A Norwegian Tragedy That Spawned a French Wedding Tradition

Marie-Andree cover

A guest blog from Anne Gillespie Lewis:

A century ago, the Norwegian cargo ship, the SS Ymer, was torpedoed by a German submarine off a small French island during World War I. An alarm went out and a 12-man lifeboat crew from the fishing island of Ile d’Yeu, off the west coast, set out to find any survivors. They rescued seven of the Ymer’s crew and finally managed to reach the French shore after a harrowing three days and nights fighting snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures. Six of the 12 rescuers from the Paul Tourreil and several of the Norwegians from the Ymer died during those days.

The heroic rescue and the tragic loss of lives are still remembered on the island and a statue commemorating the event, donated by the government of Norway, stands in the center of the island’s port.  Over the years the statue became part of the island’s culture.  Marie-Andrée Taraud Sadrant, who grew up on the island, remembers it well. She is the focus of the book Marie-Andrée at Ten/Marie-Andrée à Dix Ans, by Anne Gillespie Lewis. The book, which tells the story of one year in her life, when she turned ten, is a series of imaginary letters written to a fictional pen pal. Her version of the story of the statue and its place in island culture is given in the two letters below:


June 1, 1966


Well, the wedding is over and I am sad that it is over because I had a wonderful time. It lasted three days really. That is how we do it in France. The day before we had a big meal for everyone and that was fun.

The next morning was the wedding and we were lucky because it was a beautiful day, with blue sky and nice and sunny. It isn’t always so nice in late May. Anyway, we went to tJhe town hall because all couples have to be married by the mayor to make it official. After that, we went to the church.

I was nervous going down the aisle, but I didn’t trip or anything. And my sister Pierrette was so beautiful! I don’t think I ever saw a bride so beautiful and so close to me.

Then, guess what! All of us marched, like a parade, from the church to the port and we were singing and laughing. When we got there we went to the statue of the Norwegian and Gilbert (that was the groom’s name, remember I told you?) and Pierrette held hands and walked around the statue a few times. I forgot to count and I should have counted because however many times they walk around the Norwegian means how many babies they want!

Then we all went to a big room and had a wonderful wedding meal. We ate lots of seafood, fish, leg of lamb and beef tongue and for dessert our special island tartes aux pruneaux and also floating islands. What a lot to eat!

But that wasn’t the end! After the meal someone played records and people danced. I danced a little bit but I was too shy to dance a lot. Mom made us (me, Annie and Murielle) go to bed before it was all over, but I know they had onion soup just before everyone left.

So, the next day we were all tired but there was another big meal! We ate chicken and veal and fish and more prune pies and many other things. Pierrette and Gilbert are going to stay on Yeu for a while before they have to go back to France.

Cathy left today to go back to France and Gilbert’s family left too. Life is going to be quiet around here after all that. Have you been to many weddings? If you get the chance, you should go because they are so much fun!

I have to quit now and help mom clean up the house and put the extra mattresses away.




June 29, 1966


It is very hot today and later Annie and Murielle and I are going to go to the beach and cool off in the water. Thanks for your letter. I’m glad that you have been to a wedding too. That is all over now. Everything is back to normal. I hope somebody else will get married soon!

Oh, you wanted to know why there is a statue of a Norwegian at the port. I suppose it did sound strange. It has been there ever since Grand-Père was a little boy. In fact, he remembers the day it was put there because there were a lot of important people there, some came from Norway and almost everyone on the island went to the ceremony.

This is what happened, it was during the first World War, in 1917, and this Norwegian ship got torpedoed by a German submarine and all the sailors fell into the water, I guess. Some men from our island found out about this and went to rescue them. They got seven of them back to the island. They were so brave to go out when the Germans were out there.

The government of Norway was so happy that the sailors were saved that they had this statue made because the men had been so brave. And they came to the island and thanked the men who saved them. Six of the sailors were here too (I read all this in a book about the island, I didn’t know all of it until you asked me.) Guess what! One of the Norwegians who came was a man who was on a ship that went to the North Pole! There were some important French people too.

Anyway, it has been a tradition for brides and grooms to walk around this statue for many years. Mom and dad did it too. It is funny that you say you are part Norwegian. I thought Americans were just Americans!

So that is the story. Do you like it?

Write soon! Marie-Andrée

As you can see, Marie-Andrée didn’t know all the details. It is true that a delegation from Norway, including Polar explorer Commander Sigurd Scott-Hansen, who was part of the crew on Fridtjof Nansen’s Fram, came for the dedication, as did the surviving lifeboat crew members.  Those who died during the storm were buried, side by side, in Brittany.

