Last night I was invited to a colleagues (now dear friends) home for a traditional Danish Christmas dinner. Niels and his wife were so gracious and warm that I immediately felt at home. I brought them a bottle of California white wine, not only because it is good to bring a gift, but because I actually know the vineyard from when I did some work in Napa. Also I made it a point to show up exactly on time, which is important in the Danish culture, and something that I hold dear in my home town as well. The house was decorated for the holidays in the typical Danish manor. It was clean and tidy with lit candles everywhere. There were lots of red and white decorations with trimmings made from dried hardy moss that grows near the fjords.
While waiting for dinner Niels showed me around their home. He collects and restores electronics from Bang and Olufsen, where he used to work. What a wonderful collection of radios. I seem to remember seeing these in catalogs when I was a child. These were the kinds of radios that we would only dream of owning. He also enjoys building incredibly complicated models from Lego. I was amazed that Lego produced such things. He showed me a 4 wheel drive all terrain remote control truck that was all Lego. Everything was snap together including differential gearing and steering control. If I saw that as a child I would have wet myself. I almost did as an adult.
At dinner I was able to sample some traditional Danish food. I was told that they usually have duck or goose, but this time they chose pork. Along with small browned potatoes that have been caramelized with brown sugar, gravy, and red cabbage. I normally do not like red cabbage, but it was seasoned in a manner that made me go back for seconds.
We retired to the back porch for coffee and cigarettes and talked about some American traditions and our Thanksgiving meal. I find it very interesting to have conversations about cultural differences with people of another culture, I always enjoy how similar things are, rather than dwell on the differences, which are usually minor and easily overcome.
Then we went back inside for desert. On the table I found a bowl of Ris A L’Amande (rice pudding) served with cherry sauce. There was also a wrapped present on the table. Niels wife explained that they have a tradition in their family. In the pudding is one almond, they must continue to eat the pudding until someone finds the almond. The person who finds it gets the present. I had the distinct impression that it may be a tradition, but somehow I would end up with the present. I rebelled, and purposely spooned the pudding in an effort to avoid getting the almond. It didn’t work, I found one anyway. They insisted that it was the only almond in the pudding, but then said that I would have received the present even if I didn’t get the almond. Set up, I was. But it was fun.
The present was three small bottles of Danish liquorish snaps. Ga-jol which is a salt liquorish candy that the Danes like, the snaps is just Ga-Jol flavored vodka. We tried some from their much larger bottle. It is quite startling at first. Like Jägermeister, but somehow smoother and more pungent at the same time. I will refrain from drinking these until I get home, so I can share with my family during Christmas dinner.
I left with a warm glow one usually feels when visiting family. Also the Ga-Jol vodka helped a little. It was after 10pm when I drove back to the hotel and I did not see on single car on the road. It was cold and windy, but quiet and deserted.
Niels, Tak til middag. Indtil vi ses igen.
Ris A L’Amande
3 2/3 c milk is brought to a boil
1 cup of white rice and 1/2 cup of fine sugar is added.
Cook until the rice is tender. Then Cool.
2/3 cup of chopped sliced almonds
1/2 cup of cream sherry
1 tsp vanilla
Whip then stir in gently
1 1/3 cup of whipping cream
Top with cherry sauce and serve