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Nanna's Christmas Bread
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Story Winner #2: Nanna's Christmas Bread
When I was little, my favorite part of Christmas was waiting for the big box from Nanna. It wasn't presents I wanted, but the rich, aromatic breads she sent all the way from "Up North." My favorite place to visit each summer was where my father's mother lived. In 1888, she came from Vasa, Finland, to Michigan's Copper Country (the northernmost place in Michigan, way up in Lake Superior) when she was seven years old.
Though Nanna was a Finn-Swede, no one mentioned that around her more than once! She was Swede, pure and simple. All the family Christmas traditions were Swedish. In the box were fruit bread, Julekage, and Limpa (Swedish rye bread). She sent loaves and loaves to us. I wonder how she did it in her little kitchen with no power tools, plus she sent loaves to my aunt and uncle as well.
Each morning from the time the box arrived until there were no crumbs left, we had toasted fruit bread, dripping with butter, for breakfast. Limpa was saved for Christmas Eve. There's nothing like a Limpa turkey sandwich! I liked it much better than lutfisk (an air-dried whitefish).
As I grew older, the number of loaves we received were fewer. My disappointment was unfettered because of my lack of understanding of aging.
Then, when I was 14, no box came at all. I was indignant. My favorite part of Christmas! How could she?! My father explained that Nanna was 83 and had slowed down a bit. When we arrived for our usual summer visit, she forgot we were coming. Our arrival in the dark confused her, so we found a motel. In the next few days, I learned more about aging than I wanted to know. Though she was fine in the middle of the day when she expected us, Dad said our staying with her was just too much.
During that visit, my Christmas indignation came full circle. While I still wanted the breads, I loved Nanna and didn't want to hurt her. So I asked if she could teach me to make the breads, and she did, joyfully: "One cake of yeast, about this much flour, and a pinch of salt, and a big spoon of cardamom."
After that day, I made the breads and sent some to her.
Though Nanna has been gone many years, every time I smell cardamom, I still see her in the kitchen, in her house dress with her braided hair in a net.
- Sherry Mattson
Layout by Sherry Mattson
About the Author:
Sherry Mattson: I live in the Copper Country, way up north. I've always loved it here, and we were fortunate to find 20 beautiful acres on Lake Superior. "We" includes my husband, Rick, and our rescue dog, Cwyfan. We are both retired Episcopal priests and live in a 480-square-foot cabin. We are finishing studios for each of us. Mine is for quilting, photography, and scrapping, with a meditation space and beautiful view of the lake. We have three children and one grandson (who will be two years old on December 19). The digital scrapbooking layout is part of a recipe book that I made for my daughter.
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