Day 13: For a famous chef, the tastes and smells of St. Lucia Day in Sweden Linger

I love the holidays, especially through the lens of food as a chef. I came to Sweden from Ethiopia when I was very young, so even though my own holiday traditions started with my adoptive mother and older sisters, I’ve always been fascinated by how people celebrate around the world .

Some of my earliest memories of growing up in Sweden are the tastes and smells of December. 13, St. Lucia’s Day The feast of St. Lucia is widely celebrated throughout Scandinavia in schools, churches and homes. For my family, it was a time to get together to eat a good meal.

The meal was always a great mix of herring, gravlax and meatballs. Sometimes we had turkey, other times roast pork. We had the traditional saffron buns with raisins or almonds; each person had their preference. But the one thing we could all agree on, kids and adults alike, was gingers. There it had be a ginger in our St. Day of Lucia party.

When I was growing up in Gothenburg, I was always in the kitchen with my grandmother. Cooking with Grandma Helga laid the foundation for my culinary aspirations, and in St. Lucia Day, there was something magical about that time spent together. I can still feel the heat of the oven and the smell of the spices wafting over me, the exciting moment when the hot gingers were in the oven and ready to be devoured.

There’s nothing like the cold of a Scandinavian winter, which means there’s nothing better than finding warmth during the holiday season. To me, that was – and still is – the whole family, a crackling fire and a hot cup of glogg – red wine infused with star anise, cloves, cinnamon and orange peel.

The holiday season is a busy time for everyone in the kitchen, home cooks and professional chefs alike. For me, this year will be especially busy because I am in the middle of opening my new restaurant in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York. Hav & Mar it’s partly inspired by my Scandinavian roots, so I’ve been able to get back to the amazing food and drink of St. Lucia Day and past holiday seasons. In this spirit, we will have glogg and gingersnaps on the winter menu – so that we can welcome people from the cold to create their own memories.

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