Summer Is Here (In Iceland)

Iceland has a unique holiday celebrated only in Iceland, Sumardagurinn fyrsti — the First Day of Summer. Of course after a long winter it makes complete sense that Icelanders want to celebrate the arrival of summer, but why is it celebrated in late April when freezing temperatures are likely to occur in Iceland.

So What’s Up With This Early Celebration?

The Sumardagurinn fyrsti is a national holiday. Its roots are based in the old Icelandic calendar that was used from the 9th Century during the settlement of Iceland until as recently as the 19th Century.

There were only two seasons, winter and summer according to the Icelandic calendar. (In Minnesota it is often said there are only two seasons, winter and road construction but that’s not based on any historical fact — it’s just based on frustration.) Summer started in late April and lasted until late October. The old calendar was week-based so the official timing of the first day of summer was the second Thursday after April 11th, on the first day of the month of Harpa.

Continue reading

Celebrations to Remember – A Book Signing with Soile Anderson and Eleanor Ostman

Soile Anderson

At Also Ingebretsen’s, the cardamom bolle is our most popular pastry. There’s good reason; it’s a bread-like roll with almonds and cardamom, light, flavorful, and aromatic. It’s also one of the many items we sell that come from Deco Catering, founded by Soile Anderson.

We were very pleased to be able to work with Soile as a supplier for our Kaffe Bar. She has a well-earned reputation for providing exceptional food and has set the gold standard for catering, particularly for Nordic-themed events. Her long list of accomplishments includes preparing a Midsummer dinner for Martha Stewart Living magazine, cooking for the Dalai Lama, President Barak Obama, and the King and Queen of Norway as well as being featured on the Food Network with erudite host Alton Brown.


Soile and staff with President Barack Obama

Recently, Soile sold her business, though her son Heikki is still a partner in Deco and her recipes are still used. This has given her time to write a book combining her ideas for decorations and themed events along with her best-loved recipes. Eleanor Ostman, former food writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, wrote the text while Soile pared the recipes down to family-size proportions (though we’re sure she’d be willing to share tips on how to cook for 200) and selected photographs. The end result is Celebrations to Remember; Exceptional Party Décor and Fabulous Food.


Also Ingebretsen’s is very pleased to have both Soile and Eleanor at our store to sign books this coming Saturday, April 22 at Also Ingebretsen’s at Norway House from 10 to 2.  Soile and Eleanor would be happy to chat with you about food and decorating. Soile will give a presentation from 10:30 to 11, sharing some of her favorite tips.

Saturday, April 22nd

Location: Norway House
911 E. Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55404

Time: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with talk from 10:30 to 11:00.

Also Ingebretsen’s phone: 612.870.5772



Norway Easter Tradition Starts With Fake News

In Norway, Easter (Påske) is celebrated with a tradition known as Påskekrim or Easter-Crime. For some reason, Easter is a high time for reading crime stories and detective novels in Norway, where many say Easter and the crime genre work well together.

In February 1923, two Norwegians, Nordahl Grieg and Nils Lie, wrote a crime novel about the looting of a train to Bergen. The book was called The Bergen train was robbed in the night (or, in its original Norwegian: Bergenstoget plyndret i natt).

Their next step was to get people to buy the book. They came up with a brilliant plan and one that may have been the origin of fake news, 15 years before Orwell’s “War of the Worlds” fake news radio broadcast. They advertised in the nation newspaper Aftenposten by putting the title of the book on the front page. They convinced thousands of readers that the headline was news as opposed to a publicity stunt. It became the most popular Easter book in Norwegian history and is considered the start to Påskekrim.

Continue reading

What is Your Scandinavian Name?

