The Books of Moomin

Tove Jansson and her characters

What is a Moomin? They are the central characters in a series of books and a comic strip by Tove Jansson (1914-2001). Jansson was a Finnish-Swedish writer and artist, who achieved worldwide fame as the creator of the stories about the Moomins, written and illustrated between 1945 and 1977. You can read more about Tove on her webpage.

The Moomin family and their friends live an adventurous life in the idyllic and peaceful Moominvalley in harmony with nature. They are a family of white, round fairy tale characters with large snouts that make them resemble hippopotamuses. The carefree and adventurous family live in their house in Moominvalley, though in the past, their temporary residences have included a lighthouse and a theatre. They have had many adventures along with their various friends.

In all, nine books were released in the series, together with five picture books and a comic strip being released between 1945 and 1993.

The main characters are:

Moomintroll also referred to as “Moomin” is the little boy of the family, interested in and excited about everything he sees and finds, always trying to be good, but sometimes getting into trouble while doing so, he is very brave and always finds a way to make his friends happy.

Moominpappa is the father of the family, but boyish and adventurous. He likes to be present when something unusual happens. He is philosophical at times and likes writing his memoirs. Continue reading

10 Unique Facts about Syttende Mai

Next week on May 17th is the Norwegian National Day, better known as Syttende Mai. Syttende Mai marks the day Norway’s Constitution was signed in 1814 that declared Norway an independent country. You can learn more about the holiday here.

 

Here are 10 fun facts about Syttende Mai, according to Aftenposten (and thankfully translated by Business Insider Nordic):

1. Constitution Day was celebrated for a long time on November 4th. Why?

Because about a month following May 17, 1814, Norway was joined into a union with Sweden, which lasted for almost a century. Because of this some parts of the constitution had to be changed, including a clause that would hinder Norway’s exit from the union. That was when the new national day became November 4th. When Norway became independent from Sweden in 1905, the celebration resumed on May 17th.

2. For the first decades, only boys were allowed to participate in the children’s parade.

When the first children’s parades began as part of the national celebrations in 1869 in Oslo, only boys were included. Two decades later, in 1889, girls were allowed to participate in what is now one of the most popular part of May 17.

3. The first recorded Syttende Mai celebrations were in… Denmark. Why?

The former interim king of Norway, Christian Fredrik, was sent into an internal exile to Denmark in 1815 to serve as a General Governor of Fyn. Danes liked what Fredrik had accomplished in Norway (and he would eventually become king of Denmark), so Fredrik arranged festivities for Syttende Mai in 1815. This was the first documented celebration of the Norwegian Constitution Day. Norway, now in a union with Sweden, would have quieter celebrations for the first decades of the 19th century.

4. “Ja, vi elsker” is not the official national hymn Continue reading

Urban Foraging: It’s Not Just For Chipmunks Anymore

Urban food foraging is popular, and gaining more popularity, including in the Twin Cities. On Saturday, May 12, 2018, as part of our spring sale, Ingebretsen’s will be hosting events where you can learn more about urban foraging and end the day (and start the evening) with a happy hour at Urban Forage Winery & Cider House.

For most people foraging for food involves going up and down the aisles of a supermarket along with visits to farmer’s markets and, hopefully, specialty shops such as Ingebretsen’s meat market. The idea of finding food in the wild is not on our radar until now. Urban food foraging is growing in the United States and around the world. The USDA’s National Agroforestry Center (NAC) has said that:

Community food forests may be best known as a source of fresh healthy food to local residents, but they also offer expanded social connections, reduced food costs, enhanced physical activity, hands-on outdoor learning experiences for children, and much more.

The NAC website has more information and can be found here. The USDA’s Forest Service also has information about using urban green spaces for food and foraging and can be found here.

Amittai Axelrod picks mulberries from trees overhanging the sidewalk in Boulder, Colorado on June 6, 2012. www.fallingfruit.org

There has been talk, with the impending closing of the Hiawatha Golf Course in Minneapolis, of establishing a food forest that can be used to forage for edible berries and plants. In an article in City Pages it is explained:

Put simply, a food forest is a woodland that uses native trees, shrubs, and plants that are both edible and medicinal. The city would plant everything from raspberries and blackberries to maple trees and hazelnut trees, as well as shoreline plants like katniss (also known as duck potato) and medicinal herbs like echinacea.

Intended to be low-maintenance and self-maintaining once established, the plants are designed to not only build soil but to attract pollinators. (Plants like milkweed are especially beneficial for bees and monarch butterflies.)

The full article can be found here.

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Denmark Unveils Statue of “Queen Mary”

The statue of Mary Thomas called “I Am Queen Mary” is the first public monument to a black woman in Denmark, according to the artists. Credit Nick Furbo

There are moments and times in the history of every country that are shameful, yet a country that acknowledges these times is also a country that can learn from them.

