Saturday, 26 December 2009

The Secret Behind My Family’s Swedish Meatball Recipe

Swedish meatballs have been a Christmas tradition in my family for as long as I can remember. We originate more or less from the Twin Cities in Minnesota, my father from the St. Paul side and my mother from the Minneapolis side. Thus, when I was doing my childhood growing-up in Michigan we would complete a cold, snowy 13 hour drive every year to Minnesota to celebrate the holidays. Christmas Eve was spent with my mother’s parents and Christmas Day with my father’s parents. It was fantastic! On Christmas Eve we had a huge feast with my maternal grandparents, which consisted of a honey glazed ham and the best Swedish meatballs known to man. That evening we would open presents from each other, and on Christmas morning, we'd open the presents Santa had left us in the night. Then, we would drive to St. Paul and have a succulent rib eye roast with all the trimmings and open the presents from each other and Santa, who liked us so much he also left gifts there.

It’s been about 25 years since we were able to partake in the Minnesota double Christmas feed (and double Santa visits). My mother’s parents moved to Tucson, I moved to Seattle and for a while we had to alternate Christmas visits between Minnesota and Arizona. I was blessed to have both sets of my grandparents in my life until my early thirties. Now I’m blessed that I still get to see my maternal grandmother every Christmas.

My parents have recently finished building what my mother has termed, ‘the home before the home’, a gorgeous house, designed by my father, in Asheville, NC. My grandma, who is almost 90 and fit as a fiddle, has now also relocated to the area. My brother lives 4 hours north in Raleigh, leaving me as the prodigal daughter on the other side of the pond. This would be an incredibly special Christmas as it would be the first one where all of us had been together in a few years. My parents would also get to be the Christmas hosts, which hadn't happened in decades. The recent years previous to this we spent Christmas, usually without my brother, at my grandmother's place in Tucson. The kitchen in her flat was quite small, so instead of making Swedish meatballs from scratch, we had been buying them from places like Trader Joe’s or Ikea. They were good, but nowhere near as scrumptious as the ones my grandmother made back in the day. This year my mother was pulling out all stops. We would have the homemade Swedish meatballs for Christmas Eve dinner along with all the other traditions we had observed when I was a child (except the double Santa visits).

On Christmas Eve my grandma arrived and she and my mother went into the kitchen. My mother took out the recipe my grandmother had given her years ago and said, “Look, mom, it’s your old Swedish meatball recipe.”

“Ahhh… you know where I got that?” asked my grandmother as she donned her apron.

“No, I don’t,” my mother admitted and waited anxiously to hear a story about how our family recipe had been handed down from previous generations of family in Sweden.

“From Playboy magazine,” my grandmother said nonchalantly, “Your father’s Playboy, of course. I didn’t make a habit of reading it.”

And so the delicious meatballs, which practically melt in your mouth, were made and consumed while we wondered aloud if the Playboy edition where the recipe had originated featured Swedish models that month.

And now (after some strong-arming from friends who wanted me to put the meatball recipe up here and with my mother's permission) here is the sexy Swedish Meatball recipe. (You are STILL not getting my brownie recipe, however.)

Tear 2 slices of stale bread in small chunks and soak in 1/2 cup of lite cream.
Peel a medium potato, cut into chunks and boil. When it's nice and soft force it through a strainer.
Chop one medium onion extremely fine.
Put the onion in the pan with 1 tbs butter and slowly sauté until onion is yellow.
Combine in deep bowl the breadbread, cream, potato onion, 1 beaten egg, 3/4 lb lean ground pork, 1/4 lb lean ground pork, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp allspice, 1/8 tsp pepper.
Mix very well (use your hands) until bread disappears.
Shape into 1 in balls.
Place in a shallow baking pan.
Bake at 475 (Fahrenheit) for 20 minutes, turning once until balls brown.
Melt 2 tbs butter in a large saucepan and stir in 2 tbs flour, blending well.
Gradually add 10 1/2 oz can consummé.
Add balls.
Turn to low and cook for 1/2 hour.
Stir in 1/4 cup cream.
Bring to boil, season to taste.

Enjoy! :-)

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

What Is So Important About Today?

