or, there’s more than one way to skin a cat
Pickled herring, aspic on smoked eel, lutefisk, meatballs, red cabbage, caramelized green cabbage, red beet salad with herring, gravlax…are you hip to what nationality people are who long for this kind of food when they live abroad?
Being an expat means sometimes missing people, or special places, but always missing the food! And dishes not readily available at the market, will be made from scratch, and sometimes the ingredients list have to be fudged a bit, but still achieve an acceptable end result making your countrymen and women salivate at the thought.
Living in Northern California as a Swede offers particular challenges. Anchovies are frowned upon and cheese pies made from a certain kind of cheese only made in the very north of Sweden are impossible to obtain.
It took me over a week to negotiate with the ladies behind the cheese counter at the Italian specialty grocer, Corti Brothers in Sacramento, on how to make a cheese pie, Swedish “Västerbotten” style.
They shook their heads, sucked on their teeth, and sought each other’s eyes in confirmation of this opinion, that a savory cheese pie was not do-able. Nope. Have never heard of such a thing. Hard to imagine. ”Pies are sweet, baked goods with sweet fillings”, they patiently explained to this very obvious foreigner without pie-knowhow. “Pies are filled with cherries or maybe rhubarb, but they are not spicy or salty. Cheese is not an alternative. At all.”
As I insisted and they applied their polite customer-is-always-right attitude, we worked our way together through Corti Brothers’ huge selection of cheeses. I tried to explain the taste and we tried a dozen or so cheeses which could be possible candidates. They apologized they did not have an original Swedish Västerbotten cheese. No apology needed, as the brand has not been marketed for export as have the Norweigan colleague, Jarlsberg.
I went deep trying to convey the taste vision, if a taste can be visualized, and I think I broke through as one of the ladies stepped out from behind the counter and took on my case as a personal challenge to complete the mission before her. Together we hunted for contenders to be included in that elusive phenomenon – a savory pie!
It is possible to obtain that very special taste. It’s a bit of a puzzle, but we succeeded.
My home-made Västerbotten pies were the life of the graduation party when my son, Gustav, graduated from High School. The locals were stunned and charmed – having never tasted anything like it. Good thing I had put a piece aside, as there were no left-overs.
The next day I returned to Corti Brothers and presented my cheese hunting heroine with a taste of the result. Alas, she was at lunch when I was there, so I did not get to hear her reaction. Maybe we started a new food trend in NorCal?