Saturday, February 12, 2011

Port of Entry: Coming to America

The Perssons who became the Piersons, after they came to America (My grandfather is on the back row.) They ended up in Minnesota.

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, ar-ya?"

Nowadays 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. (Cherokees. Can we say Trail of Tears? Yes, I have a diverse heritage.)

But on my mother's side with the Swedes, here's the story. My grandfather, Jonas Persson, lived in Skane, Sweden (Southern Sweden, so I'm Southern on both sides of the family) and he 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 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. And I'm truly thankful to be All-American.)

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

No wonder I couldn't find him on any of
the lists that have become public. Hannah, his wife, was from Smaland, Sweden and they lived in New Sweden, Maine 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 mosquitoes) 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 I like food. And I like it even more when I'm snowed in. Which proves that I have just enough Swede for food abundance appreciation with a good cuppa coffee (and enough Irish in me to enjoy it!) Gotta love our backgrounds. Many of the Swedes left Sweden 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! (Sounds like my kind of guy, because besides food, I love stories and books.) So, the Swedes were a hardy bunch, literate and had the ability to keep a buoyant spirit while being worked to death. Maybe Jonas just didn't know any better.

Where Great-Grandma 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 right here in the Midwest concerning cookies. (See how we're getting to the main point?)

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 throughout the holidays. I wanted that recipe. Even though I probably had ten recipes (and continue to search) for Swedish Melting Moments, those were really good. I'd get about one cookie a year.

So, I asked her if I could have the recipe. I promised to only bake them for  my family. (In case she worried I'd upstage her.) 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! (Big puppy eyes.)

I've given my recipes to bed and breakfast places who did use them for their reputation of their inn. If you die, and you die with your recipe, for which you are famous--what good were you? You stingily take that recipe to your grave? 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. So you can share the recipe, but maybe it's just not the same. You have to bring something to it. Maybe it has to do with enjoyment or the "sharing" of the delicious baked item, too, 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.)

So, in the spirit of my ancestors being fancy bakers, and because of all the bad weather we've had, and I just got a new mixer and oven (earlier story on my blog) I want to share one of those Swedish Melting Moments cookie recipes with you. Not as good as You-Know-Who's, but we take what we can get.

 Swedish Melting Moments Cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 cup butter
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 TBS. powdered sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
Cookie Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 TBS. melted butter
1 TBS. lemon juice
 1 TBS. orange juice

Cookie glaze: Combine ingredients; whisk until smooth.
Cream butter in a large mixing bowl; gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Sift in flour and cornstarch; mix well. Add flavorings, blending well. Chill 1 hour.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten each cookie with the bottom of a small glass dipped in water. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. (Cookies do not brown, but should be cooked through the center.) Carefully remove to wire cooling rack (cookies are very fragile.) Spread cookie glaze evenly over each while still warm. Cool and store in airtight containers.   Yields 2 dozen cookies or a lot of crumbs. (They break easily....)

1 comment:

Carrie said...

Mmmmm, cookies! I love to bake, and I've discovered sometimes what makes the recipe special is the love in the hands that make it, not simply the ingredients! So, think warm and fuzzy thoughts about your dear Imy, and the tradition inherent in those pie crusts, as you make them with the love implied in the simple offering of food . . . to nourish body and soul.