Norwegian Apple Peel

Something I learned from my Norwegian grandmother. She made lots of apple desserts, especially apple dumplings, which required whole peeled apples. We used paring knives to peel the apples, and she would tell us that if we were successful in cutting away the peel in one continuous spiral, and threw it over our left shoulder, the peel would form the first letter of the first name of our future husband. I remember doing this in her kitchen at about age seven (after many unsuccessful tries, it is harder than it sounds to peel an apple in one unbroken spiral). The peel formed a “J” which, as you know, turned out to be correct.

I’ve only tried this a few times. I remember the first one because my grandmother was there and shared the story with me. It was Thanksgiving and we were making apple dumplings together. I loved baking with my Grandma – she is the one who taught me how to cook – and this memory takes me right back to her kitchen. Just FYI, it is not easy to have the perfect peel – it takes concentration and time. Usually when I am baking, I’m in a bit of a hurry and none of the peels come off in one piece. Even when concentrating, only about one in four apples will peel whole. Plus, the peel must be quite thin – if it is too thick, it will break on hitting the floor – a null answer. I remember getting a “J” more than once, which is funny because I’ve been married twice and both times the first name began with “J”. Anyway, only single women do this (otherwise the magic would be negative – as if one did not want to be married) so my last time was more than 28 years ago. At the last Thanksgiving, I shared this tradition with Caroline, my daughter. (And no, I will not disclose her answer!)

I’m a little connected to my Norwegian heritage, mostly through cooking and a few traditions, like real candles on the Christmas tree, opening presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, certain songs, and most definitely all the fairy tales and stories (trolls and dwarves and mountains turning into people or vice versa). I have my great grandfather’s hand carved snuff box – woodworking is a big Norwegian tradition. I’d always wanted to visit Norway and last summer, I went for the first time. I stopped in Bergen for a few days – my grandfather emigrated from that city when he was 3 years old. It is a colorful, gorgeous, fishing town. A wonderful country, felt very much like home.
I think a part of many cultures is the yearning to know who you will spend your life with and marry. I know that as a kid I played games and participated in activities that were supposed to signify who I would marry. For example, as a child I used to play a game with my friends where we would twist the stem of an apple and each full turn around that the apple did would stand for a letter in the alphabet. When the stem finally broke off (usually didnt take too long) whatever letter you were on would be the first letter of the name of your future husband or wife.