Sunday, July 29, 2012


I promised that my next post was going to be about food, and while the main reason behind this post is Nordic Fest, a good portion of what I did during the festival involved food ... so it's sort of the same thing.

Nordic Fest happens every year to celebrate Decorah's strong Norwegian heritage. The streets are closed down, little houses for venders pop up on the main street, flags are hung in every possible spot, and store windows are decorated in Norwegian fare just for the one weekend event.

On Friday, I got off work early and spent the afternoon wandering the festival with Laura. We checked out the 'Viking Encampment' with craft fair (full of neat wood workings like spoons and bowls, pottery of various sorts, and metal working). The Vesterheim has a whole bunch of little houses built by Norwegians long ago, so we checked out the insides and enjoyed a slate roof. There was an art fair that prompted me to buy a pretty pottery cup, and we had the opportunity to check out a lot of the stores on Water Street that we never usually do.

However, I know you all aren't here to hear about 'what we did', so here's what we ate. Friday began our eating challenge, in which we decided we needed to make sure we tried every type of Norwegian food offered. Plus, I only took pictures of my food.

First was varme pølse, a sausage wrapped in lefse (which is a flat pancake-like bread made with potatoes that is ubiquitous to Norwegian cuisine). Next we had a lingonberry slushie that was really good. And finally, my fair favorite - rømmegrøt with rosettes. Rømmegrøt is a warm custard served with melted butter and cinnamon and sugar, and rosettes are funnel cake flavored cookies (which taste like funnel cakes because they're deep fried like funnel cakes). Traditionally served at Christmas, I was pretty excited that I had the opportunity to eat rømmegrøt three different times throughout the weekend. And I'm in full support of any culture that has funnel cake flavored cookies outside of county fairs.
rømmegrøt with rosettes
This was all before our supper, Smørgåsbord, held at Decorah First Lutheran. This Norwegian supper included meatballs and mashed potatoes with gravy, ham, green beans, coleslaw, pickled herring, pickles and pickled beets, lefse, rømmegrøt, søtsuppe (sweet soup of various dried fruits in syrup/juice), cookies of various sorts and all with fancy Norwegian names like krumkake (shaped like horns), kransekake (almond ring cake), and kringle (soft doughy pretzel shaped pastry). We soon discovered that most Norwegian desserts are some recombination of butter, cream, and sugar. Not a bad way to eat. Since we hadn't quite prepared for how much food we would be eating at super, we smuggled out a few cookies because we were really full. 

After eating, we watched the Nordic Dancers. This troop of kids began dancing together in the third grade after being selected for the team, and they all dance together for 10 years. The organization only holds try outs when they need a new team - so if you were born in the wrong year, then you're out of luck. While dancing Norwegian dances may seem like the dorky thing to do, in Decorah all the cool kids do it. And this explains why everyone in this town knows how to dance. See, later that evening there was a Foot-Notes dance. I know I've told you about these dances before, full of waltzes, two-step, polka, and shadish. This particular dance was held on the street in front of the court house on a perfect summer evening with a clear sky and cool breeze. And unlike other dances, there were hundreds of people here. Everyone knew how to dance, buzzing around the dance floor to the same beat. I love dancing in Decorah, but this dance may top them all due to the pure abundance of people, the perfect summer evening, and the energy of everyone together having a fantastic time.

Saturday was equally full of Nordic themed awesomeness. Laura and I took part in the rock throwing contest (in which you hurl 50 pound rocks as far as possible), checked out more entertainment of string bands and vikings, and ate even more than the day before. We had delicious skekt svinek jott (pork chop on a stick ... which was the bone), vaffel (waffle with ice cream and fruit on top), nisse (lingnonberry ice cream), and another Norwegian supper. The first one was so delicious that we decided we couldn't pass up another chance at First Lutheran Church. The main difference was carrots instead of green beans and boiled potatoes instead of mashed ... so I won't make you drool more by walking you through the delicious eats again. We also tried lutefisk, the famed fish of Norwegian lore. While we didn't partake in the eating contest, we tried the gelatinous goo that was drowning in butter. It's not terrible, but it's not delicious ... completely deserving of all it's jokes.

eating lutefisk!
pork chop on a stick!
Norwegian Dinner No. 2
The end of Saturday brought another Foot-Notes dance and fireworks. Laura lives on the dike, so we took some lawn chairs up to the top, drank our beer, and watched exploding balls of light in the sky. Decorah doesn't do fireworks on July 4th ... but they do them for Nordic Fest. And while firework shows are pretty standard, this one had the prettiest ending I've ever seen - with many of the white, weepy ones that stayed in the sky when finished. Our white-trash lawn chairs with cheap-cigars and beer drinking ways made the viewing all the more better.

With an uff-da to finish the weekend, I'm glad to say we accomplished our eating goals, and I feel pretty good about the level of commitment I gave to Nordic Fest. Undaunted conviction to Nordic ways, and to the Decorah lifestyle of Eat the Butter and Go Dancing. Mange takk, Decorah.

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