Tag Archives: meatballs

Christmas Spaghetti and Meatballs

CONTEXT: MM is a third year student at USC, originally from Pennsylvania. He describes a tradition he learned from his grandmother of eating spaghetti and meatballs on Christmas. This tradition is very important to him and he reflects positively on it.


MM: We had to eat spaghetti and meatballs on Christmas. We’ve done it as long as I’ve been alive. I don’t know if we did it until we moved to Pennsylvania. I don’t know. It’s associated with family. It used to be my grandma always did it, but she’s not quite able to anymore; she’s pretty old. So my aunt took over, usually. But someone has to do it, but it’s fine whoever does it. I’ll probably continue to do it, it’s the celebration meal. It’s a special thing.

ANALYSIS: This is a foodway and a way of marking a religious holiday, Christmas. It is a traditional food for MM’s family and is associated with family all being together. MM indicates that there is no hierarchy of who is allowed or who should make the meal, but one person is in charge of it. It is possible that that person is a responsible party, and seems to be typically an older member of the family. MM associates the meal with celebration and his grandmother. It has to be homemade, indicating that the time and effort put into the dish is important, potentially due to the fact that it means more time spent together as a family. Christmas is a major holiday for MM’s family, so this dish is for special occasions. MM plans to continue this tradition.

Swedish/Norwegian Meatballs Recipe

I asked my mom for any recipes that have been passed down/recipes that she did not learn from a book, but learned from others. She emailed me the following recipe, which was my grandma’s (her mom’s). Photos of my grandma’s original typed meatball recipe index card are attached. Now, my mom makes this recipe every year for Christmas Eve. The recipe also includes how to make a gravy. My grandma had Norwegian parents, but this recipe is labeled as Swedish with the Swedish word for meatballs, köttbullar, and Sweden and Norway are rivals, so I asked my mom about this discrepancy, as my grandma is no longer alive. AH is my mom, the informant, and PH is myself.

PH: Do you know where grandma learned this recipe?

AH: Her mother! Martha Hovda Haugen. From the farm [my great grandma, Martha, grew up on a farm], but I doubt they had veal??

PH: Do you know why they would have a Swedish recipe?

AH: Well they call them Swedish meatballs, but since they [my family] were Norwegian, they [the meatballs] are really Norwegian!!

PH: The word köttbullar is Swedish, though

AH: Grandma mom [my mom sometimes calls my grandma, her mom “Grandma mom”] typed it! Grandma [my grandma, her mother] never learned Norwegian because her parents would speak it when they didn’t want the girls [their daughters, my grandma and her sister] to understand. Kjøttboller is more Norsk. [My mom speaks Norwegian]

PH: Do you know why the Swedish word would be typed on the recipe or why it would say Swedish?

AH: Because people always call them “Swedish meatballs,” even if they are Norwegian. I use breadcrumbs and cream and onion, which is much simpler than that typed version, which I think is probably what mom and grandma Haugen realled used for everyday purposes. Also nutmeg.
Serves 8, from Arline Haugen Hales’s recipe box
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground veal
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs (GF)
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoon butter
• Combine beef, veal and onion
• Add water to crumbs
• Add crumbs, egg, salt, nutmeg, ginger, and pepper to meat mixture
• Mix well, shaped into 40 balls (about the size of a walnut)
• Dredge in flour (or arrowroot)
• Melt butter in large frying pan, add meat balls and brown on all sides
• Cover and cook slowly 20 minutes
• Remove balls from pan
To make gravy:
• stir remaining flour into drippings and loosen particles from edge of pan
• Add water, milk, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
• Cook, stirring constantly until thickenedScreen Shot 2018-04-26 at 1.22.54 PM Screen Shot 2018-04-26 at 1.23.25 PM