Sunday, November 09, 2008

Scandinavia in Prescott

"What's your nationality?" "Huh???"

Welcome to ethnic Chicago, circa 1947. My first day on my first coop job in the Big City. Copy girl on Marshall Field's Chicago Sun (a futile attempt to take down Col. McCormick's Chicago Tribune empire). Growing up in the Southwest and Northern Florida , I was totally unprepared for the tag ends of European nationalism made manifest in Chicago's neighborhood principalities. And within the copy boy/copy girl crew in the city room of the Sun.

Yes, I certainly was aware of the color lines in the Southwest and the great abyss separating black and white in the South. But I nonetheless presumed we were all Americans. Not quite so straightforward in Chicago, where there was even a Luxembourgian block between Clark Street and the Chicago Northwestern tracks. And, I later learned, one short block near North and Halstead inhabited primarily by Gypsies. Those were glorious days for the young rube from flyover country, discovering all those neighborhood shops and foods.

I was aware that someplace way, way back in my father's family, there was a Maxwell, which entitled me to wear a particular clan tartan. And I had a great grandfather on my mother's side who had emigrated from the Undem farm in Norway. (Yes, to Chicago where he opened a grocery.) But that was about it except for my grandmother's yummy red pudding whose name I can't spell in English, though it's a first cousin to German Rote Gr├╝tze.

I've missed the great stew of peoples that is Chicago. At the time we moved to the mountains, many of the older European neighborhoods had been renewed by various Asian ethnicities. Devon had its sari palaces and bulgogi had become a staple in Rogers Park. Yes, if it's just ethnic foods you are looking for, Prescott offers a surprising variety (no kimchi, though). But there aren't the neighborhoods to go with the food!

I certainly wasn't expecting such a colorful Scandanavian folk display as I found one day in September walking Cortez across from the Square. Never have I seen so many red horses; my granddotter would just love the Linquist Realtors office!

Well, as a result, one thing led to another and today found me over at the clubhouse in Yavapai Hills for a local chapter meeting of the VASA Order of America, a Swedish-American fraternal group open to all with Scandinavian backgrounds -- quite a few of them, BTW. Originally an organization to help immigrants settle and adjust to the New World, today the group focuses on celebrating the culture and heritage of the old country.

Today's program featured a member who read from one of Tove Jansson’s charming Moomintroll children's books; upcoming events include a holiday smorgasbord. And a Santa Lucia display is promised to join the red horses on Cortez street during the holidays.

Just goes to show what can happen when you venture forth and enjoy whatever happens next.


Antipodean Curmudgeon said...

The old curmudgeon has solved the Grandma Mills pudding mystery. Check Wiki for Norwegian Berry Pudding, it's makings strike a note. Then eyeball Danish Desert under "Danish Dessert Recipes" on google--Rog(slash through the 'o')Grod. I reckon it's pronounced roog rud. How bout that for detective work??


PS I trust that you'll have tested out recipes by the time of my next (when ever)visit

Anonymous said...

Oh, yum!... a plate full of steaming, gravy-laded Swedish meatballs!!

---<< YUM! >>---

And, anything with lingonberries!


~Anon in AV.

Granny J said...

bro -- I worked up a quite passable roog grud many years ago using canned purple plums & flour as the thickening agent (I'm sure that's what Grandma Mills used). However, since I was the only one in the family into tart, I didn't venture further.

anon av -- I'm looking forward to the next Scandinavian adventure.

Jan said...

granny j..a most interesting post!

There used to be so many wonderful etnic neighborhoods around this area, but many of them have gone by the wayside, I'm afraid.

Slavic Village, in Cleveland, was one of them, but what it has become, now, is too sad to think about.

Interesting about the pudding, too..I think I remember reading about it, on another blog, many months ago. :)

Jan said...


To read it the way I spelled it in the previous post, one would think that I had picked up another dialect from somewhere! LOL

Granny J said...

jan -- it is strange what happens to cities; some become engulfed by the slums & others are transformed by gentrification. Our first house in Chicago, on the slum fringes of Old Town, is now the site of a $million property (maybe somewhat less these days...)

Anonymous said...

It's a wonder that you didn't end in Lake Wobegon, with your background.

Nice post,

A Swedish-grandfathered Boonie

Kate said...

Repeat after me:
Oh, yah
You betcha
Don'tcha know?

That's Minnesota Scandahoovian, where I grew up. :)) Which is about 100 miles south of the real Lake Wobegon. hee-hee

PS: Pass me some lutefisk und lefsa

Granny J said...

boonie -- actually, there was almost no eth in my world growing up. It really came as a great shock when I hit Chicago.

kate -- I've learned more about being Norwegian from listening to Garrison Keillor than I ever learned in my family. No lutefisk or lefas. I think my grandfather would have raged out of the house if such had ever happened his way!

Anonymous said...

You know what the Norwegian, Ole, said when he saw his first pizza?

"Who trew up on the lefsa?"


~Anon in AV.

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