It's World AIDS Day. As bloggers we were encouraged to write about how and why we are facing AIDS. This is my how and why.
I met Scott on New Year's Eve, 1989. To be honest, I didn't really like him at first. I thought he was arrogant and bordered on being rude. On top of that a 'friend' of mine had given me an earful about him, all of which later revealed itself to be untrue. In April when my roommate told me that Scott and his girlfriend had split, I surprised myself by suddenly thinking, "Of course they did; he's meant to be with me."
It still took a few more months for him to woo me over and eventually I fell...hard. We were quite close, almost inseparable. I had never in my entire life known a love like this and spent my days walking on cloud nine. I was living and breathing happiness. But, when you walk high on clouds it hurts like hell when you tumble to the ground. My heart was shattered when we split.
However, we never really seemed to let each other go. I eventually moved to Seattle and he moved to San Francisco. I met a man and we moved in together out of necessity. Still I spoke to Scott every week. I may have been in a serious relationship with a live-in boyfriend in Seattle, but my heart belonged to a man in San Francisco.
About a year after we both had settled in our new homes, Scott found out that he was HIV positive. By some grace of God I wasn't. Don't ask me how. I'm lucky, I guess. It took me a long time to accept that. I felt guilty for years that I didn't end up with HIV. And don't ask me how Scott caught it. How anyone catches the disease isn't the issue. The issue is they have it. I absolutely hate the fact that there is a stigma on people who have this disease. At the end of the day it is not important. It is not a punishment from God. It is a disease and one that is killing millions of people, but allow me to get off my high horse and continue.
Slowly Scott's health deteriorated and so did a piece of my sanity. My Seattle boyfriend had developed a serious drug problem and Scott was the only one I talked to about it. Two men I cared for were dying in front of me. One couldn't help it and one was slowly killing himself. Eventually, Scott's health got so bad that he flew back to Michigan to see his family. He wouldn't be returning to San Francisco.
His best friend called me, then my old roommate, then his sister. It was time, and he was asking for me. He had said to his mother, “H- will kill me if I die before she gets here.” I gathered together all my savings, and the very next day I flew from Seattle to Michigan, where we had first met and had fallen in love while at university.
The disease had ravaged his body to nothing. This amazing man I had never stopped loving was reduced to a flesh covered mass of organs, each of them slowly disintegrating. He was in a morphine coma, and there was no way of really knowing if he could hear us. His family, with the exception of his sister, were exhausted and left to get well deserved rest. She and I chatted, and I told her a humorous story about him and me. I got to the part in the story where he and I had different versions, and suddenly he moaned as if to disagree with me like he always did when we would tell that story together.
Trained as a nurse, Scott's sister wanted to stay up with us, but she was only human and eventually succumbed to the need for sleep. At last she took her respite, but stayed in the room with us, sleeping on the floor. Due to the time change, I was still wide awake and told her I would wake her if…
Once I knew she was asleep I told him things I should have said long before. I promised him I’d leave my drug addict boyfriend. I told him I had never stopped loving him; it had always been him and there had never been anyone else despite the men who had come after him. Then, suddenly he said my name. He asked if I was there, if it was ok. My eyes stung, and my voice cracked as I told him he needed to go. I was there, I loved him, and I couldn’t stand to see him like this. He needed to go, and I would see him in the next life.
He said something that sounded like “Okay” and took a breath. I stood up and yelled for his sister. This shocked him, and he jolted. ‘Oh Jesus,’ I thought, ‘even in death I can’t let him be in peace.’
His sister took his pulse, and his chest rose and fell. “Is he gone?” I whispered. She nodded and ran to get the rest of her family. His chest continued to rise and fall, and I was confused. His family assembled in the room, and he continued to breathe. His sister explained that it was natural for breathing to continue a bit after the pulse had stopped. Then his breathing stopped, and the colour left his face. I moved away from his side to the corner of the room where I slid to the floor and let his family move in closer to him. I felt out of place somehow and hugged my knees into my chest. Everything felt numb, and my face was wet. The hospice nurse came to take care of the body. That was what he was now, a body. He was gone. My first real love and my best friend was gone, and unlike the times we had tried to leave each other before, there would be no coming back.
I think of Scott every day despite the fact that it has been 14 years since he passed on. I pray that a cure for this disease is found and soon. So, please if you have some extra time or extra money, donate it to the AIDS charity of your choice and remember all those who are living with this disease, not just today but always.