Pancakes in Norway

The end of an era

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The news was devastating: Last month, amid the clattering of silverware and the jovial jostling of those trying to find a place to sit, we were informed that after nearly a decade of attending the monthly Swedish Pancake Breakfast, come May—or possibly as soon as April—our Pancake Posse would no longer be able to meet in the basement of Bellingham’s Norway Hall to consume “Swedish pancakes made by Norwegians.”

Although we didn’t have anything to do with the shuttering of the longtime community breakfast gathering—we were told that the Sons of Norway had recently sold the building after dwindling membership and an aging population forced them to reconsider their options regarding staying in the space they built more than four decades ago—we couldn’t help but take the bad news personally.

“This is the worst day of my life,” one of the founding posse members posted later that day on her Facebook page. While she may have been exaggerating slightly, I concurred the news was indeed heartbreaking and not at all welcome.

If you’ve ever been to the breakfast, which has traditionally taken place on the third Saturday of every month (except for a few months during the summer), you know full well the allure isn’t just the consistently mouthwatering meal plan.

Yes, the Swedish-style pancakes served with lingonberries and whipped cream are delicious, as is the accompanying portion of ham and scrambled eggs. And, if you stick around long enough, one of the many volunteers required to pull off the monthly culinary feat will make the rounds carrying a steaming platter of extra crepe-thin pancakes, and will drop extras off to diners whose stomachs need filling (remarkably, one of the posse once ate 10 in one sitting).

In addition to the menu, however, there’s so much more to the Swedish Pancake Breakfast than what’s on the plate.

Take, for instance, the rousing accordion tunes provided by Emil Aanestad—a patient musician with a pedal board who always seems happy to play the “Chicken Dance” song when we request it, and doesn’t seem to mind that those at our table don’t get up to join those shaking their tailfeathers near the stage, but instead perform the accompanying poultry-inspired moves from our seats.

The beauty of Norway is also ever-present, via giant paintings of the many fjords of the Scandinavian country plastering pretty much every wall in the roomy basement. Adding to the allure is a wooden Viking statue that looks like it was carved from a chainsaw, a variety of Nordic gifts and baked goods and, most importantly, a strong sense of community camaraderie that has kept us coming back year after year.

Although the posse has discussed getting together for monthly brunches featuring Swedish pancakes once the Sons of Norway hand over the keys to the new owner of the building, I think we’re all aware that we won’t be able to fully re-create the magic that happens on the third Sunday of the month, when we eat pancakes, dance like chickens and hug the Viking on the way out the door.

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