This weekend, most of the country fell back an hour. At our house, we fell back about 100 years, our heat went out. It could have been that the clocks repeating their 2:00am hour created some sort of rift in the time-space continuum. The most boring (and most likely) explanation is that our heater is the same age as the retro cookbooks on my bookcase. At any rate, the heater belched its last steamy last breath in the overnight hours on Saturday.
The solution? The most cozy/hygge/koselig stew, space heaters that have been tripping our breakers, and the fireplace exhausting Iowa’s supply of natural gas. The concepts of hygge and koselig have been on my mind as the nights continue to get longer. Before Netflix and a steady stream of YA paranormal fiction, how did our ancestors stay fulfilled, content, and connected? And how do our Nordic friends across the globe thrive in winter?
I’m currently listening to The Little book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking. In the book, Wiking details several aspects of the un-translatable word hygge. Hygge can be experienced when putting on thick, wool socks, drinking coffee by a fire, and/or surrounding yourself with lit candles. It can also be felt through the preparation and sharing of comforting, wholesome food. I have no heat, it’s already dark outside, the fire is lit, I have an inky glass of wine, and the audiobook told me to make stew. So I made the first cozy looking stew I could find in an old church cookbook.
Getting a crash course in hygge is merely preparation for a long winter and a short mini-moon happening in less than a month. Instead of heading south for a warm getaway, my fiancé and I will be heading north to Decorah, Iowa and the Vesterheim Museum. The Homestead Act of 1862 created an incentive for immigrant communities to settle in Iowa. These immigrant communities typically settled in areas that resembled their former homeland. Norwegians chose the hilly (and chilly) wooded bluffs of Decorah, Iowa, and their dedication to preserving their culture blossomed into Vesterheim, The National Norwegian-American Museum & Heritage Center.
Starting December 1, the Vesterheim will have a–get this–WHOLE EXHIBIT BASED ON KOSELIG (Danes got the concept of hygge from the Norwegian concept of koselig). A theory is that koselig is a way to connect with life long ago and romanticize the poverty that was a part of Norway’s past. Judging from the museum’s website, it’s going to be an exhibit filled with cozy living rooms. I intend to relax in every damn armchair until they kick me out. While hygge/koselig is typically experienced with intimate friends or family at home, I have a hunch that other folks crazy enough to venture to northern Iowa in December in search of that un-translatable sensation will find it in Vesterheim’s exhibit. The only thing that could make it better? A blizzard raging outside knowing that I don’t have to shovel.
If you’re in the mood for a simple, wholesome stew to warm your little soul, give it a try. It’s an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kinda stew, so add in whatever is in the back of your fridge or pantry.
1973 Chili Skillet Stew
- 2 pounds of hamburger (I used 1 pound, and that was more than enough meat for us)
- 1 Tablespoon of shortening
- 2 cups of tomato juice
- 1 1/2 cups of diced potatoes
- 1 1/2 cups of diced carrots
- 1 cup of water
- 1/4 cup of minced onion
- 3 teaspoons of salt
- 1 1/2 cup of corn
- 5 teaspoons of chili powder
- 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper
- Brown meat in shortening.
- Add tomato juice, potatoes, carrots, water, onion, and salt.
3. Cover and cook 25 minutes or until vegetables are done.
4. Add corn, chili powder, pepper.
5. Cover and cook 10 minutes longer.