By Cynthia Robertson
A lavish “middag,” as they say in Norwegian, is planned for Sept. 17 by the Valhall Lodge — the local branch of the international organization of Sons of Norway.
The Heritage Dinner, to be held at the Ascension Lutheran Church in Allied Gardens, is the perfect time for guests to enjoy good food and learn more about the cultural aspects of Valhall Lodge, which is currently the largest Norwegian organization outside of Norway.
“And if you are interested in joining Valhall Lodge, your dinner is free,” said president Susan Cody.
Feasting — or festing, in Norwegian — on foods typical of the Norwegian table is a regular event for Lodge members and guests, such as the Lutefisk Dinner, featuring processed cod, scheduled for Nov. 19. The Ladies of Valhall also hold an annual Lille Butikken (Little Store) of Norwegian artifacts and baked goods for sale.
“Don’t worry, we will have meatballs, too, for those who don’t like Lutefisk,” Cody said.
Other future events at Valhall Lodge include the Norwegian Juletrefest in December, and Syttende Mai, the Norwegian Constitution Day in May.
Norwegians form a large group of more than 4.5 million people within the United States. According to the norway.org website, 21 percent of people with Norwegian descent live in the Pacific states of Washington, Oregon, and California. Norwegian-Americans celebrate and maintain their heritage in many ways, much of it centering on the Lutheran-Evangelical churches they were born into.
Although the Norwegians were the most numerous of all the Scandinavian immigrant groups, other Scandinavians also immigrated to America during the same time period. Today, there are 11-12 million Americans of Scandinavian ancestry. Scandinavians represent about 6 percent of the white population in the U.S. as a whole, and more than 25 percent of the white population of the Upper Midwest.
Jeanne Scott, who has been a member for six years of both the Sons of Norway and the House of Norway, is half-Norwegian.
“Knowing the elder members reminds me of my grandparents, father, aunts and uncles who, all but one, have passed. We never lived in the same towns so only at holidays, did I get to be with them,” she said.
Scott’s grandfather came from Teveldahl, Norway in 1908 to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and became a naturalized citizen in 1927. Scott’s grandmother’s parents emigrated from Norway as well.
“I learn a lot about my heritage that I would never have known — the food, the language, the customs,” she said.
Being able to make Norwegian waffles is something in which Scott takes particular pride.
Sigurd Stautland, Past President of Valhall Lodge, was born in Norway. He came to San Diego in 1966 by invitation from SDSU to serve as a visiting professor. “Turned out that I taught there for 26 years, and I have continued to live in San Diego. I am the black sheep in my family, the only one who emigrated,” he said.
However, one does not have to be Norwegian in order to join and delight in the culinary, cultural and social benefits of membership in the Lodge.
People from other Scandinavian countries, such as Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands find the Valhall Lodge to be of great benefit for them personally and socially. The Lodge has offered classes in Norwegian language, rosemaling (a folk painting technique), cooking, knitting and other crafts.
All members get full access to all of the recipe files for authentic Norwegian appetizers, desserts, main dishes, open-face sandwiches. They also have the opportunity to freshen up their Norwegian or learn it for the first time.
Over the years, Cody has taken lessons in the Norwegian language, although she is not currently enrolled in a class. She also enjoys Norwegian crafts and cooking.
“I have prepared a lot of Norwegian foods, both savory and sweet. One of my specialties is a kransekake, or crown cake, which is a cake that is served at parties in Norway.”
Valhall Lodge supports the House of Norway in Balboa Park where visitors can learn even more about Norwegian culture, view artifacts and taste some of the foods from Norway and each Tuesday morning from 9 a.m. to noon there is a woodcarving demonstration.
The original purpose of the Sons of Norway founders was to protect members and their families from the financial hardships experienced during times of sickness or death in the family. Over time, the mission of Sons of Norway expanded to include the preservation of Norwegian heritage and culture.
“Sons of Norway is the perfect place to start as we offer a variety of resources for anyone interested in Norwegian culture,” Cody said.
—Cynthia Robertson is a san Diego-based freelance writer. Reacher her at firstname.lastname@example.org.