Sasquatch Books sent me a copy of Scandinavian Gatherings for review purposes. All opinions are mine and from the heart.
With a high of 7°C, it’s been milder here today then it has in ages yet even so, all I want to do is burrow under the covers and not come out until Spring has sprung. Fortunately I have lots of great books to keep me company. One I keep coming back to is Scandinavian Gatherings: From Afternoon Fika to Midsummer Feast — 70 Simple Recipes & Crafts for Everyday Celebrations by Melissa Bahen of the food and lifestyle blog Lulu the Baker.
Although I’m a longtime fan of Scandinavian style, I really didn’t know much about Scandinavian traditions and dishes (well none apart from the menu at IKEA anyway) before picking up the book. Inside are 10 party ideas for family-friendly gatherings inspired by Nordic holidays and celebrations (including a Nordic brunch, summer seafood feast, heritage dinner and Christmas Eve supper), 30 simple crafts for decorating and entertaining, and 40 recipes incorporating Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Finnish flavours (many recreations of the recipes Melissa’s Scandinavian ancestors were raised on). Melissa’s approach to entertaining is unfussy and approachable, with the attention to detail of a creative spirit who truly enjoys the small pleasures in life and sharing them with family and friends. Illustrated with cheery folk art and photography that will make you want to climb into each cozy scene, Scandinavian Gatherings is an inviting book full of ideas you’ll be inspired to try and traditions you’ll want to make your own.
Since I’m itching for spring, I love the idea of welcoming the season with a Woodland Tea Party. Melissa’s teacup terrariums, toadstool garden picks, tree trunk cake plate and other craft projects show it’s possible to create a whimsical woodland setting indoors or out. Add mix and match teacups and saucers from thrift shops, cover the table with vintage linens and bring in fresh flowers and your backyard deck or kitchen nook become a cozy wooded hideaway.
“There’s something magical about Scandinavia, from the brightly painted homes lining the harbour in Denmark to the northern lights that dance across the summer sky near the Arctic Circle. It’s a region tailor-made for stories, legends and fairy tales. My grandparents lived in Sweden for several years while I was in college, in a little apartment in a quaint village outside of Stockholm. Their apartment building was covered in hanging flower baskets and was surrounded by a forest filled with moss-covered trees, soft sunlight, and bright-red toadstools. It was the kind of forest you would read about in a children’s book, the type of place you would expect to find a magical creature or two — and the perfect spot for a woodland tea party.” — Scandinavian Gatherings
And what does one eat at a Woodland Tea Party? How about Ham & Gouda Tea Sandwiches with Sweet Onion Mustard Sauce (“ham and rye bread are perennial favourites on the Scandinavian lunch table, and Gouda is one of Denmark’s tastiest contributions to the world!”), Turkey and Lingonberry Tea Sandwiches, a Raspberry Cream Cheese Danish Braid, and a Nutella Swirl Crumb Cake? (Yes, Scandinavians love Nutella too!) Sounds like all of the ingredients for a magical gathering. (Melissa, I am charmed!!)
I like salmon all the ways, so the Poached Salmon with Dill Sauce featured in the Summer Seafood Celebration was especially appealing. Since it’s quick to prepare you can spend more time with your guests and because it’s made on the stovetop, it won’t heat up the kitchen too much.
“Scandinavians are master fishermen and equally masterful at feasting on the ocean’s bounty. Seafood is a major component of their diet year round: oysters, mussels, lobster, salmon, cold, mackerel, king crab, herring, shrimp, and more are available at various times of the year. But summer, with its warm weather and lingering daylight, is the perfect time of year to gather for a seafood feast.” — Scandinavian Gatherings
Also on the menu: Seafood Salad with Summer Herbs (served across Scandinavia all summer long as a side dish, main dish and on open-faced sandwiches); Dill Muffin Dinner Rolls; and a Finnish Blueberry Custard Pie. Recipes for each of the 10 chapters are paired with craft projects, in this case Mason Jar Citronella Candles to keep the bugs at bay on warm summer evenings outdoors, Hanging Paper Fan Decorations like the vibrant Chinese fans and lanterns hung at seafood feasts across Scandinavia, and Nautical Rope Napkin Knots (a cheap and cheerful way to “tie” the theme together).
And I loved the Mini Danish Heart Garland Melissa created for the Christmas Cookie Exchange (had I been more on top of things I would have made these with the kids for Valentine’s Day). The red and white colours are typical of Scandinavian Christmas decorations and also the colours of the Danish flag, and the basket weaving a nod to the red-and-white woven heart baskets made by Danish children at Christmastime. The chapter also includes recipes for Waffle Cookies, Spiced Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries & Almonds, Chocolate-Dipped Almond Horns, Jam Cakes, and Hot Chocolate with Homemade Cardamom Marshmallows. (I’ve always wanted to try making my own marmallows so I’m flagging the recipe.)
Are you keen to host your own Scandinavian Gathering? Which recipe or craft or party theme would you try first?
Photographs 2, 3, 4 and the cover by Charity Burggraaf and published here with permission from Sasquatch Books.