The wedding ritual of walking around the statue still exists and it provides a joyful counterpart to a tragedy. (source: www.wrecksite.eu)

Anne Gillespie Lewis will be signing Marie-Andrée at Ten/Marie-Andrée à Dix Ans  At Ingebretsen’s, 1601 East Lake Street, from on Friday, November 24 from 11-1p.m. She will also have copies of her earlier book, A Perfect Tree for Christmas and she may bring cookies!


A Smashed hit – Raghavan Iyer talk and book signing this Saturday, Nov. 4.


Savory potato aebelskiver. Hasselback potatoes with cardamom and lemon butter. Lefse and ….well, that would be telling. That particular combination will be revealed this Saturday, November 4 when cookbook author, recipe developer, consultant, and a 2005 finalist for the James Beard Journalism award, Raghavan Iyer, will be at Ingebretsen’s for his cookbook, Smashed, Mashed, Boiled, and Baked., and Fried. Too! Raghavan’s previous, award-winning cookbooks, such as 660 Curries and The Turmeric Trail, focused on teaching North American cooks how to make Indian food. In Smashed, Raghavan puts his attention fully on the potato.

savory potato aebelskivers
Savory potato aebelskivers in the making.

When asked what inspired him to devote an entire cookbook to potatoes, Raghavan replied in an email, “It has been a passion of mine since my childhood days – I have never done a single subject book and this seemed like the perfect medium to test the waters and explore the cuisines of the world through the fourth largest crop in the world.” (In case you’re wondering, the top three are corn, wheat, and rice respectively, according to the USDA.)

2016.04.25 JBF BBJ awards

As part of his research for the book, Raghavan took a lefse class at Ingebretsen’s from Martha and Dave Dobratz. He said of that experience, “I have sampled many lefses through the 30-plus years I have been in Minnesota. Martha and Dave showed me the beauty of an extraordinary lefse. It should taste like potatoes and have the lacy-thin beauty of the flatbread; you should be able to see the light shine through a lefse.”

Smashed takes old favorites, then gives cooks  strikingly original variations on those recipes.  Raghavan explains his creative process this way:

“Often I will look around and see what are some of the things people are doing with a particular recipe. I then I twist them around dramatically to incorporate flavors and techniques that deliver some amazing results. Sometimes I will throw combinations together based on what I have lying around in my pantry and or fridge. I am all about flavors and so I do incorporate an element of that in all my recipes.”

hasselback potatoes with lemon and cardamom
Hasselback potatoes with lemon cardamom butter.

Raghavan wrote on how to extract 8 unique flavors from a single spice in 660 Curries, so his suggestions on how to get the most out of the already versatile potato will ibe plentiful and will inspire you to experiment.

Please join us this Saturday from 10 to 10:30 at the main store when Raghavan will speak on getting the most flavor out of your potato recipes, as well as guidelines for creating your own new flavor combinations. A book signing will follow from 10:30 to noon. Details here.

RI with spice



Lillunn – Quality, Warmth, and Happy Sheep. Trunk Show on Saturday, Nov. 4


A recent Ingebretsen’s customer said, “I’ll never have to buy another coat,” while admiring her new purchase of a Lillunn reindeer jacket. She’s right. Lillunn emphasizes quality and careful hands-on production from the sheep to the showroom. When told of this comment, Hanne Messerich, American representative of Lillunn said, “True, your customer won’t have to buy another coat. Though after ten years, she may need to brush it a little.”

Lillun uses wool only from producers who have Norwegian eco-certification for their sheep raising methods. This means strict guidelines on which chemicals can used on the sheep’s fleece (If you don’t happen to raise sheep yourself, you may not be aware that sheep are soaked in chemicals to minimize the parasites that can damage their fleece. Some of these chemicals are so strong that they have caused neurological damage to the farmers that sprayed their sheep.) The guidelines also specify that the sheep are pastured and allowed to move freely, and that shearing schedules are dictated by what is best for the sheep’s well-being, not by production schedules.

During the fleece into wool and the garment seaming is done in Norway, ensuring product quality and good working conditions.

Lillunn started as company committed to quality when it was founded in 1953 by Unn Søiland Dale, the knitting designer who created the Marius pattern. She was inspired by the deck blankets on Norwegian cruise ships such as Hurtigruten and began designing and manufacturing coats made from high-quality 100% Norwegian wool blankets. In the 1970s, she began collaborating with Berger Plaid, a blanket manufacturer, and she revived the polar bear and reindeer patterns that artist Thorolf Holmboe created for Hurtigruten in the 1920s. She used these patterns to make the signature coats most often associated with Lillunn.