National Name Yourself Day is observed each year on April 9. To celebrate, you are allowed to give yourself a new name for one day. To help you find a new name, we have created the easy as 1-2-3 “How To Create Your New Scandinavian Name”:

1. Take the first 3 letters of your first name + “uffda”
2. The last think you ate + “sson”
3. Take the first 3 letters of your last name + “tefiskström”

For example (envisioning the last thing they ate) you would get:

Abraham Lincoln = Abruffda Chickensson Lintefiskström
Betty White = Betuffda Eggsson Whitefiskström
Stephen Colbert = Steuffda Pancakesson Coltefiskström
Vladimir Putin = Vlauffda Vodkasson Puttefiskström

Or you can buy “A Handbook of Scandinavian Names” by Nancy L. Coleman and Olav Veka – I mean Nanuffdah Cookiesson Coltefiskström and Olav Veka (you can’t improve on that).

Easter Tree, Oh Easter Tree

Easter Tree in SwedenSpring is here and April is only days a way. It is time to make your Easter Tree or Påskris – a popular tradition in Sweden.

In the markets of Sweden you will see buckets and baskets filled with colorful feathers for Påskris. The feathers are tied to twigs and placed in a container. Much like a Christmas tree, you then can add decorations but this time they are all types of symbols of spring such as roosters, hens, birds of all kinds, butterflies, and of course, eggs as colorful as the feathers.

(You can find materials you need for your own Påskris at Ingebretsen’s.)

These colorful twigs with feathers have a not so cheerful story behind its origin. In the 1600’s Swedish people used to take twigs and sticks and beat each other with them on Good Friday to commemorate the suffering of Jesus. In the 1800’s and 1900’s, they decided to stop hitting each other and started to decorate the twigs and they became a symbolic decoration for Easter.

It’s been suggested that the feather twigs represent the palm leaves that were placed on the ground for Jesus’ donkey to walk on in his triumphant return to Jerusalem celebrated on Palm Sunday. Since there are as many palm trees in Sweden as there are in Minnesota (outdoor palm trees to be precise), this was the best they could do to imitate this tradition.

Some Swedes say the Easter Tree symbolizes the wiping away the winter. The twigs represent a broom and the feathers get caught in the broom as we sweep.

K0323_4But since Easter Feathers really don’t look much like palm leaves there may be a couple other reasons for their use (that we are making up right now):

  • It is a warning to all birds that if they chose to “drop” on the local wagons, carts, or Volvos they may find themselves in the same situation as their colorful companions.
  • Much like Linus’ Great Pumpkin, these feathered twigs are offered to the Great Easter Spring Chicken to show her that we are worthy of the warmer weather and that under our parkas we bear clothing of radiant colors.
  • It is an attempt to appease Höðr – the Nordic God of winter, who is not so keen on being pushed aside. Nor is Höðr pleased with the delight and happiness his leaving seems to bring to the natives.

Whatever the “truth” is, we love these Easter Trees and if you haven’t made one in the past we hope you will start a new tradition. When you do, send us a picture and we will post it.

Here is a YouTube video to help you create your Påskris.

Plover Lovers

Iceland Magazine

Iceland Monitor is reporting that the first European gold plovers have arrived in Iceland – which according to tradition also means spring has arrived.

According to an old Icelandic tradition, the arrival of first European golden plover is considered to mark the long awaited beginning of spring and when the first plover is spotted it is announced on every Icelandic news channel every year. The European golden plover is a much loved bird by Icelanders. Some fly in all the way from North-Africa to spend the spring and summer in Iceland.

Approximately half of the golden plover European population breed is in Iceland, with around 500 to 700 thousand breeding pairs. During the winter the birds stay in the British Isles and along the coast in other countries in western Europe all the way to Gibraltar, and some go even as far as to North-Africa.

The golden plover is held in especially high regard in Iceland. It is a protected species and it is considered a sacrilege to kill the bird.

The plover’s arrival this year appears to deliver on that promise; “farewell to the snow.”, the snow seems to be clearing up around most of the country. But as Icelanders well know, April can be volatile in terms of weather so we will have to wait and see. None the less, the day of the plover’s arrival is a mild one all over the coastline with half cloudy and clear skies and temperatures nodding around zero degrees.

Ice News reports:

As reported by the Bird Watching Centre in the southeast of Iceland, four golden plovers were spotted in flight around Hofn, early this morning. Those are the first plovers spotted arriving this spring.

