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Destination Inspiration: Scandinavian Specialties

Scandinavian Specialties

When it comes to writing about various cultures, sometimes it’s helpful to dive in and surround oneself with the trappings of that heritage, be it the food, people, decor, or art. Today’s Destination Inspiration post takes us to a Seattle store and cafe focused on Scandinavian products and food, showing us how you don’t have to travel far from home to get a little bit of a taste that will give your writing a boost.

Food and Beverages

Walking into Scandinavian Specialties, you’re instantly surrounded by Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish memorablia, decorations, and food. The young staff members are warm and friendly, and if you’re hungry, you’re drawn in by the pastries and sandwiches on display by the checkstand.

Go ahead and peruse the Norwegian sweaters, various Scandinavian baking equipment, candies, and delicacies, and the jewelry to your left, and the crystal and servingware on your right. And don’t miss the little book room in the back of the store (Daytona loves checking out the cookbooks back there to see if there are any new ones to add to her collection). But before you leave be sure to order an open sandwich–called smørrebrød–topped with smoked salmon, shrimp, or roast beef, and one of the Scandinavian pastries. Sit down with a cup of coffee and enjoy the casual hospitality that Scandinavians are so good at.

Scandinavian Specialties Smorrebrod

Location and Atmosphere

Located on 15th Avenue Northwest–a main street in Ballard–you can’t miss the brightly colored building with Scandinavian-inspired murals. Inside, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a mix of authentic and kitchy Scandianvainn items, which please everyone from the immigrants who shop there for a taste of the home they left behind or the people who are looking for a souvenir-style gift for a friend. Even on the greyest Seattle day, you can’t help but be cheered up and warmed up by coming here and staying for a while.

Writeability and Purchased Presence

The tables here are placed alongside the mercheandise, making it less of a restaurant and more like a cafe, but it’s a great place for people watching, and you’ll be sure to be tempted to buy a colorful bowl or cakestand.

Price: $$

With pastries starting at less than $2 and sandwiches running just a few dollars more, you can have a satisfying and delicious lunch that’s fairly inexpensive.


With a small parking lot on site, you can usually find a spot pretty easily.

Writer’s Tip

Immerse yourself in the cultural atmosphere of this cafe. Take in the buttery scent of the pastries, the chatter of the patrons and the colors of the merchandise and artwork. Take a moment to write a quick scene that includes all these elements and see where that snippet of writing takes you.

Find it:

Scandinavian Specialties
6719 15th Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98117

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Writer’s Kitchen: Working through the Seven Sorts of Norwegian Christmas Cookies


One of the things I love most about my Norwegian heritage is the appreciation of simple yet delicious baked goods. From the cakes and cookies to the tortes and candies, Norwegians know how to take a few simple ingredients–butter, sugar, flour, and eggs, for example–and transform them into something spectacular and beautiful.

This year I’ve been observing the tradition of the syv slags kaker, or seven sorts of cookies, that are a must in a Norwegian household during Christmastime. I started tracking my progress over at Outside Oslo on November 1, and so far I’ve discovered a new favorite: serinakaker, pictured above. These cookies are at once crisp yet delicate, with an elegant sprinkling of chopped almonds and pearl sugar on top. It takes a lot for a cookie to make me sit up and take notice, but these do exactly that.

Another favorite type? Sandbakkelse.


These pretty and delicate little cookies are formed one by one in molds, and are perfect to make with loved ones as you sit around the table catching up and talking about life. They are a specialty of my Grandma Adeline, who has been teaching my mom and me to make them. While you could certainly fill them with some sweetened whipped cream and lingongberry preserves, many Norwegian families–including my own–prefer to eat them as cookies rather than tarts.

Last week we baked krumkaker together, and I have a batch of pepperkaker dough chilling in my refrigerator now. I’m starting to feel the clock ticking, though, as I still have three more sorts to make! If you happen to have a traditional syv slags recipe that you enjoy making, let me know–I’d love to hear from you! Or if the tradition is new to you and you’re interested in learning more, I’d be delighted if you’d follow Outside Oslo, where I’ll be writing much more about these cookies in the coming weeks!

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Writer’s Kitchen: Finding Inspiration in Apple Pie

Apple Pie Collage
In one simple pie, the writer finds a bottomless source of memories and inspiration. Apple pie has been around since at least the 14th century, with a recipe from 1381 still available. It’s taken multiple forms across cultures, from the French tarte Tatin (Molly Wizenburg’s recipe is a winner) to the classic American version.

All it takes is a little imagination to conjure up one of the Tatin sisters trying to whip up something to serve their guests at their hotel in France’s Loire Valley, only to make a rather delicious mistake that we now call tarte Tatin. Their story is enough of a legend, with various versions of how the mistake came to be, that a writer can almost picture Caroline and Stephanie running around in a frenzy trying to figure out what to do with their mistake before having a lightbulb moment and declaring it a new culinary invention.

