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  • Oct 24, 2012

Season's Eatings at the American Swedish Institute: Introduce your stomach to a smorgasbord of holiday traditions

MINNEAPOLIS — For many Twin Cities residents, a visit to the American Swedish Institute (ASI) during the Christmas season is an annual holiday tradition. Now there’s room for everyone, thanks to the Minneapolis museum’s celebrated new addition, the Nelson Cultural Center. This year, the gateway for many may be through the ASI’s special holiday food traditions.

Like a life-sized advent calendar, the ASI has (at least) 24 fun ways to add new holiday traditions to everyone’s Christmas season.

“Scandinavian holiday customs are some of the coziest and most delicious in the world,” says Bruce Karstadt, CEO, American Swedish Institute. “Now that the American Swedish Institute has doubled our space, we’re hoping a trip to our castle and new addition will be right up there on the calendar for families with other Minnesota holiday traditions like ‘A Christmas Carol,’ Holidazzle and the Macy’s display.”

The original American Swedish Institute castle — the Turnblad Mansion — will be decked out for the season, Sat., Nov. 3 through Sun., Jan. 13, 2013, with rooms representing holiday traditions from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden through beautifully ornamented trees, elaborate table settings and other decorations.

But of course there will be plenty of food at the ASI. Swedes are known for being the biggest candy eaters in the world — apparently eating nearly 38 pounds per person per year. In fact, there’s a tradition of Saturday candy — lördagsgodis — when kids bring home a special sack of candy to enjoy for the weekend. In honor of this tradition, beginning Nov. 2, the ASI Museum Shop will offer eighteen varieties of bulk Swedish candies, including chocolate nougats, salty licorice, sour strawberry ribbons, orange slices, Dumle soft toffees, Fazermint mint chocolate creams, red candy Ferrari cars and caramel caps. They’re great for advent calendar-filling, gingerbread house decorating, stocking stuffers, parties and, of course, eating. The store will also offer other traditional Scandinavian holiday foods, including pepparkakor (ginger cookies); Swedish crisp bread; Swedish Falk salt; lingonberry, gooseberry and black currant preserves; Marabou chocolates; rose hip and blueberry soup mixes; and glögg (mulled wine) mix.

Also, at the ASI’s new café, FIKA, this holiday season, chef Michael Fitzgerald and his kitchen will introduce Swedish holiday delicacies. Alongside the regular menu of open-faced sandwiches, cardamom buns and other foods, FIKA will offer risgrynsgröt (rice pudding) to appease any house tomte (the traditional Swedish Christmas elf you’ll see a lot of at the American Swedish Institute each year), Lucia saffron buns (in honor of the St. Lucia Day holiday on December 13), pepparkakor and other traditional Scandinavian holiday pastries.

FIKA will also do a take on Scandinavia’s famous revered-yet-reviled food, at ASI’s Lutfisk Dinner, Sat., Nov. 17. Make reservations early, but open seating will be available any time between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to enjoy traditional foods like lutfisk (specially prepared cod), riced potatoes, Swedish meatballs, creamed kale and European breads.

One of the ASI’s biggest events of the season — the Christmas Market— will be held Sat. and Sun., Dec. 1 and 2. Outdoor booths will serve warm winter treats like toasted nuts, warm glögg, coffee and hot chocolate, and inside, FIKA will deliver its celebrated open-faced sandwiches and baked goods. Great handcrafted items from local artists will be available for sale, and everyone can participate in slöjd (handcraft) projects, cozy up around the outdoor firepit and try the fiskdamm (fishing pond). Families can take a break with storytime or watch Christmas cartoons, and music and dance groups will perform — both indoors and out.

In the middle of December, the ASI will offer two traditional Christmas Julbord—a full Swedish smörgåsbord of holiday foods prepared by FIKA, including European breads, multiple types of herring, dill Havarti, Jarlsberg and baked Brie cheeses, a smoked salmon platter with onion and capers served with cucumber dill sauce, deviled eggs with caviar, a cucumber dill salad, Scandinavian pea salad, creamy herring and beet salad, rutabaga casserole and carrot casserole; jellied veal, a Swedish Christmas ham with mustard, Jansson’s Temptation (another casserole!), Swedish meatballs, Swedish potato sausages and boiled potatoes, rice pudding with lingonberries, ginger cookies, carrot cake and flourless chocolate torte with raspberry sauce. And, of course, there will be coffee. Reserve your family’s new tradition — Sunday, Dec. 16 or Sunday, Dec. 23. Reservations are required by Friday, Dec. 7.

For more information on any of the activities and to register for the special dinners, call 612-871-4907 or visit

The American Swedish Institute (ASI) is a vibrant arts and cultural organization, museum, and historic home located at 2600 Park Avenue near downtown Minneapolis. ASI attracts more than 65,000 people each year for tours of the landmark 1908 Turnblad Mansion, exhibits, classes and events that connect the community to contemporary Nordic culture and cultural heritage. Founded in 1929 by Swedish immigrant newspaper publisher Swan J. Turnblad, ASI serves as a gathering place for people to share stories and experiences around universal themes of tradition, migration, craft and the arts, all informed by enduring ties to Sweden. Museum hours: Tue., Thu., Fri., Sun. 12–5 p.m., Wed. 12–8 p.m., and Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Museum admission: $7, $6 ages 62+, $4 ages 6-18 and students with ID. For directions or more information, visit


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