“Outside Oslo” blog explores Scandinavian heritage through cooking and baking at home
By Christy Olsen Field
Norwegian American Weekly
Blogging, a personal journal on the Internet, is a way to share opinions, document daily life, connect with others who share interests. Blogs range from personal diaries to an international online community of readers about virtually any subject one can think of. In my spare time, I follow several blogs and my favorite recent discovery is “Outside Oslo,” a blog that effortlessly blends my three favorite things: Norway, great writing and cooking.
“Outside Oslo” shares the best of Norwegian cuisine from a Norwegian-American perspective. I found “Outside Oslo” in the comments section of a Seattle-based cooking blogger I follow, and I became a dedicated reader after reading her first post. The blogger behind “Outside Oslo” is Daytona Strong, a proud Norwegian-American with strong connections to Norway and her Norwegian-American identity. As a writer and journalist based in Seattle, Wash., Strong started her blog “Outside Oslo” as a way to explore and share her Norwegian heritage in the kitchen. Her beautiful photography and stories capture Strong’s love for Norway, and her blog is a fresh voice in the blogosphere.
I recently sat down with Strong to learn more about her Norwegian roots and her experiences as a writer in the kitchen.
Christy Olsen Field: Why did your father come over to the U.S., and what made him stay? How did you celebrate your Norwegian roots in your childhood?
Daytona Strong: My father came to the U.S. with my grandparents in the 1950s. He was a preteen at the time, which made him old enough to be steeped in his Norwegian heritage but also to want to be fully integrated into the American way of life. He worked really hard to learn English, and when I think about it I’m still amazed at the fact that he doesn’t have an accent! He fell in love with America and its way of life, and really embraced being his new home. My grandparents were adults when they left Norway, and as a result their identities had already been shaped and solidified, so I think they clung to their heritage and past much more. Both sides of my family are from Norway – my mother’s side in North Dakota is just a little more removed. I can say with pride that I’m 100 percent Norwegian!
Looking back at my childhood and young adult years, I’m so thankful that I was able to grow up in a family that embraced its Norwegian heritage. Holiday meals at my paternal grandparents’ house always consisted of traditional dishes – my grandmother put on a beautiful spread. After a dinner of pork roast, medisterkaker, and an assortment of sides, dessert would always consist of rice pudding with raspberry coulis (I wish I had Grandma’s recipe!) and, of course, coffee.
COF: On “Outside Oslo,” you write that your first trip to Norway was in 2008. What is your favorite part of that journey, and how did it affect the way you see your Norwegian heritage?
DS: Wow, it’s hard to come up with a favorite part of that trip. It meant so much to me to be able to see where my family came from. It’s hard to put it into words, other than to say that it was remarkable to finally see with my own eyes the country where my family has its roots. I still remember one of my first sites when my husband and I arrived. On the ride from the airport into Oslo, the train made a stop at Lillestrøm, where my family lived before moving to the U.S. I hadn’t expected to see that, and it was so special to pass through my dad’s hometown. Another memorable experience was visiting the Resistance museum in Oslo. I knew my grandparents lived through it, but I didn’t know much about that time in their lives, so learning about it that afternoon brought their experiences to life in such a vivid way.
COF: Why start “Outside Oslo?”
DS: I started “Outside Oslo” in September 2009, a few months after Grandma Agny passed away. After she died, I found myself clinging to my Norwegian roots as a way to feel closer to her. One of the ways I did so was through Scandinavian food. As a writer (and someone who loves to cook), I started “Outside Oslo” as a way to share my experiences as I explored my heritage.
COF: Tell me about your approach to blogging on “Outside Oslo.” Where do you find inspiration for recipes? What is your favorite recipe you have made to date in connection to the blog?
DS: The two most important parts of my blog are stories and recipes, and those are the things that drive the content. If I have a story I’d like to tell and can relate to food, I will usually find a complementary recipe and use it as an excuse to bake. Take the post “A chocolate orange cake for your coffee table.” For that post, I had wanted to tell a story about an encounter I had with the Norwegian language, and since it involved coffee, the post transitioned from a personal anecdote to information about the importance of the Norwegian coffee table. Of course this was a perfect opportunity to bake a cake that one might include in that spread! Other times, I’ll find a recipe in a cookbook or on the internet – such as the traditional yellow pea soup in Andreas Viestad’s “Kitchen of Light” – and the story will originate from that.
In addition, my mom, my maternal grandma, and I regularly get together to bake Scandinavian treats. It started a couple of years ago with Grandma wanting to teach us how to make lefse. She is a master lefse baker, and I feel so honored to be learning how to make it from her. (I haven’t shared her recipe yet, but I have included a step-by-step guide with photos.) From there, she also started teaching us out to make sandbakkelse, krumkake, Norwegian waffles, etc. In the future I’ll be featuring recipes for some of these classic cookies and desserts, as well as more traditional and new Scandinavian recipes. As for favorite recipes, I would say that the Norwegian Chocolate Orange Cake and Yellow Pea Soup stand out.
Visit “Outside Oslo” online at http://outsideoslo.wordpress.com for recipes, stories and more.
This article originally appeared in the Mar. 16, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.