Denmark is no exception. The Danish Colonialism of what is now called St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John, collectively the Virgin Islands, has a history of slavery and inhumane treatment of people. But on March 31st the unveiling of a statue of “Queen Mary” Thomas is part of its acknowledgement of this dark time in its past.

March 1st was the end of the centennial year commemorating the sale by Denmark of three islands to the United States on March 3, 1917 for $25 million. The commemoration began on March 1, 2017 when the Danish National Archives opened all its digitized records from the time when Denmark was a colonial power in the West Indies for online access.

It took over three years for the Danish National Archives to digitize all the historic records from the Danish colonial era. They digitally scanned more than five million digital images. You can access these records here. Continue reading

Krokaner — The 411 From Heidi

This post is written by one of our favorite Ingebretsen’s folks —  Heidi

When it comes to Krokaner (aka bridge cookies, horse collar cookies, Santa Lucia cookies, saddle cookies), folks mostly seem to be in one of two categories.  There are the folks who travel to the store or call the mail order department from all over the country, voices full of joy and wonder when they are told, “Yes, we do carry Krokaner pans and we can absolutely ship one to you.”  And then there are the folks who hold up the weird shaped silver pan with the question “what is this thing?” clearly written on their faces.

I was in a category in between.  The question I had was “why is this a thing?”  Based on recipes and pictures I had seen, Krokaner were just weirdly shaped sugar cookies.  Sugar cookies are already a fussier cookie by nature; why take it a step further and make a sugar cookie that is impossible to stack and looks like it would snap in half the minute it was touched?

For our customers, it seems that nothing else in the store has consistently evoked the same intensity of excitement, pride for family traditions, and relief of a long search finally ended.  Clearly, I was missing something and I wanted to figure out what it was.

I borrowed two pans and got a recipe and lots of tips from coworker and baker extraordinaire, Lois, convinced another coworker, Kate, to come bake with me, and bartered future cookies to Steve in the meat market in exchange for some cream.  Kate and I were ready to uncover the mystery of the Krokaner.

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Are You Ready for Plogging?

Sweden’s latest fitness craze is plogging and it becoming popular in the United States. The term is a mash-up of jogging and the Swedish “plocka upp,” meaning pick up. In this case, litter.

Founded by Erik Ahlström, the Stockholm-based group Plogga aims to turn runners as a force for the environment. Ploggers run while wearing gloves for handling garbage and carry large trash bags, and stop to pick up any litter along their route. Once the bag is full, it’s placed in a receptacle.

Eric Ahlström, founder of Plogga, out plogging.

Plogging not only helps the environment, it’s quite good for your health. It’s like doing squats while you jog. Only when you squat you are helping to clean-up the environment.

The Swedish-based fitness app Lifesum has made it possible to track plogging activity, a half-hour of jogging plus picking up trash will burn 288 calories for the average person, compared with the 235 burned by jogging alone. A brisk walk will expend about 120.

The environmental organization Keep America Beautiful recently started promoting plogging as a way to encourage trash-free communities. Spokesman Mike Rosen said when the group put out the #plogging message to its 600 affiliates, it got a surprising response.

“People started saying ‘we do things like this already,'” Rosen said. “In Tennessee they do an event called ‘Trashercize’ that combines exercising with cleaning up community.”

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Give Me A Piece of That Kvikk Lunsj Bar

Kvikk Lunsj, (Norwegian for “Quick Lunch”), is one of Norway’s most popular and iconic chocolate bars from Freia, one of Norway’s oldest chocolate companies. Some people might think it’s just a Norwegian Kit Kat® bar. Well there is more to Kvikk Lunsj than meets the eye (and the taste buds) and Ingebretsen’s is proud to carry it in the store (and also online).

To Norwegians, Kvikk Lunsj has another meaning: Hiking. Trekking. Skiing. Being active outdoors. The Kvikk Lunsj slogan is “Tursjokoladen”—the hiking or trekking chocolate. For over 70 years, Kvikk Lunsj has kept its bold tri-colored identity as the Norwegian companion to the great outdoors, and its popularity continues to grow.

Freia was founded in 1889, but real success was seen only in 1892, when Johan Throne Holst took over management. Holst built up Freia to be Norway’s leading chocolate manufacturer. By the turn of the century, Freia was the leading Norwegian brand in sweets. Since its inception the factory has been in the Rodeløkka neighborhood in the borough of Grünerløkka in Oslo.

Freia was purchased in 1993 by Kraft Foods Nordic (today known as Mondelēz International). The brand has constantly been marketed in a national romantic spirit – as the essence of everything that is Norwegian. Their slogan is “Et lite stykke Norge” (A small piece of Norway).

