Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December 1–Bread & Butter

For my first Advent Calendar post, I open my top kitchen drawer and take out this:

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Question for my non-Swedish readers: Do you even know what it is? If not, I hope the next picture will give a pretty strong clue…

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We use wooden butterknives like these a lot in Sweden. At the breakfast table etc it’s common practice to just put one in the butter dish like this (rather than everyone having their own).

This is a particularly nice one though, as it’s not just handcarved but also decorated in traditional folk art style. I actually have two of them - they came as a pair. I’m not sure how long I’ve had them – at least 10, could be 20 years or more. I’m pretty sure I got them from a penfriend living farther up north in Sweden, with whom I’ve been in correspondence ever since our childhood - 50 years next spring! (Not so much nowadays as we’re both more or less handicapped when it comes to handwriting – she more – and she does not use a computer either. With the help of an assistant she sent me a surprise birthday present for my 60th though – which you will be seeing at the bottom of this post.)

Besides the giver, the butter knife also brought other things to mind. For example: In my childhood, butter was actually butter; while nowadays it’s margarine and a whole separate science of percentages and saturated vs unsaturated and Omega this and that. Real butter kept in the fridge was hard and not all easy to spread on a piece of bread (and that’s still the case, I assume, if you use the real thing). When bread and butter was to be put on the table when we had guests, my mum used another special little flat ribbed wooden tool with which to carve it, so that it could be put in elegant rolls on a plate. (I no longer have that tool, but it looked something like this.)

Butter also always makes me think of my maternal grand-father, who was a firm believer in butter as a panacea for any minor injury. (If you scraped a knee or or something – put butter on it!)

The scales in the background in the second photo belonged to my paternal grandmother. To the right of the scales you also see an old coffee-grinder and flour-jar that I think were hers as well, or else her sister’s (who died before her). Anyway, the coffee ground in that grinder would have been the kind to be boiled, not brewed. The bread basket belonged to my mother and is not all that old, but that too is a handcrafted object made in an old woodbending technique. (These things always have their place on my workbench – not hidden away in cupboards or drawers!)

And the piece of bread is my special Advent time saffron bread, made in my bread-maker - a compromise recipe I invented after my injury years ago (after which it became difficult for me to bake the more intricate traditional “Lucia” saffron buns). 

Enough reminiscencing for one day!

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Birthday present from my penfriend. (It was set to my date of birth when I received it.) I will never remember to set it right every day, all year round - so I’m thinking of putting it with my Advent things when I pack them up again after New Year… During the month of December I might possibly remember!

 

8 comments:

  1. I have not seen a butter knife like this, but have seen the carver like your mom had. also have seen a few of the scales in the way distant past. i like your butter knife for your first drawer find... and it would be good for digging in hard real butter.

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    1. There are so many everyday things that one just tends to take for granted, until one happens to get talking with someone whose habits are completely different to one's own! :)

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  2. I like your butter knife very much, what a good idea. I quit using margarine and now use butter. Mine's mixed with canola oil so it's not quite so fat and it spreads easily.
    How nice to have stayed in touch with your friend all these years.

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    1. We have those mixes of butter and vegetable oils as well, Janet. There are all kinds nowadays... The one I usually buy is purely vegetable though + supposed to be good for keeping cholesterol levels down. I'm also lactose intolerant so have got used to choosing margarine over butter anyway.

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  3. We use butter and I have wooden knife that was a gift from a friend who travelled to Europe. I use it for pate. When I want butter on the table or for cooking I take it out of the fridge to soften for a while.
    I chuckled to myself about the butter curls. I remember butter curls served on a tiny dish that sat on a heap of ice when I ate in restaurants years ago. We had a metal tool for making them at home. Nowadays the butter is wrapped in foil.
    There is a story that Queen Elizabeth (queen of England) was responsible for making the butter curls in her family home as a child. Her parents wanted her to grow up as a normal child, you see.
    I love it when you write about Swedish things. And winter things. You give me a wider outlook.

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    1. Reading blogs from other corners of the world can indeed be very educational, Louise! :)

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  4. What a lovely detailed glimpse into your world, Monica! I use real butter for the slices of bread with cheese that consist my staple food (along with chocolate, of course). This time of the year, when I do not turn the heating up too much in my kitchen, I can leave the (covered) butter dish out of the fridge all day. Then it is nice and soft and ready to be used as soon as I come home from work hungry.
    In warmer periods, I keep it in the fridge and have to remember (I don't always) to take it out in time before I want it.

    As for the calendar, it certainly suits Advent with the little angel on top!

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    1. Meike, the 'table' margarine I use on bread is soft straight from the fridge. But with vegetables, I try to remember to take them out of the fridge some time before I need to chop them, because otherwise my hands get all stiff with cold! (Too often I forget...)

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