I miss them. It hit me one night as I sat at my desk in my office, suddenly thinking about my grandparents. In an instant it was like I was back there at their house overlooking Puget Sound, so many years ago, as a child. I miss them, I kept whispering to myself, tears coming to my eyes as I reflected on those two people now long gone.
It wasn’t long after my grandmother Agny died in 2009 that I started this blog. As I tried to cope with the dark shroud of grief messing with my heart on those sunny days of July, I browsed the bookstore shelves looking for Scandinavian cookbooks. Soon I started trying out the recipes and looking for even more sources of this food that somehow fed my healing heart.
The cuisine of my heritage was a way to feel closer to my grandmother, a dear woman who seemed in some ways, even in her nineties, like she would never die.
Now as I think about why I keep writing about Scandinavian food–here on the blog and for various publications–I keep coming back to one thing: It’s all about the people. Sure, we eat for survival, for sustenance. But it goes so much beyond that. We cook to feed ourselves, to feed our soul, and to feed each other. We eat because we need to live and survive, but we also need to thrive and to connect.
I’m not just talking about Scandinavian food. I’m talking about family. About people. Love. Connection. Hospitality. A life fully lived and shared with others. That is what my grandparents gave to me, what they shared with my parents and me whenever we would visit. Three of my grandparents are gone, but I hold onto their memory, as well as the promise that I will someday see them again on the other side of eternity.
The next night, after that one in which my grandparents’ memory came back to me so strongly, I sat in my office again, sorting through papers, organizing stuff, making sense out of the piles that accumulate so often. As I opened an old greeting card I saw my grandmother’s handwriting–elegant cursive, at a slight diagonal, with a trace of a shaky hand that still carried with it so much grace and dignity despite age and frailty. I skimmed that note, and the other ones I came across. Mentions of love, how happy she was that I had found such a good husband, thanking me for a recent visit. I did not read them in detail, not yet. But they are there on the floor right now, organized by year with other greeting cards and mementos. They are calling out to me in some ways, to read them and reflect and remember such a beautiful woman whom I miss so much. One of these days I will bring myself to read them again.
If I am honest, Outside Oslo is very much a legacy of a memory, something that grew out of grief, as a way for me to cope. But it ended up blossoming into so much more and helped me to connect with my heritage and to better understand somebody I still love to this day and will always be thankful that I was able to call Grandma.
That woman gave me the gift of love and showed me how to quietly and humbly serve someone with hospitality. She demonstrated how food can be a means of communication, a way to share something in a way possibly more profound than words. As I photograph Norwegian cakes and Swedish cookies and write about them here, I’m doing more than swapping recipes. I’m trying to tap into the rich connections that we make when we sit down to share a meal lovingly prepared and joyously served.
It doesn’t really matter whether it’s Scandinavian or French, Mexican or Chinese–the experience is universal. That’s why it all matters, why I took so enthusiastically to writing about food. It just so happens that I am Norwegian, and so that is the cuisine that speaks most clearly to me. So whatever cultural background or interests you have, I hope you’ll keep reading Outside Oslo–for the food, of course, but also for the essence of why it all matters. It’s not just a pretty photo or a mouthwatering recipe. It’s a way to silently and subtly show love, to feed each other well, and to foster the rich connection and conversations that our hearts so desperately need.
May your relationships be enriched this week as you connect over food.
Until next time,
7 thoughts on “Food Lovingly Prepared and Joyously Served”
I loved this post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for inspiring us to continue to connect and build relationships through food and the hospitality that it invites.
Barbara – I’m glad to hear that you are inspired. It may seem so simple, but it’s truly one of the best ways to connect and nurture relationships. The best to you as you share meals with your loved ones!
This is truly beautiful and in my opinion …one of your best.
First of all, the table in your first photo could have been right out of my family’s photo album. I too had grandparents that shared love with others. They were born in Norway. They continued to eat, speak and keep many of their Norwegian customs. My grandfather was so outgoing and friendly and often brought people home for dinner. My grandmother never knew who would show up. But then they often were invited to church with them. This continued throughout their lives. And how thankful that I have the promise of one day seeing both of them again.
I love the photo of the bride with your grandma. I assume that is you and oh so beautiful!
Keep on writing and sharing. I will continue to read …
Blessings and love,
Debbie – What a sweet story about your grandfather’s open arms and your grandmother’s graciousness and hospitality. That is wonderful. Thank you for sharing.
Yes, that’s me with Grandma Agny–eight years ago!
Thanks, again and again, for all your kind words here on the blog. I always appreciate your encouragement and hearing what you have to say.
So beautiful! I had the same experience with my mother and grandmothers. I am also from a Norwegian family on both my side and my husbands side. Gathering around a table is how my grandmother’s showed us how much they loved us. It is a legacy I hold dear. Thank you for putting it all into words so beautifully!
Thank you, Heather. I’m so glad you were able to share that experience with your family too. Such hospitality is a gift. Thanks for reading Outside Oslo–keep in touch!