Informant JA was a current undergraduate student at the University of Southern California at the time of this collection. Though JA was born in the San Francisco Bay Area, their mom’s maternal side of the family originates from Denmark. When speaking with JA, they mentioned that only one particular Danish food item seemed to have any familial importance growing up. Even though JA admits that their family simplifies the traditional Danish recipe, they said that the importance of this folk food tradition lies in the special pans that are used to cook it.
“Æbleskivers are like Danish pancakes.” JA described Æbleskivers as “pancake balls” and added that their family’s version is the same as regular pancakes compositionally—just in a different shape. They disclosed that their family’s batter recipe only involved generic pancake mix and water. To attain the ball shape of Æbleskivers, JA uses a pan with seven half-sphere indentations over a stove, and that pan is one from their late great-grandparents who have passed the pan down. Each indentation is buttered, filled with batter, and eventually flipped over once bubbles become visible after cooking for some time. A special fork with a handle resembling a banana is used to flip these pancake balls until they are spherical and golden brown. Upon serving, JA’s family only ever has strawberry jam and powdered sugar to dip the Æbleskivers in. JA learned from their maternal grandmother to dip the Æbleskiver in the jam first to coat it with stickiness and then the sugar to follow so it does not fall off.
Since his grandmother’s passing, JA makes Æbleskivers and said that they remind them of her and their childhood meals together. JA also mentioned that Æbleskivers often accompany special meals like birthday breakfasts or other celebratory breakfasts. The tradition of making Æbleskivers extends beyond the family, JA says. They have shown their friends how to make Æbleskivers and have had many others taste them.
After speaking with JA, they described how their family particularly cherishes breakfast since their family values quality time and beginning each day with one another. In the process of making this modern adaptation/variation of a Danish folk foodway, not only does it allow for the family to showcase their shared familial value of quality time, but it also demonstrates a reverence for their family’s history. Historically, foodways have allowed folk to distinguish and partake in their national identity. This contemporized foodway functions in that same way even though commercially bought goods are incorporated into its recipe. In utilizing pans that are passed down generationally, JA’s family is able to succeed in their efforts of maintaining familial values and remembering facets of their cultural identity
Æbleskivers are mentioned in another entry in the USC Digital Folklore archive. See here:
Egoian, Sonya, and Sonya Egoian. “University of Southern California.” USC Digital Folklore Archives, 14 May 2013, folklore.usc.edu/danish-birthday-song/.