Correct me if I am wrong, but that is the term used by Pinterest-viewing folk when they attempted to copy something they saw on Pinterest, but they didn’t exactly accomplish it to the level they had hoped. Paul used this term when we were laughing about my attempt to recreate typical American food to serve at our little soiree last night. Basically, I came away with this: it may not be the best idea to try to copy American food unless you have all the ingredients and methods of preparation at your disposal.
Way back in ‘merica before we left, I purchased at Target in their cheap-o aisle some random Fourth of July things in case I had the opportunity to host a Fourth of July Fest. Cardboard coasters, napkins, an infinity scarf (cuz you just don’t know when you may need a patriotic infinity scarf). So, when it was clear that the 4th of July was open (i.e. our little church here was not having their usual Wednesday night Bible Time all during July because in July every single Norwegian takes off to the hills or seas or somewhere–more on that later), I started my plan to host a huge American-style Fourth of July BBQ (without an actual grill).
First, the guest list. Pretty much everyone. Okay, not everyone, but 22 people. Even though our little apartment only has a table for four. And one couch, two overstuffed chairs, two ottomans, a coffee table, and what looks to be an occasional table the size of a piano bench. I guessed we should make it clear that this was an open house, so please come when you can and leave when you must. [The invitations read: “Vil dere komme til vårt hus for en Amerikansk “Fourth of July Fest”. Onsdag 4 Juli klokka 6 til 10 pm. Det er en “open house fest”: kom når dere kan, dra når dere må”. Paul helped me with the translation.] I thought that way, maybe there would be enough seating at one time to fit everyone. I needn’t have worried. Although my RSVP percentage was 100% (those Norwegian are so polite), most of our guest list was going to be out of town for that date. But, six of our friends were able to come, and we were delighted. And we had just enough water glasses to go around. We did not, however, have enough forks or dishes, so it was a good thing that a) the previous renters had left us a stack of paper plates (and what says ‘Fourth of July BBQ’ more than paper plates?) and b) Paul had gone to the market earlier in the day and picked up a box of plastic forks.
Now, about the food. Our menu was going to be typical American food–hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, watermelon, corn on the cob, potato chips, and for dessert, a Stars and Stripes cake with vanilla ice cream. Sounds uncomplicated. The potato salad was straightforward as was the watermelon and the potato chips. What became a little dicey was the type and preparation of the hamburgers and hot dogs, the buns, and the corn on the cob. The burgers were not the best (cuz, for one thing, the best would have been rather expensive), and the hot dogs, although the package promised us that they were ‘Norway’s most popular’ hot dogs, were not to the level, shall we say, that I would prefer my hot dogs to be (I like to buy Hebrew National, for example). The buns we bought (and there was only one type available) were fine for the hot dogs, but I thought the hamburger buns were dry. Okay, the corn on the cob. Can I just ask, who would sell pre-cooked corn on the cob?? Ack! I live in the Midwest, my people, my kin, are corn farmers from Illinois. We buy ears of corn by the dozens in August/September when harvest time arrives. So, you can imagine my surprise when I opened the first of three dual ear, vacuum-packed bags of corn on the cob, and discovered that they had already been cooked and only needed to be reheated. Reheated? I was basically going to serve my guests leftover corn? As I translated what the bag’s suggested reheating method was, I found it was to drop the sealed bags into boiling water for 5 minutes. Ugh.
The problems don’t stop there. My plan was to pan-fry the hamburgers ahead of time (remember, no grill, and I didn’t want to broil them in the oven ‘cuz I didn’t want our extremely sensitive fire alarm to go off–for more on that, read my earlier post from April 2015 when our fire alarm went off while I tried to make waffles at 5 am, and here in Norway, when the fire alarm goes off, the firemen come speeding to your house and you have to pay for it! ) and keep them warm in the oven. Also, I was going to boil the hot dogs (Paul thought this was a very bad idea, and he suggested that I pan fry or broil them as well, but I thought ‘no’ because of my previous statement). So, now we have, 20 minutes to 6 pm when our guests would no doubt be arriving right on time as all Norwegians do, three electric burners on and the oven warming up. Or so I thought. Then the hamburgers stopped cooking. The water for the hot dogs stopped boiling. The water with the bags of pre-cooked corn on the cob stopped boiling. And the light for the oven was off. The oven and the range were not working.
Slight panic ensued. Until we thought to check the fuse box. Wherever that was. Paul translated the name under the one of ten switches that was not in the same direction as the others–‘range’. Bingo! Only had to switch it two more times during the cooking of our meal. So, by 6 pm, all was right with the world, except for the hamburgers which were sitting in a pool of grease in the oven.
Our guests were incredibly gracious and delightful. They brought hostess gifts–wine, an apron sewn by a Ugandan woman through the Norwegian mission agency Win-Win, and a Willow Tree figurine (entitled Beautiful Wishes) of a woman embracing a bouquet of calla lilies. It seems most Norwegians like to bring a little something when they are invited to someone’s home, oftentimes, flowers, a homemade food item, or a small gift.
After Paul’s welcome speech and a song for grace for the food, we sang the National Anthem. You read that right. First, it was just me, then Paul joined in. By the time we were o’er the ramparts, the rest of the group was singing right along with us. Pretty impressive. Not our singing, but that a group of people from another country knew our national anthem.
The guests began leaving around 9 pm. We had coffee and my little flag cake with ice cream and homemade sølbær (sun berry–currants?) topping (gift from another friend) for dessert. It wasn’t my best cake–somewhat dry and hard, which may have been because it was kept in the icebox due to the whipped cream on the top. The whipped cream that I had painstakingly whipped in an old yogurt container with a whisk I had purchased the day before at the Fretex (Salvation Army Thrift Store). You may ask, does everything have to be so dramatic? Yes.
p.s. there were lots of potato chips leftover, but not many slices of cucumber. This is Norway, after all.