Dale not only designed wonderful blankets and coats. She was also a knitwear manufacturer who paved the way for other women to become involved in large-scale clothing production and the first woman to be admitted for membership in Norway’s Industry Federation. Dale designed for Givenchy and Dior, but her own company focused on sportswear and heritage design blankets.


Lillunn is now owned and run by Norwegian designer, Elisabeth Stray Pedersen. She has an MA in fashion design at Oslo National Academy with specialization in local production and Norwegian wool. Her experience within the textile industry makes her the perfect person to take over and continue the production and heritage of Lillunn, with a modern take.


The traditional Lillunn designs, such as Marius blankets and reindeer coats are still part of their product line, with the addition of contemporary coats, jackets, shawls, and pocket scarves. The quality has remained the same and each coat is an investment that repays you with warmth and style for years, if not decades.

Hanne will be at Ingebretsen’s this Saturday, November 4, from 1 to 5, for a trunk show of Lillunn fashions. Take a close look at the coats and blankets, knowing that they were sourced from happy sheep and made with care. Who knows, maybe a coat will follow you home. Just remember to give it a brushing in 2027.


– Carstens Smith

Halloween in Scandinavia

October 31st is the eve of All Hallows Day (or All Saints Day). Prior to being significant to Christians, October 31st was the day for recognizing the coming of winter in the northern hemisphere. It was believed that all the evil spirits, goblins and imps ran away to the depths of the earth at midnight on Oct. 31 to escape the cold. (In the United States rather than the depths of earth we run to Florida and Arizona.) Much mischief was played by these evil spirits, goblins and imps on people for the hours leading up to midnight to make up for the cold months when they will be in hiding.


Store shelves in Norway ready for Halloween Photo: Heidi Håvan Grosch

Halloween was virtually unknown in Norway before the late ‘90s. When the cartoon classic “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” was translated into Norwegian, the Great Pumpkin became the Old Man of Olsok. It’s not completely clear how the holiday started to catch on in Norway. Whatever the origins, Halloween in Norway is a lot like Halloween in the States, even if some of the finer points have gotten lost in the translation.

Instead of saying “trick or treat” in English when the door is answered, Norwegian kids say “knask eller knep” or “digg eller deng” which both mean about the same thing as the English phrase.

The traditional Norwegian children’s game of lommelykt i høstmørket has a lot in common with Halloween. It is a combination of hide-and-seek and a treasure-hunt played with flashlights in the darkness of fall nights. So one contemporary explanation of Halloween in Norway is that “it’s lommelykt i høstmørket with the addition of costumes and goodies, practiced in the evening of All Saint’s Day.”

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Dobratzes say good bye to teaching lefse and share expertise on Saturday, Oct. 21

Martha and Dave New England

For fourteen years, Dave and Martha Dobratz have been leading lefse classes at Ingebretsen’s. They’ve shared their hard-won knowledge, encouraged people to make mistakes (“We want to show how to fix the problems that are sure to happen when you’re on your own,” says Dave), and let people know that the “perfect lefse” is the one you like best. “Thick or thin, Russet potatoes or red, it’s personal taste,” says Martha.

The Dobratzes have retired from teaching cooking classes, but they graciously accepted the invitation to speak at Lutefisk & Lefse Day, Saturday, October 21, to share tips, techniques, their favorite recipe, and give assurance that you, too, can create lefse and memories for your family.

Martha was a young adult when her parents learned to make lefse, so it wasn’t a tradition passed on in childhood. However, the love of the process as well as the product took root. “Dave and I started attending a lefse party with friends. We all learned together at the party. We did that for about 20 years,” she says.

When Dave and Martha taught, they wanted their classes to be as enjoyable as the parties they attended. “Making lefse is a fun thing to do together. We wanted to recreate that atmosphere in the class,” says Dave. “The most gratifying thing about teaching was getting people to relax and talk and laugh together.”

Martha adds, “It was also gratifying seeing mothers, daughters, sisters, families, all coming to class together because they are intent on continuing the tradition.”

They admit that often when driving to class in rush hour traffic, tired from prepping the evening before and the day of work just completed, they wondered why they agreed to teach yet another class. “But, by the end we’d leave buoyed and high, happy that everyone had a good time,” laughs Martha.

Though there won’t be hands-on practice making lefse, you will have a good time listening to David and Martha discuss how to make lefse and to have fun while doing so. Dave previewed the talk with these words of wisdom: “It’s all about the delicate balance of flour and moisture.”

