Saturday, I celebrated Midsommar with many of my friends here in Boston...as Midsommar is a Swedish holiday that is typically celebrated outdoors, we ended up in the Penthouse with all the windows open, enjoying the Boston views and the breeze.
Each small vase on the table had seven flowers, the traditional number that girls put under their pillows on Midsommar...it's said that if you sleep above these seven flowers, you will dream about your future spouse. I remember the conversation I had with Birgit, my dad's cousin, when we visited Sweden:
scene: driving in a car and stopping in the middle of nowhere in a meadow. We get out of the car, Birgit grabs floral wire from her trunk and starts walking. I kind of stare after her. Should I follow?
Birgit: Come on! We have to make your crown!
(whoa. Crown?! I get a crown? Whoa squared. I was in seventh grade and wearing a colorful sack-y dress that my mom loved but kind of didn't do anything for me except make me look colorful, and goodness. A crown would make me feel like a princess! Incidentally, it's tradition for a Swedish bride to wear a crown on her wedding day. Some of them are a little odd, but others are quite pretty!)
Exhibit A: The crown that actually fits on your doll's head. (apparently most churches in Sweden have one that all the brides use. It's very Swedish to not spend much money on your wedding, and this is but one example)
Exhibit B: Much better! (from Crown Princess Victoria's recent wedding)
But she's a real princess. So I'll probably have to settle for DIY-ing a crown out of the wire from champagne bottles and using one of my diamond brooches.
Anyway, I waited patiently as Birgit slowly wove me the most beautiful flower crown, full of poppies, blåklint and blåeld...it was beautiful.
Even then, in my most awkward of years, holy cow did I ever feel pretty. Indulged, even...I felt so special going to Visby to help with the Majstång (maypole), again with the flower wire (apparently flower wire is Swedish duct tape. Who knew?).
Later, after getting home and gorging on the Midsommar meal of sill (herring), potatoes, beets, and as much smultron as we could eat (wild strawberries), we played kubb with other relatives. I was terrible. But it was fun. That night, Birgit had me pick my seven flowers, and I looked at them doubtfully: but, really? You're making me do this?
"But what if they stain the pillowcases? I'd feel so bad!"
Birgit looked at me and laughed, "They're my pillowcases, and I have to clean them. And I say it's tradition, and that's how we do things here." (this was much the same laughing manner with which she approached my open-mouthed prudish horror at the poster in the bathroom with topless women with boobs of all shapes and sizes with names of vegetables and fruits underneath in Swedish. I'll never forget the radish woman. She looked like Madonna).
And so, under the pillows the flowers went. And I woke up the next morning.
Did I dream something?
Damn. No. But then reason crept in and said, well, you don't *remember* dreaming anything. Doesn't mean you didn't. Swedish tradition for the win...it means that I can now have this fond feeling for a dream I don't remember because I know it happened. Got to love that logic.
One of the things that Birgit did just for us guests was put on her Gotland costume. She made it herself (including the most exquisite embroidery on her vest. It's incredible). My mom found my costume at an antique store in Hixton, Wisconsin about two years ago on her way to visit IWU. I never knew it existed until she was cleaning out her closet two weekends ago. And what do you know? It fit perfectly.
Let's just say that this makes me living the dream from the list of "20 Things I Wish I'd Known at 20" - number 10:
"10. You look good. There’s no such thing as the hottest person in the room. Everyone is attracted to something different, so just take those odds and run with them."
I ran with them. And really enjoyed myself. And all the ridiculousness that went with it.
One of the, er, miscalculations was how quickly I'd be able to cook different dishes, as well as the whole buying twenty new place-settings to have enough dinner plates and getting them washed in time. But my friends all came, ready and willing to work, and within an hour and the delegation of bringing up chairs, mixing meatballs in a plastic tub, quality control of the finished meatball product, dishing out jams and jellies, putting out the beer...we were set to serve.
Svarta vinbär saft (Black currant juice)
Hallon saft (Raspberry juice)
Lingonsylt saft (Lingonberry juice)
Blåbär saft (Blueberry juice)
Fläder saft (Elderflower juice - very good! would make wonderful sorbet, Bryan thinks)
Vatten med citron (Water with lemon)
Vatten med gurka och jordgubbar (Water with cucumbers and strawberries)
Köttbollar (Meatballs --- oh my gosh. Heaven on earth. Secret spice? Allspice. Ridiculous, right?)
Gräddsås (Cream sauce)
Gravad lax (Raw marinated salmon)
Gravlaxsås (Mustard sauce for salmon)
Potatis med gräslök (Potatoes with chives)
Rostade bettor salad (Roasted beet salad)
Gurka sallad (Cucumber salad - really good quick pickled salad from Melinda)
Sås pepparrot (Horseradish sauce)
Sill och potatis sallad med salladslök och brynt smör (Herring and Potato Salad with spring onions and brown butter)
Blomma ägg med söta tårta senap dillsås (Flower eggs with sweet tart mustard dill sauce - really good! kind of like salad with deviled eggs, except dillier)
Sill dill (Herring in dill marinade)
Sill gräddfil (Marinated herring in sour cream)
Senapssill (Herring in mustard sauce)
Sill vitlök (Marinated herring with garlic sauce)
Potatis sallad (Potato salad - Birgit's recipe. So delicious!)
Rökt kaviar med dill (Creamed smoked caviar with dill)
Jordbrukarens ost (Farmer's cheese)
Bröd (Bread and rolls)
Sylt lingon (Lingonberry preserves)
Sylt krusbär (Gooseberry preserves)
Sylt fläder och apelsin (Orange and elderflower marmalade)
Sylt hjortron (Cloudberry jam --the crowd favorite)
Ost flan (Cheese flan - made my Steve...extra incredible!)
Frukt tårta (Fruit tarts - so good! Amneet and Tiffany did a wonderful job!)
Söt grädde (Sweet cream)
Honung mandel grädde (Honey almond cream)
Saffranspankaka (Saffron pancake)
Bilar (Chewy candy cars -- so these are basically crack, what can I say?)
[The meatball suffering my labmate went through deserves special mention. Not everyone can withstand the gooeyness of 10 eggs, soupy breadcrumbs and half and half, plus not to mention the fact that he basically defrosted the pork by hand. Such a master, if you will]
We walked around the Penthouse, enjoying the view and the sunset, me dreaming of irrigation systems, and everyone else hoping I'd burst into Små Grodorna, the infamous song about why frogs are funny. Obviously, since they have no ears or tails. (nope...didn't do it!)
The evening ended with everyone absolutely stuffed, and then helping me out most generously to get things back to my room, dishes cleaned, and the Penthouse looking like there's no way 30 people just had a sit-down dinner there. It was wonderful to have my friends really step up and help...I feel very lucky.
[and now, to bed. Well, trying to, I guess. I kind of consumed an entire thing of Swedish bilar while writing this. And one sugar coma later...]