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Master Artist and renowned local cook and cookbook author Eunice Stoen grew up in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and then outside of Decorah, surrounded by Norwegian American traditions. She is well acquainted with the preparation, serving and history of Norwegian traditional foods as well as many Iowa favorites. As the pastor at her church notes, Eunie “learned her Norwegian baking and cooking skills from the best—her mother and Ida Sacquitne, to name just two. And she has been generous in putting those skills into practice for the benefit of her family and friends.”
Norwegian cooking and baking are similar to those of the other Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. Potatoes, fish, and dairy products are featured in many dishes, while dill and cardamom are common spices, beyond salt and pepper. Not surprisingly, Scandinavian foods take advantage of the plentiful fish and easily stored root vegetables common to that part of the world.
Some of the most well-known dishes are lefse, a potato flat bread similar to a Mexican flour tortilla or an Asian Indian chapati; krumkake, a waffle cookie served with whipped cream, powdered sugar and sometimes lingonberry jam; and pickled herring and other kinds of preserved fish such as lutefisk, which is dried cod that has been soaked in lye (and later prepared for eating by soaking in water and baking in a butter or a cream sauce).
Most of these dishes are not for everyday but for specific times of year or special occasions. Lefse, a potato-based flat bread, is a traditional Norwegian food served from Thanksgiving through Christmas and eaten spread with butter and sometimes sprinkled with sugar. The key to good lefse is to roll the dough very thin and to bake it on the round lefse iron until it is floppy, not crisp. Krumkake, a fragile rolled waffle cookie, should just about shatter when you bite into it; the trick to eating it, says Eunie, is to place your tongue in the center before you bite down.
In 1996, Eunie Stoen was featured as a traditional cook for the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife and the Festival of Iowa Folklife. In 2002, she was named a Master Artist and received an Iowa Arts Council Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grant to pass on her skills to Rachel Hoffland.
Contact information: Eunice Stoen, 563.546.7903.