Swedish meets Italian

by Kiki Rosatti, Tastemaker in Residence

Growing up in Northern Minnesota on the Iron Range is a cultural experience all its own. I thought nothing of being the daughter of immigrant parents. My mom, "Elsa" was from Sweden and my dad, "Mario" was from Italy. People often commented it was a strange combination. I laughed. We grew up saying, "I want to hug you…no I don't"…and that pretty much said it all. We never discussed who discovered America and we made peace by eating Italian spaghetti with Swedish meatballs.

My dad was particularly eager to celebrate Santa Lucia Day, December 13th. My sister and I served the family Swedish peppekokor and sweet breads in the morning with a crown of candles on our heads, draped in white robes; yes, the candles were lit. I think that's why I have good posture. Today there are battery operated Lucia crowns; threat of fire eliminated. 

Christmas was steeped in dual traditions that began with a real Christmas tree. Two favorite traditions I continue with my family are; topping the tree with a red and green Italian glass globe and using hand-crocheted Swedish ornaments throughout the tree. 

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My favorite tradition is the menu on Christmas Eve. Growing up Catholic, Christmas Eve was a holy day; which meant you could not eat meat. So we had tuna fish spaghetti, complete with red sauce! Most people scrunch up their noses at the thought, but it is one of the most delicious meals ever. We used canned tuna in oil when I was a kid, today I go to the Italian deli for jars of tuna filets. I still follow my Nona's recipe. Not only is it a family favorite, but it's my 10-year-old's favorite dish. The finale is a tray of Swedish Christmas cookies.

Buon Natale och Gud Jul!