Norwegian Heart Shaped Waffles (Vafler)

May 19, 2010 § 35 Comments

Monday (the 17th) was Syttende Mai, Norway’s Constitution Day.  It’s like the Norwegian version of the Fourth of July, except that it’s a waaaaaaay bigger deal.  Norwegians are ferociously patriotic, doncha know.  It’s a day when, as a kid (or even adult), you’re allowed to eat all your favorite foods – even ice cream and hot dogs for breakfast!  There is a parade in every town with the children and the teachers marching in front of the capital buildings (in Oslo you get to wave to the King and Queen!).  And, everyone turns out waving their flags, and dressed in traditional woolen embroidered costumes called bunads.  You sing songs and have parties with neighbors and generally have a grand ole’ time (and if you’re partying in true Norwegian fashion, you also usually get totally wasted, but we won’t go there).

This, kind of amazingly, was the first Syttende Mai I’ve had when I haven’t gone to celebrate with my family.  Luckily, a wonderful band of my friends were willing to come over and parade with me around my neighborhood, sing songs (we even had guitars and mandolin), hear troll stories, and eat all the traditional food I prepared.  I took the day off of working and just stayed home and cooked!  We had a whole smorgasbord of treats from hotdogs, meatballs, red cabbage, and smoked fish, to boller, sour cream porridge, whipped cream cake, and vafler.  Trying to choose which of these foods is my favorite would be like trying to choose a favorite child (er, if I had children).  But, I’m going to share a recipe for vafler, Norwegian heart shaped waffles, with you because they’re just so iconic.

If there were to be an ‘ultimate Norwegian snack food smack down’, I’d pit vafler against boller, and honestly I have no idea who would win.  Both are beyond delicious, and you find them all over the place.  You can get freshly made waffles in many cafes across the country, served plain with butter, or with jam and sour cream.  They’re heaven with a cup of coffee.  Sometimes in the summer, kids will even make waffles and sell them at stands – kind of like a lemonade stand.  Trying to walk past the scent of waffles being freshly griddled without buying one to eat is like torture.  It’s a fabulous business ploy.

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Boller med rosiner (cardamom raisin buns)

March 22, 2010 § 49 Comments

You know how some foods, with one bite or even sniff, can plunge you instantly into a different time and place, immersing you in memories and a flood of sensations beyond just the surface sensory experience of eating that food?  More than any other food, boller do that for me.  The spicy smell of cardamom as I break one open, the pillowy soft texture, the mild sweetness and the bursts of plump raisins as  I eat one, conjures up granite rocks warm from the sun under foot and the salty cold north sea splashing up into my face.  I’m a little girl, scrambling in the mountains of Norway and playing on the beach, swimming and fishing for crabs.  My mom, sitting with an ever present cup of coffee, has just called to us that she has brought boller with her, and we can have a snack if we’re hungry.

Boller are one of the most common and beloved snacks in Norway.  Kind of as chocolate chip cookies are to Americans, boller are to Norwegians.  But, given the choice between a bolle and a chocolate cookie, I’d take the bolle any day!  They are a milk based bread, so they are very soft and chewy.  They’re slightly sweet, but not overly sweet like so many American baked goods are.  And, they are lightly scented with cardamom, the most delicious spice in the whole world, so how can you go wrong?  You can find them fresh baked daily in any bakery and even any gas station.  You can also buy bags of them in the grocery store, which is very convenient for taking to the beach. (Yes, there are beaches in Norway, and as soon as it’s sunny and above 65F it’s a national duty to start tanning!)

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