hoping for. The bummer is that we will miss their peak ripeness while we're away. I'll cross my fingers that there will be some left when we return the first week in August but that's probably hoping for too much. Can you say cherry pie?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Pølsehorn a.k.a Sausage Horns

Okay, here's a confession. I have a teeny weeny problem staying away from a certain Danish junk food known as pølsehorn (translated as "sausage horn"). They're 3.5 inches of pure delight. It's funny, looking at the photo the bun reminds me of puff pastry or some other kind of flaky pastry that might contain an apple filling (I'm thinking of the McDonald's fried apple pies I ate as a kid). However, it's made of a yeast dough, and in the case of these particular treasures, whole wheat. A mini hot dog is inside this little pillowy bundle, so I suppose the least one can do is throw some whole wheat flour into the dough to make it quasi healthy.

My Danish friend Kira says that you can actually make them healthy by first off making your own, using chicken or turkey dogs, and including the all important whole wheat flour in the dough.

The first photo is the pølsehorn a la carte. The second photo is the plate AFTER I realized I could healthy it up a bit and add some veggies on the side. The other thing to note about these "sausage horns" is that they contain ketchup - the dough is brushed with it before they bake (I'm referring to the pølsehorn from Føtex supermarket bakery for those of you in Denmark). In the past, ketchup with hot dogs made me gag, but for some reason I really like it in this snack.

Just for fun, here is a link to a Danish recipe for pølsehorn along with a photo of a traditional looking version.

Note: Every time I cut and paste a Danish word into my blog I get all sorts of funky font problems. I've fiddled till there's no tomorrow and it looks like I can't do a darn thing about the different font sizes. Maddening!

Cleaning out the fridge

Don't forget the small happinesses while you wait for the big ones

For the first time in my 36-year-old life I get a 4-week vacation. The most I've ever had is two weeks, and No, maternity leave is NOT a vacation. While I haven't been working my butt off like Alan to truly deserve this much anticipated respite, I'm taking it anyway. I can't wait. And besides, being unemployed and searching for work is a job in itself. We leave tomorrow and will drive south through Germany and make our way to the west coast of France. We'll be there a week and then we'll head east for the Alps where Alan grew up. Keep your fingers crossed that we survive the 14-hour trip with a 23 month old! We are forever indebted to our dagplege mor (daycare mom) Inger for loaning us their spare auto DVD player.

In terms of my blog and food, the good news is that I will be gathering incredible experiences to share at some future point; the bad news is that we won't have Internet access so I will miss my frequent blog updates. But really, isn't a vacation with no Internet a good thing? So, for the next four weeks, I won't be eating in Denmark at all. I guess I've been inspired by the trip because I've nearly finished reading Suite Francaise (exceptional) and will bring My Life in France by Julia Child to start as soon as possible. I've heard it's fantastic. I really love the notion that Julia didn't start cooking or attend Cordon Bleu until her late thirties. What an inspiration.

Now for our current meal plan. It's been tough this week trying to think of things to fix that incorporate random perishables. Last night I made a sort of pasta carbonara without bacon and with feta cheese instead of Parmesan. It wasn't bad. Then I grated all the carrots sitting in fridge and added some currants to make a side salad. Years ago I would have been disgusted by this mix, but it's actually very tasty.

I have no idea what I'll be making tonight, but, apart from condiments and peanut butter, here's what's left in my fridge: milk, eggs, butter, celery, some deli meat, cheddar cheese, apples, dill, parsley, a green pepper, and yogurt. I'm thinking some sort of quiche for dinner, but no way can I incorporate all of the above. Ew. But I could use the eggs, deli meat, green pepper, cheddar, dill and parsley, perhaps, as well as the butter in the crust. Then I could make an apple and celery salad and serve yogurt for dessert. Problem solved. It's fun working my thoughts out here, although not very interesting to anybody else, I'm sure.

Have a fantastic summer!