Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Coming to America: Port of Entry

Coming to America: Port of Entry
and Turn on the Oven

It is always interesting to me how people got to this country. I like to hear the stories. Around here where I live, most people's ancestors end at Grandma and Grandpa and they'll say, "Wahl, I thank my people came from North Carolina, but we been on this here land since 1832.You ain't from around here, arya?"

Now with genealogy being a hobby, some of those people have traced themselves back to the Mayflower and they belong to an exclusive Mayflower society. Wahl, I have some ancestors who met them when they got off the boat. Doesn't seem to have the same prestige. Go figure. (and my maiden name is Warren--there were Warrens on the Mayflower.)

But on my mother's side, here's the story. My grandfather, Jons Persson, lived in Skane, Sweden (Southern Sweden, so I'm Southern on both sides of the family) and was a fancy baker by trade (oh, yeah, the baking is in the "blood." Boo-ya!)

There was this guy named William Widgery Thomas who was the American Ambassador to Sweden. He turns out to be well-documented in Portland, Maine and supposedly said for his reason for bringing the Swedes over, "Besides all other reasons, I believe these honest, pious, plodding Swedes would form an excellent balance to the fickle, merry, light-hearted Irish, who are now crowding in such goodly numbers to our shores."

I don't know about you'ins, but I'm part Irish, too. I'd hate to be just be a "plodding" sort. And that sounds a little politically incorrect to me, but alas, he was a well-respected man, whose family boasts of being the first whites in their area.Hally-lew-yah. Can I get an "Amen?" No? (But don't think I'm not grateful for him, Mr. Thomas, because I am. I figure God used Mr. Thomas to get us here.)

Thomas commissioned a special boat to bring 51 special tradesmen to America and settle them in a settlement called New Sweden, Maine. My great-grandfather above was one of those guys (around 1870.)

No wonder I couldn't find him on any of the lists that have become public. Hannah was from Smaland, Sweden and they lived in New Sweden until 1882 before taking off (those wild and crazy kids!) for Minnesota. Why they would head for Minnesota just shows they wanted land. Land was for the taking after the Homestead Act. If any of you live in Minnesota, you know about the "state bird"(called mosquitos) and how it took a special breed of people to stick it out on those homesteads. My people did it.

At this time of year, I really appreciate my Swedish and Norwegian roots because those people liked food and loved Christmas. And I like food. Which proves that I have just enough Swede for food abundance appreciation with a good cuppa coffee (and enough Irish to enjoy it!) Gotta love our backgrounds. Many of the Swedes left because they were starving. And America had plenty of food. We get smorgasbord from the Swedes--and I have the recipes to prove it.

However, my favorite story from Sweden is called Godnatt, jord (Goodnight, Earth) and this isn't from my family, but hey. Some writer named Ivar Lo-Johansson (and I'm related to some Johanssons.) The character, Mikael, knew there was some glowing life out there and his hunger for it, drove him to steal money for books. This family was direly starving and he's stealing money for books. So, the Swedes were a hardy bunch, literate and had the ability to keep a buoyant spirit while being worked to death. Maybe Jons just didn't know any better.

Christmas traditions abound with the Swedes. A lot of the traditions swirl around light. It is so dark during this time of year, that even Lucia celebration (Dec. 13th) has lights. I refuse to wear candles in my hair, even if I am the oldest girl. Hot wax and the hair on my skull--not a nice combo.

Another favorite tradition at Christmas is the baking of Christmas bread. There were baskets of bread for poor, a supply for the winter months, and everyone got their own stash of bread. When they got to America where food was plenty, they didn't forget their days of scarce eating, so they baked up all kinds of breads and sampled it at will!In Sweden you were urged to eat a bite of bread with each bite of food because it was the very core of life. If you dropped your bread piece, you had to pick it up and eat it, even if someone stepped on it. This is why Hans Christian Anderson (though Danish, loved the heart of Sweden) had ol' Hansel and Gretel dropping bread crumbs like mad--it was sort of defiance.

Where Hannah was from (Smaland) they shaped their breads like birds. Oh,and you have to have seven kinds of cookies. Now, I'm going to tell you this really mean story that happened to me.

I used to participate in a cookie swap at Christmas (in another place where I lived.) I love recipes, and I loved the cookie swap! One lady there (my age) had a particularly tasty recipe for Swedish Melting Moments cookies. She was praised far and wide, and she would bake for a solid week, and freeze her cookies, getting them out for various social events. I wanted that recipe. Even though I probably had 10 recipes (and continue to search) for Swedish Melting Moments, those were really good. I'd get about one a year.

So, I asked her if I could have the recipe. I promised to only bake them for family. She said, "No problem! I'd love for you to have it." But she conveniently never gave it to me. (Believe me, I asked several times.)Now, she lives far away and I live the other far away--and I still don't have that recipe.

I still consider it annoying when people horde their recipes. I mean, I can understand it if you have a special recipe and you have a bakery or restaurant and you continue to pass it in your own family. But if you're not a "professional" making a living at it--just share it!

I've given my recipes even to bed and breakfast places who did use it for their reputation of their inn. If you die, and you die with your recipe, for which you are famous--what good were you? Now, to be fair, my mother-in-law, Imy, who is one of the best bakers ever, has tried to teach me about the fine art of pie crust--and I have her recipe. I have tried, without success to make it as good as she does. Maybe it has to do with enjoyment or the "sharing" of the delicious baked item, but I will never be able to replicate her recipe. I think it may even have to do with her hands--the size or something or maybe with her patience (which I don't always have so much of.)

I come from a baker who was brought to this country special because of his great skill at baking--and yet I haven't a single recipe from him.

Share your stories this holiday season with your families--but also share the uniqueness of the foods of your family.

(And if you have a most excellent recipe for Swedish Melting Moments, I'd love to see it...)


1000 Gifts....

212. enjoying "Miracle on 34th Street" with my boys
213. excitment of the season
214. secret packages being shuffled around and the anticipation
215. great beef in the freezer from Cousin Larry's farm
216. My Aunt Mayme for writing down so many family stories and for her accuracy
217. Florida fruit orders are in! (Thanks to the high school band) We're eating "sunshine" on dark days (yum)
218. the splash of orange on my tongue when I bite into a freshly peeled section
219. the crunching sound of apples when I bite them
220. my long-suffering mailman bringing me yet another book
221. My Aunt Linda for always thinking of me
222. the thought of meeting Michelle for coffee
223. the fun discussions with the Christian Humor Writers
224. people who make me laugh
225. people sharing with me their daily strides
226. warm sunshine peeking out to keep me going during the dark days of winter
227. Christmas cards!
228. My copy of Torah, Grace and Truth: Messiah Magazine
229. The Hanukkah story in this magazine ("Shining Lights into a Kingdom of Darkness" by Michael and Sharra Badgley)
231. Photos
232. my Robert Bateman print of the Bald Eagle
233. having passions
234. my boys and their humor
235. hugs
236. Home Sweet Home candle scent
237. the glow of candles in the dark
238. the light of the world, Jesus
239. Christmas music
240. Celtic Christmas music
241. the color sapphire blue
242. poinsettia from Melba
243. Taylor accoustic guitars
244. hearing Bryce, Max, Jordan and Tyler laughing downstairs
245. Goofy Tyler's laugh and his twinkling eyes and freckles
246. my husband's gruff beard
247. my little dog, Lizzie, doing tricks for a "cookie"
248. Folk art
249. Uncle Grant's saw painting of wood ducks
250. Uncle Grant's painting of a mill done in blues (for Millers--get it?)

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