As for me, apple pie carries with it the legacy of generations of the bakers–home cooks and professional–who came before me, one of those being my grandma Adeline. Grandma Adeline has a reputation in the family for making one of the best apple pies around. I was honored last month to make one by her side, watching her shape the crust and collaborating with her on how much of each ingredient to put in the filling. We made magic that day, Grandma and I, as we stood side by side–generations apart yet working together on a common goal–putting the ingredients together and then watching as they morphed into something delicious.

That pie is long gone, but the memories linger on. From now on, whenever I bake an apple pie (you’ll find our recipe over at Outside Oslo), I’ll be thinking of that October evening spent with my dear grandmother. Wrapped up in the crust and baked apples will be countless memories of a woman I adore, and one who has taught me so much about baking and of love. For me, inspiration comes from memories and experiences, and thanks to my dear grandma Adeline, I have no shortage of inspiration from which to draw.

Writing prompt: What memories and stories do you have related to apple pie? Use this classic dessert as a starting place for your writing today; if you’re working on memoir, what memories do you associate with apple pie? If you’re writing fiction, have your character sit down with a slice and see where his mind goes.

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Following My Dream: Beginning the Book Proposal

Why do we ever do anything other than to follow our dreams? Even the ones we don’t know we have yet, the ones that are taking shape?

There was a time when my boss–the news director at the TV station where I worked–advised me, for the sake of my credibility as a budding journalist, to reconsider bringing baked goods to the newsroom for my coworkers to eat. I was young, blonde, and had a unique name rather than a trusty Anne or reliable Rachel, and therefore had to be careful, lest people start thinking of me as the newsroom Martha Stewart. These days, as a food writer, I question whether that would have been such a bad result.

I was aiming for a career in news at the time and was so dedicated to the opportunities already presented to me so early on that I did what I thought it would take to land my first on-air job. I cut and dyed my hair, bought the wardrobe fit for a reporter, and read books about interviewing and doing live on-air standups. I recorded my résumé tape in my spare time and mapped out a plan to eventually leave my big-city writing and producing job to pay my dues as a reporter in a smaller market before working my way back to Seattle.

I had so many people supporting me in my endeavors, from the news director who was my mentor of sorts, to some of the city’s veteran anchors—not to mention my soon-to-be husband, who stood behind my career goals that had already defined so much of our lives. So I think it was a surprise to a lot of people when in August 2007 I left my job and said goodbye to the world of television news. I took the proverbial leap of faith and decided to make a foray into print journalism, ultimately landing upon a communications and marketing job at a theater–something unexpectedly perfect for me at the time.

As I look back on my career in TV news and the experiences I have had since, I am awed by how each step has built upon the next to bring me where I am today, still a writer but with a different goal: writing a book. Today I am making a commitment here on Nooks & Cranberries to keep that goal going.

There’s no one warning me that baking might ruin my credibility, because baking is part of what my goal is founded upon. I have been wanting to write a book, a food memoir related to my Scandinavian heritage, and it is time to start taking the steps to make it happen. So this is when I follow my dreams. The first step: starting the book proposal. I did that nearly two weeks ago, on October 18. Rather than committing to a timeline right now, I need to dig in and determine the steps I need to take to get the proposal just right. The timeline, I expect, will come organically. Besides, I have a commitment on the pages of this blog, where you are part of my accountability network. If six months from now you haven’t heard me tell you about the progress I’m making on the proposal, then I ask you to tell me, “What’s stopping you from pursuing your dream?” Because each dream starts with one small step, a step that is incomparably easy next to the daunting process that we might see before us if we don’t break it down in our minds before starting. Why not begin right now?

Image: Collage features photos of things I’ve baked and shared at Outside Oslo. Hungry? Check it out!

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Writer’s Kitchen: Inspiration from Sugar and Spice


Pears and Tomatoes

Sometimes you just need to bake. You need to open a cookbook, find something that you have all the ingredients for, and get to work whipping butter, eggs, sugar, and flour into some magical concoction. Maybe you’re suffering from writer’s block. Maybe you’re just hungry. In any case, a little time in the kitchen can be a great source of inspiration if you’re anything like me.


Take yesterday, for example. As I stood in the kitchen, coring pears and stirring a pot of simmering fruit sauce on the stove, words came to me as though I was writing in my head. I was spending the day baking some things I was planning to feature on Outside Oslo, my Scandinavian food blog, and the words just started coming together, making me excited to get to the computer and see what would happen.

Scandinavian Autumn Fruit Soup

As the day went on, the aroma of fruit and spice from the Scandinavian fruit soup* and the pear sauce I was making started to mingle with the deep, sensual fragrance of warm, chocolate cake.** Little did I know when I got to work in the kitchen yesterday that I was going to fill my home with the warmest, most inviting scent, the kind that makes you feel all cozy inside. If that’s not enough to inspire creativity, I don’t know what is.

*The Scandinavian fruit soup is from my latest article in Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine. The article–“Double-duty dishes: Autumn soups to satisfy the whole family”–is on page 36 of the October issue (the digital edition is available here).

**I’ll be featuring the recipe for chocolate cake later this week on Outside Oslo.