Outside Oslo began one summer evening in 2009 when the sun began to shine again over my grief. My grandmother Agny had died suddenly two months before, just as I was preparing to ask her to start telling me her stories about life in Norway. Grandma’s death punched me in the heart in a way I didn’t know how to handle. I sought comfort in the shared heritage—especially its food. As I began cooking my way through Scandinavian recipes, as rich with butter as the stories written in between their fading lines, I was cooking food that Grandma would have known in Norway, and it helped me understand more about her and about where we came from. Outside Oslo became a place where I could record what I was learning.
To my delight, my other grandmother, Adeline–also Norwegian, by way of North Dakota–was a willing participant in my journey and taught me how to make lefse, krumkaker, sandbakkelse, and many other confections. She passed away this past summer after an extended decline, leaving me to carry on the traditions that all four of my Norwegian grandparents had worked so hard to preserve. I’m still processing the loss and things may continue to be quiet around here as I heal. But I hope the recipes and the stories touch you in some way, whether they point you to your own Scandinavian heritage or simply remind you of how wonderful it is to share a meal with someone dear. – December 2017
I’ve always been a writer, but there’s part of me that belongs in the kitchen as much as at the desk.
Trained as a journalist in college, I began my career as a writer and producer for a morning television newscast in Seattle. Churning out story after story about house fires and wacky weather until the sun rose high, I’d go home in the morning and unwind in the kitchen, leisurely mixing up homemade treats to occasionally bring to the newsroom for the next day’s editorial meeting. Until the news director—my mentor—advised me to stop.
You’re going to be known as the newsroom Martha Stewart, he warned me one day. That’s no way for a young, blonde, and cute woman with an unusual name to gain credibility as a serious journalist, he said. And of course, young and ambitious, I listened.
Now I look back at that time and see how it all makes sense. I had no idea back then, as an aspiring reporter and anchorwoman, that I’d find a way to combine my passions. I’ve since traded breaking news for food writing and am recognized as a source on Scandinavian cooking. I’m the food editor for The Norwegian American and my work appears in a number of regional and national publications including Costco Connection, The Oregonian, and Edible Seattle. I’ve also taught cooking and baking classes at Seattle’s Nordic Heritage Museum. As obvious as a career in food writing seems now, it would take me a few years to figure it out. And I took some detours along the way.
When I first left TV news, I became the communications manager for a theater company. The job was a perfect fit, as I’d find out one morning when I woke up to learn that the theater had been the latest target of a serial arsonist who had had the neighborhood on alert for weeks. My journalism skills proved helpful as I worked with the media to help turn what could have been simply a story of arson into months-long coverage complete with a silver lining as the theater reopened.
My love for storytelling also led me to start writing a novel about a present-day woman uncovering secrets of her grandmother’s past in wartime Norway. I didn’t realize it at the time, but its roots were my own experience. I put fiction on the backburner after I realized I had my own story to tell.
When I was a teenager, Grandma Agny used to dream of me becoming an anchorwoman. I’m not sure I would have otherwise thought to pursue that career, but I think she was onto something. By pursuing a career as a journalist, I was nurturing reporting skills that would come in handy when I started researching my family history and heritage. I never ended up anchoring the nightly news. But I think that Grandma Agny would be even more pleased, knowing that I cherish the love she shared and the heritage she worked so hard to preserve.