According to Kraft every Norwegian eats nine Kvikk Lunsj bars a year. Twenty-five percent of the bar’s are eaten during Easter week, prime vacation time for Norwegians. During Easter a Påskekrim novel is a traditional part of any trip to the country, along with an orange, and a Kvikk Lunsj. The tradition of a KvikkLunsj bar is so strongly associated with Påskekrim that a crime novel was written that had a cover so similar to the candy bar’s wrapping that the publisher was sued. Read more about Påskekrim here.

High sales of Kvikk Lunsj are attributed to the good weather because good weather means more outdoor activities, and more outdoor activities means, naturally, eating more Kvikk Lunsj. Why? Visit Kvikk Lunsj official website and you won’t find pictures of chocolate, but rather you’ll see photos of Kvikk Lunsj customers on hiking trips.

The back and inside of the wrapper features a profile of a notable trekker such as this one that features Are Løset. It reads, “Are has worked hard for many years to get youth to the mountains through Trondheim Tourist Association,” with more information (including a map of one of Are’s favorite routes) on the inside wrapper. The red T-symbol is the logo for the Norwegian Trekking Association. “Takk for turen,” means, “Thank you for the trip,” a common way to thank your trekking buddies for their company after completing a trip. It can be used for anything though, not just trekking.

A commercial made for Kvikk Lunsj’s 70th anniversary celebrates the glory of the outdoors. Build a bridge. Drink fresh water out of a stream. Take a hike in the woods. And do it all while eating Kvikk Lunsj.

Heck even dogs know the power of Kvikk Lunsj.

Kvikk Lunsj ads through the years have featured their bar as part of the outdoor life. Here are some examples:

Kvikk Lunsj is part of the Norwegian lifestyle. Gerd Aarnes, a Norwegian in America saidYou are so much more than a chocolate bar to me. You are everything I like about Norway: hiking with my family, reaching the goal and take a break, simplicity and purity.”

In case you still think this is just a Norwegian Kit Kat bar, The Guardian did a taste/texture test and the verdict was Kvikk Lunsj 24, KitKat 17. “It’s official. Not only is it not a unique, trademarkable product, KitKat isn’t even the best four-fingered chocolate bar in Europe.”

And finally let’s remember Kvikk Lunsj is Norwegian for “quick lunch,” a role fulfilled by 250 calories of chocolate-covered wafers. The name Kit Kat goes back to the 18th century when mutton pies (yes mutton pies) were known as Kit-Kat. [Note: if you “Google” Kit Kat you can come across some “adult clubs” so be careful where you click.] So what do you want to eat? Delicious chocolate from Norway or mutton pies? Stop into our store (or order online) and enjoy a piece or four of Norway’s lifestyle.

 

Written by Mary Hirsch

 

Easter Traditions In Scandinavia

We have posted about Norway’s Påskekrim and the Easter Trees in Sweden but here are a few traditions from all the Scandinavian countries.

Denmark — Påskeferie

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday are all national holidays… serious national holidays, not like Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July in the United States. If you show up to IKEA on any of these days, you’ll find locked doors and an empty parking lot.

Påskefrokost

Påskefrokost is Easter lunch, and it’s commonly the first event of the season at Danish summerhouses. Virtually a day long meal it stretches from lunch to dinner.

And there is also plentiful amounts of alcohol. For Påske, this includes akvavit and Påskebryg, a special beer that’s launched in early March and only available until Easter.

Gækkebrev

In English, is means “teasing letters.” Letters containing short poems are sent and signed using one dot for each letter in the sender’s name. The recipient has to guess the name of the sender, if they guess correctly, they get a chocolate Easter egg, and if they get it wrong, they have to give a chocolate egg to the sender.

Eggs & Candy

Eggs are also a big part of Easter in Denmark. Eggs are often served at Påskefrokost, and egg tosses are a popular activity. Royal Copenhagen produces a new porcelain Easter egg each year, which can be opened and filled with candy.

And like Sweden, in Denmark there are Easter Witches. Children dress up as witches and warlocks and go door-to-door asking for candy, the kids give the people something in return. They give each house a decorated willow branch, as thanks for the chocolate gifts they’ve received. These willow branches are believed to bless the owner’s house.

Finland — Pääsiäinen

Pääsiäinen is a big deal in Finland perhaps because it’s a major religious holiday for Finland’s 4.2 million Lutherans (nearly 80% of the population), but it also marks the first holiday of spring.

The week of Easter, shops fill with the expected bunny/chick/chocolate kitsch, and at the same time flower shops and market stalls begin selling a lovely arrangement of palm leaves, pussy willows, and daffodils.

