Travels · Travels: Norway

Grimstad and Kvamskogen: Little House in the Big Woods

It’s a pretty special thing how people take me into their homes, and into their lives. I’m really just a food-mad foreign girl who carts tart pans and thermometers halfway across Earth, and yet people never cease to amaze me with their open hearts and eagerness to share.

Grimstad:

Randi and her family brought me to their lovely little cabin in the woods. The road into the hills was narrow and winding, and once we finally found the middle of snowy nowhere, we were met by her father, Nils Martin, in a big roaring tractor. We donned our snowsuits and clunky boots, and hopped into the tractor’s shovel, which had been thoughtfully laid with old sofa cushions.

I felt like a little girl again, as my feet peeked over the side of the shovel. I couldn’t help giggle with glee. It wasn’t my first time riding on the scoop of a tractor, but it was Hilde’s, and she was grinning like a mad Cheshire Cat.

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We bumped along, and finally a little red cabin came into view. Ingveig, Randi’s mother, bustled outside to enthusiastically wave hello, and bring us inside.

The cabin is old. So old, in fact, that nobody is quite sure how old it is. Maybe 200 or 250 years even. It came to the family at the end of the Second World War. The ceilings are low, there is no running water or electricity, but in the kitchen the cast iron range was as alive as it had ever been. We ate croquettes and creamed cabbage, with all of the usual Norwegian fixings.

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For dessert, tea and doughnuts! In Norway they call them monk, but I’ve known them by their Danish name, Æbleskiver, for years. They are cooked in cute little cast iron pans with seven cups arranged like a flower. Butter is added to each cup, and next the batter. They are hard to stop eating!

We explored the little cabin, and then hopped back on the tractor, to stop by Randi’s sister Magny’s repurposed schoolhouse for a quick visit before going home to crash.

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Kvamskogen:

Hilde and I hopped into the trusty van and drove for all of the hours ever. Hilde packed up some of the seedy spelt bread I made for lunch. It had white and wholemeal spelt flour, porridge oats, sunflower seeds, coarsely ground flaxseeds, and poppy seeds.

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We went through woods, and farmland, and tunnels, and even through the famous county Telemark, until ending up in Kvamskogen at her family’s cabin, Bjarnebu, named after her grandfather. It’s in Mødalen, or Moo Dale, after the cows that used to live up there. I could not stop laughing when she told me. Leave it to the Norwegians to name a grand old ski spot Moo Dale.

It was Hilde’s mom, Vivi’s birthday, as well as being Easter Weekend,  so we joined some of her large family for the celebration. Everyone was there to have fun. There was skiing, reading, knitting, playing games, having a glass of wine, and generally enjoying family time. We ate tasty things too! We had rasperry jelly with vanilla custard, venison, porkchops in a cream sauce with mushrooms and apples, and my favorites, cake and rice porridge!

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A simple sheet cake with a layer of almond sprinkled meringue was layered, one on top of the other, with a mix of chantilly cream and custard cream in the middle. It, according to Vivi, is very popular in Norway nowadays.

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The porridge is a classic and very delicious. The Recipe, which I’ve linked, is basic and can be found everywhere. We ate it with cured meats, cinnamon, sugar, and butter. I was scolded for not putting butter on mine. It was just what was called for before holiday celebrations and a  costumed ski race! I was a troll, and Hilde was a sheep. It was a happy Easter all around!

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And a bucket of dried cod in the shed!

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