When you ask a Norwegian what the typical food they serve on this very special day, you are likely to get a wide variety of answers, depending on what region of the country you’re in. There seems to be as many opinions and customs as there are people in Norway, but the common foods you may hear repeated are hot dogs, ice cream, rømmegrøt (sour cream porrdige) with “fenalår” (cured leg of lamb) and our well known “koldtbord” (similar to Sweden’s smorgasbord) with many delectable cold dishes. This day is perhaps the biggest celebration of the year for our country, where the unity of the people’s nationality is marked and the Norwegian flag is seen everywhere. This is also when we wear our national costumes, the “bunad”. Here I am in my “Sunnmørsbunad”:
The 17th of May is our Constitution Day and a day of enormous pride for the Norwegians. The constitution was signed on this day in Eidsvoll in 1814, which declared Norway to be an independent nation, despite that the nation was still under the rule of Sweden, and the king of Sweden actually forbade the Norwegians to celebrate this day for many years. Not until 1836 did it become a national holiday and this is when the Parliament officially celebrated 17th of May.
Here’s a more current photo of the huge parade on the main street of Oslo, Karl Johan:
The first official children’s parade took place in 1870, and initially consisted of only boys. Girls were included from 1889, and in 1906, our royal family started the tradition of standing on their balcony greeting people walking in the parade on Karl Johan.
Because Norway’s history of always being under another country’s rule or in a union with their neighboring countries as well as being under German occupation during World War II (when celebration of May 17th was forbidden), this day is particularly special for the Norwegian people. While many people may look at waving their flag is nationalistic and not necessarily a positive thing, there is a completely different sentiment in Norway. This is a day of happiness, sense of belonging and community, and of course… FOOD!!
Since I have already written about a lot of the traditional foods in previous posts, I’ve selected to include a recipe for an incredibly delicious cake I tasted last week in my niece’s confirmation in Norway called “Ari Behn kake”. Ari Behn is a Norwegian author, and is also married to the princess of Norway. Since this day includes our royals, I found it fitting to incorporate this cake, also because cakes are such an important food when Norwegians celebrate anything or get together in a crowd.
When I asked the lovely woman who made the cake why it is called Ari Behn cake, she did not have a clue, and neither did anybody else I attempted to ask. The quest for more info continues! In the mean time – enjoy making this cake, as it is incredible! Thanks to my sister’s amazing, beautiful friend and talented cake maker, Unni Haram, for contributing this wonderful recipe!
ARI BEHN KAKE
250 grams (9 oz) hazelnuts, toasted lightly on a dry skillet and chopped
4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped
Fruit of your choice (sliced strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi, etc)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celcius).
In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts until a rough chop. Add in the baking powder and set aside. Whisk the egg whites with the sugar until stiff peaks, and fold in the hazelnuts. Pour into a 13 x 9 baking pan (spray it first) and bake in oven for about 50 minutes. Cool and divide in half.
Meanwhile, mash up the bananas in a bowl, crumble up the Dajm or Skor chocolates and add to the bananas along with half of the whipped cream. Spread the mixture on the first cake half, place the other half on top and spread the remaining whipped cream on top. Decorate with your favorite sliced fruits and serve! Look how pretty! Hurra for 17.mai!!