Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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Christmas doesn’t come again for 292 days, but that didn’t stop us from partaking in a traditional Swedish Christmas dinner Sunday night.
Tomten (Swedish Santa Claus) didn’t come down the chimney to stuff our stockings, but Bitti Wiik stuffed our tummies with a wonderfully mild anchovy casserole the likes of which I have never tasted. It’s called Jansson’s Temptation, and I swear I’m not making that part up. But now I know why Jansson couldn’t resist the dish.
We gathered with Bitti and her husband, Sven, her granddaughter Kajsa Lindgren, daughter Birgitta Lindgren and treasured neighbors Craig and Mo Schifter around a compact wood-burning kitchen that Bitti still uses to prepare meals. The Schifters are great conversationalists, even if they don’t speak Swedish.
Our Christmas-in-March dinner was served smorgasbord style, beginning with seafood dishes and wonderful bread. It included pickled herring, which always was served on Christmas Eve in my childhood home even though we don’t have any Scandinavian heritage.
The casserole, with layers of potatoes, anchovies and onions in a cream sauce, was masterfully blended. If you think anchovies have an impossibly strong flavor, you haven’t tasted Bitti’s anchovy casserole. It was well complemented by deviled eggs.
I should point out that Bitti actually is Danish. She had the good fortune to marry a handsome Swedish skier and college educator, Sven Wiik, who immigrated to Gunnison and ultimately found his way north to Steamboat. I’m here to tell you that Sven is a lucky guy.
The second course of Sunday night’s Christmas dinner included pickled beets, boiled potatoes, ham, pressed veal loaf and, of course, Swedish meatballs.
In anticipation of the likelihood that some delicate meatballs might be on the evening’s menu, I had rehearsed a very important phrase of Swedish that I had dug up on the Internet.
“Far jag vanligen ha lite ver nar?” I asked proudly in my best Swedish accent.
I was met first with blank looks, then with titters.
“Far jag vanligen ha lit ever nar?” I insisted.
This time my efforts brought on undisguised laughter from my gracious hosts. And who could blame them?
Finally, I resorted to my native tongue.
“May I please have some more meatballs?”
“Oh! You mean, ‘Far jag vanligen ha lite kötbulia!’”
Yes, that’s exactly what I meant to say. Anything for another plate of authentic Swedish meatballs.
I had such a wonderful evening at the Wiik household Sunday night that I’ve decided my wife and I will celebrate Christmas Swedish style every March 4.
Please pass the Jansson’s Temptation.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com