Find out how to achieve that delicate balance and join David and Martha this Saturday in the Classroom at the main store at 10:30. You will receive their favorite lefse recipe and notes. Questions are encouraged. The talk is free and no registration required.

If you have taken a class from the Dobratz’s, we hope you will  stop by and let them know about your successes (it’s OK to talk about the failures, too) making lefse and thank them for their work keeping the lefse griddles hot for another generation.

Dave and grandson
A Dobratz grandchild demonstrates his skills with the lefse stick.



Circus Juventas – Nordrsaga!

A post by our guest blogger, Kari Tauring, Nordic roots scholar, performer, and educator

Nordrsaga top pic
Photos courtesy of Circus Juventas

This past spring I was contacted by Circus Juventas and asked to lend my expertise in the myths and runes of the pre-Christian Nordic countries to their new summer show. I was quick to recommend Ingebretsen’s for unique catering and the organization Asafolk for Viking Era martial arts. We live in the center of a thriving Nordic ethnic enclave and resources are abundant! What a delight to get behind the scenes of such a production. The week before show opening my friend and colleague from Norway, Sonja Lidsheim and I presented Nordic songs and stories at the lunch hour. We sang in Old Norse, blew the birchbark lur and cow horn, and answered a barrage of questions from these talented youths who aimed to deepen their characterizations of these mythic entities. We gave the horn blessing at that time too. The first prayers in the horn were from Co-founder and Artistic Director Elizabeth “Betty” Butler whose first words were for the safety of these children as they push themselves to the limits of their ability. This set the tone for the opening night blessing as well.

icy image
Courtesy of Circus Juventas

It was a perfect summer evening outside the Big Top on opening night. Asafolk were sword fighting and ax throwing, venders were selling beers called Saga and Hell, and the crowd was swelling as we sang and staved Komme Alle, Come Everyone. We offered the earth gifts of water from this sacred land, geitost (brown goat cheese) from the land of Nordic peoples, and put it together with potato lefse, the inter-continental “glue”. Then we passed the blowing horn from hand to hand, a long cow horn in the key of D. Grandmothers and children, parents and supporters held the horn and whispered into the bell, prayers for safety and brilliance for these young performers. When the horn was full of good wishes, I blew them into the nine worlds with three blasts! Then we took our seats. My mother and son (who had taken a summer class at Circus Juventas in his youth) with his girlfriend were on one side of me and my fellow Nordic staff carrier Aneesa was on the other side with her daughter who had been part of this organization from the age of eight. Together we took in the spectacle that is Nordrsaga!

The first lines of the Eddaic poem Voluspa (the staff carriers prophesy) in Old Norse sets the context for the performance. In the beginning was only Ice and Fire and Ginungagap, the gaping void. It is my voice, but not mine – the old poem is chanted through the mist of time while young, glowing acrobats whirl up and down on silks that stream from the heavens. We were moved to tears by that first act. It was graceful, powerful, and connected to a deep Nordic root.

You can hear my voice again as the Norns, the three ancient fate women who give direction and advice, guiding the hero through the nine worlds. The story line connects a new character, Leif, to the god Thor and the hammer Mjolnir which he has once again lost. The hero must confront Frost Giants, Fire Giants, a host of Viking warriors, and prove his worth by rescuing the hammer. Protected by Freyja and Odin both, the hero learns more about his worth that he ever could have guessed.

firery image
Courtesy of Circus Juventas

The strength and stamina of these youths was simply amazing. For three hours, they twirled and tumbled, hung from the rafters and stilted across Midgard, holding one another up with feet, ribbons, sheer muscle, and an abundance of trust. If you have any knowlege of Norse myth you will easily recognize Freyja and her Valkyries, the Dwarves, Loki, Hela, the ice and fire giants. There is a nod to Tolkien as well when we are transported to Lothlórien the land of elves and an accompanying Finnish tune. The costuming and set design were brilliant and the whole thing was a whirling, magical, mind blower.

We all agreed that we should see the performance again. There is so much going on, so much to see, so much to experience, that it is impossible take it in all at once. Bring a stadium seat with you for comfort and a few extra dollars to spend on Ingebretsen’s kransekake bars being sold especially for this production and to support this amazing organization.

Circus Juventas was honored at the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival in Washington, D.C. this past summer and seeing this production, you can surely understand why. As a mother who entrusted her child to this organization, as a participant in a new creation, and as a member of the community, I couldn’t be more proud of Circus Juventas. Best Summer Project Ever!