Festivities begin on Palm Sunday with a parade through town and the requisite church-goers walking around with palm leaves. Palm Sunday also brings Virpominen, the Finnish equivalent of America’s Halloween. The children dress as witches and goblins going door to door asking for candy. But instead of saying “Trick or Treat,” they offer a blessing and often wave or give out pussy willow branches, a sign of the coming spring and of rebirth. There is often an Easter bonfire on one of the many islands around Helsinki and the children will dress up for that too.

Easter in Finland is full of Easter-related projects at school where the Finnish children plant Rye grass and watch it grow in the days leading up to Easter. Then the Easter bunny nestles eggs and treats into the grass instead of into plastic grass. So, they spend Easter watching grass grow. Draw your own conclusions. (This great photo came from the blog Sarah and Roy in Finland.)

Iceland — Öskudagur

Photo: Páll Kjartansson/Iceland Review

Ash Wednesday is primarily celebrated by children in Iceland. Ashes were collected and placed into small ash bags then you would try to pin the bag on an innocent passerby. Today children celebrate by dressing up in costumes and singing in shops for sweets and treats, a little like Halloween celebrations.

Easter in Iceland is marked by the giving and receiving of large chocolate eggs filled with sweets. It is a five-day weekend, from Maundy Thursday to Easter Monday, with all schools and offices shut, as well as some shops too. Many people use this long weekend to travel – often visiting family or friends. There is also a famous ski festival and music festival, both of take place at the same time in the town of Ísafjörður.

In fact, people from Ísafjörður buck the trend of traveling and choosing instead to stay home and enjoy the party as their town literally doubles in size for the weekend.

Icelandic Easter eggs are a little bit special. Each one comes decorated with chicks and flowers, is filled with a rainbow of different sweets, and has a little slip of paper in it with a fortune/proverb on it which people love to discuss the deep hidden meanings.

Norway — Påske

From the blog Thanks for The Food thanksforthefood.com

Påske in Norway is a time of year that marks the end of the long Winter. Symbols of Easter Chickens and eggs are the usual symbols of a Norwegian Easter. The egg symbolizes rebirth and the chicken has been a symbol of fertility since ancient times. Yellow is the most traditional color of Norwegian Easter. Lush green is also popular as it symbolizes life and growth.

Palm Sunday marks the start of the Easter holidays and is when people to start to decorate their homes for Easter. Summer curtains are hung, table clothes, oven mittens, and wall hangings, all with the colors of Easter are placed around the house. Easter crafts are a usual activity – painting and decorating eggs, making paper baskets and cards, and sewing or knitting Easter ornaments. Yellow candles are very popular and so are yellow flowers such as daffodils and tulips.

Many people go on holiday to påskefjellet, ‘the Easter mountain’ – their mountain cabins, camping or skiing. Those who have an Easter at home have a bypåske, city Easter.

Påskekrim (or Easter crime) is a tradition at Easter in Norway. You can read about it in a previous post here.

Sami — Beassáš-Márkanat

During the Easter long weekend the Sami in Kautokeino, Northern Norway, hold their annual Sami Easter Festival. The festival is a showcase of Sami life and includes the Sami Music Festival, the World Reindeer Racing championships and the Sami Film Festival.

Sweden – Påsk

Many Swedes celebrate Easter in the country together with relatives from near and far. It’s a great opportunity to open up the holiday house, cleaning away the winter dust and scaring off the odd mice. In some parts of the country bonfires are an important part of the Easter tradition.

Easter Trees are part of Swedish tradition. You can read about that here.

Easter Witches

In Sweden and parts of Finland, what looks like our Halloween takes place on either the Thursday or Saturday before Easter. Children dress up as witches and go door to door with a copper kettle looking for treats.

Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance/dpa/AP Images

The tradition is said to come from the old belief that witches would fly to a German mountain the Thursday before Easter to cavort with devil. On their way back, Swedes would light fires to scare them away, a practice honored today by the bonfires and fireworks across the land in the days leading up to Sunday.

Påskbrasa (Easter Bonfire)

To scare witches away, the people used to light up large bonfires called påskbrasor. This custom is still common in the southwest part of Sweden, in particular in the province of Bohuslän. Recently the custom has become quite large creating problems on the islands outside of Gothenburg, where people have discovered that old Christmas trees make excellent bonfires. People are competing for the biggest fire and are even raiding neighboring villages and suburbs to steal their old Christmas trees. The bonfires have grown to a size that the fire brigade is needed to keep them under control, and local governments have to issue decrees of when, where, and how fires are allowed.

Whatever your traditions are, we wish you a Happy Easter.

 

Written by Mary Hirsch

It’s Almost Time For Påskekrim or Easter-Crime

We posted this last year, but it is worth repeating. By the way, this began in 1923 when Easter landed on April 1st. Well here it is 2018 and Easter is on April 1st. Perhaps it is time for you to climb on the Bergen train, first stop Påskekrim:

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.

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