To me Christmas is all about food. Well, at least food is an important part of Christmas, and Christmas cookies, including a gingerbread house, are key elements of Christmas food, and not least Christmas preparations. Where I come from, in the days before Christmas eve, we usually have a number of Christmas preparations: making head cheese, making pickled herring, putting up a bundle of oat straws for birds to eat, decorating the whole house, and, last but not least, baking lots of Christmas cookies, including a gingerbread house.
In the spirit of sharing some of the joys of baking and Norwegian Christmas traditions, I invited fellow Johanneans to an afternoon (that spilled into the evening) of baking cookies on December 21. We started with rolling out the gingerbread dough (we made it the dough previous day), and carefully cutting out all the walls, chimneys, windows, doors, and porches. The walls and other pieces were assembled using melted sugar, which turns into caramel when heated. Making gingerbread houses took a lot of time, not least since we had to bake the pieces in several batches. The other cookies – sandkaker (“sand cakes”), peppernøtter (“pepper nuts”), and mandelflarn (“almond something…”) were less time-consuming, but because of the number of batches we had to use the oven in the clock tower as well, plying between the two kitchens for an hour. But the best part was decorating the gingerbread house, of course, with coloured frosting and smarties.
Baking Christmas cookies was a great way of maintaining an sharing some of my traditions, but also a fun (and tasty) way of meeting people over the holidays. As we say in Norwegian: “God jul!” (Merry Christmas!)
– Espen (text) and Tanvi (photos)