Nordrsaga runs every weekend through August 13. Tickets are available at: https://circusjuventas.ticketworks.com/

Kari on Medicine Lake


Ingebretsen’s is presenting Kari, who will be teaching her seasonally inspired Nordic root workshops at Norway House again this year. Her rune book and recordings are available at Ingebretsen’s.

Finland’s Emojis Summer Style

Finland is the first country in the world to publish its own set of country themed emojis. We have shared a few of those before but more have been added and today we are sharing emojis that are all about summer – both in Finland and here.

FASHIONISTA FINNS — The feeling of “smart casual”

It doesn’t get much more Finnish than this. For us, smart casual means being smart in terms of not getting your feet cold. Sandals make it a casual combo!

PESÄPALLO — The feeling of love and hate

You either love or hate it, the Finnish baseball. At schools, kids were divided into two teams by the captains, usually the best players. Those who were chosen first, love our national sport, those who were chosen last, hate it. In the end, the finesse of the game conquers the hate and we play pesäpallo all summer long in backyards, school grounds and with work teams and friends. One thing we all love about the game: we are the World Champions in one sport every single year. Continue reading

Celebrating Sigrid Undset: Norwegian Writer

Sigrid Undset was a Norwegian novelist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928 for which she was nominated by Helga Eng, member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. She was born on May 20, 1882 in Kalundborg, Denmark, but her family moved to Norway when she was two years old. She grew up in the Norwegian capital, Oslo (or Kristiania, as it was known until 1925). She fled Norway for the United States in 1940 because of her opposition to Nazi Germany and the German invasion and occupation of Norway, but returned after World War II ended in 1945. She died on June 10, 1949.

Her best-known work is Kristin Lavransdatter, a trilogy about life in Scandinavia in the Middle Ages, portrayed through the experiences of a woman from birth until death. Its three volumes were published between 1920 and 1922. The title was Fru Marta Oulie, and the opening sentence (the words of the book’s main character) scandalized readers: “I have been unfaithful to my husband.”

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A Bit of Nordic Ice Tea

Iced tea is probably an American creation; the first recipe for the drink as we know it appeared in the cookbook Housekeeping in Old Virginia by Marion Cabell Tyree and published in 1879. The proportions of sugar to tea and lemon put Ms. Tyree’s creation squarely in the category of what we now call Southern sweet tea. The 1904 World’s Fair, the one that also brought us the ice cream cone, was where unsweetened black tea over ice was introduced to Americans from across the nation. As ice boxes became more readily available, the popularity of iced tea increased. Now, we have the American holiday of National Iced Tea Day. In honor of this very good idea, tomorrow, June 10, Ingebretsen’s will be serving samples of iced tea with a Scandinavian twist – tea brewed from black Sӧderblandning tea.

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Söderblandning is the most popular blend sold at The Tea Center of Stockholm, a Swedish shop specializing in fine teas. It combines China and Ceylon black tea with flowers, including roses, cornflowers, and sunflowers, and tropical fruits. It’s exceptionally fragrant and a story has grown up around the blend. Brochures from when the Tea Center began exporting to the United States said that the combination was the happy result of ingredients spilling from a shelf and into a container of tea leaves on the shop counter while the owner was toiling away, working to find a new blend. You don’t have to believe Sӧderblandning’s creation myth to enjoy it, though the story is a compelling argument for cluttered work spaces.

Tea Soderblandning CW1007

Also Ingebretsen’s Kaffe Bar at Norway House will be providing samples of iced Sӧderblandning tea tomorrow, too. Iced tea isn’t our only drink offering there. Kaffe Bar employee Delta Keating took the Nordic-American-fusion-beverage theme one step further and created Arne Palmerssons – his take on the Arnold Palmer.

Delta explains, “Well, my friends and I all love Arnold Palmers, and the mix of lemonade and iced tea seemed like the perfect summer treat to sell at the Kaffe Bar. Using the Sӧderblandning black tea was a great way to put a Scandinavian twist on an American classic, and its citrus and floral notes nicely harmonize with the lemonade.

I think it’s been received so well because it’s a refreshing addition to our lineup of iced drinks, particularly for people looking for something a bit less sweet than a soda or saft. There’s probably a healthy dash of people finding the name “Arne Palmersson” amusing enough to give it a try as well.”

So please stop by Ingebretsen’s or Also Ingebretsen’s and celebrate National Iced Tea Day with us. If you decide to take a bag of Sӧdeblandning home with you, you may also want to try a combination suggested by The Tea Center – a cup of hot Sӧderblandning and a glass of port, even though you’ve missed National Wine Day, May 25.

If you really want to impress us and ask for your sample in Swedish, you can practice with this video of 10 tea-related vocabulary words:


– Carstens Smith