The golden plover holds very specific place in the heart of Icelanders and she is muse to poets and artists. Icelandic schoolchildren welcome the bird with a song called “Lóan er komin”, including the line: “The plover is come to bid farewell to the snow”.

You can hear Lóan er komin here:


Spring Grove Soda Pop – Stop and smell the soda.

Drop by Ingebretsen’s Kaffe Bar at Norway House  and you’ll see a colorful array of 8 different flavors of Spring Grove Soda Pop  on the counter. Some people have an instant-nostalgia reaction upon seeing them, often exclaiming, “I didn’t know they still made that!” Yes, it’s still made. As a matter of fact, Spring Grove Soda Pop has been produced continually since 1895.

Others are surprised to learn that there is such a thing as small, locally made soda pop, but wonder what the Norwegian connection is. The connection is that Spring Grove is the site of the first Norwegian settlement in Minnesota. The residents keep that heritage alive through festivals, a folk school, and in simple, daily ways including stamping Mange Tusen Takk! (Norwegian for “many thousand thanks”) on the bottles of Spring Grove Soda Pop.


Bob and Dawn Hansen are the current owners of the company. They bought the business at a good time. In the same way the craft beer movement is growing, people are increasingly enjoying craft sodas. Bob laughs as he says, “We’re upscale now!” Upscale, but not pretentious. The Hansens have some absolutes so as to ensure quality, such as using only glass bottles and pure cane sugar. However, they are not above working with the Midwest’s most ubiquitous vegetable, rhubarb, from which they created a best-selling flavor.


Originally commissioned by the Lanesboro Rhubarb Festival committee, the rhubarb soda was bottled and sold exclusively at the festival. Bob, however, saw an opportunity for a drink that might have wider appeal. He continued to taste, tweek, and try different formulas. “My test for a flavor is to ask myself, ‘would I want another one?’” says Bob.  Adding strawberry flavor gave the right level of sweetness and sales testify that people definitely “want another one.” There is enough of a demand that the flavor, now christened “Rhuberry,” has gone from being a seasonal drink to one that is now offered year round.

When asked if he had any plans to keep a more recent Norwegian tradition and develop a Christmas soda, Bob slyly replies, “What, like a lutefisk flavor?” Well, one hopes not. While Bob doesn’t have immediate plans for a new holiday soda, there are plenty of good flavors available already.

The Ingebretsen’s Kaffee Bar has just started carrying Spring Grove Soda Pop’s cream soda. Those who know about cream soda, love it. Those who don’t, are completely mystified by the name. How is this brown, translucent beverage related to a dairy product? The name, origins, and required ingredients of cream soda is debatable. The Spring Grove Soda Pop version does not have any cream in it. It does have vanilla flavoring and theirs is particularly smooth. When the first case arrived at the Kaffee Bar, the staff had a tasting. Drew, without having any idea of Bob Hansen’s criteria for a good soda, said, “Good enough you’ll want two!”

Spring Grove Soda Pop Fan

Drew, a member of the Also Ingebretsen’s  Kaffe Bar staff, gives his stamp of approval to the cream soda.

Bob and Dawn Hansen pride themselves on the quality of their ingredients and on the true taste of the syrups used to flavor the soda. Bob suggests that to make the most of your Spring Grove Soda, wait a minute before taking a sip. He says, “Pop the top. See that little cloud. Smell that.” That little cloud will give you the fragrance of the syrup and gives you a preview of just how good the flavor will be.

Sodas are definitely a family drink, but Spring Grove Soda Pop also plays nicely with more adult ingredients. Bob admits that he’d be hard pressed to drink the Lemon Sour straight, though many customers do. He prefers to mix his with a bit of whiskey at the end of the day. Another relaxing combination is the Black Cherry Soda Pop with Captain Morgan Spiced Rum for an easy cocktail.

So, enjoy a Spring Grove Soda Pop at the Kaffe Bar now, then buy one to take home and enjoy later. Hoist your drink high and say Mange Tusen Takk to the Hansens for keeping a tasty tradition alive.

– Carstens Smith