Just about the time that the Thanksgiving leftovers were just a lovely memory, Grandma, Mom and Aunt Ruth would start firing up their krumkaka irons. This was the sign that Christmas was near. The Norwegian cookie maker was cast iron, shaped like a small badminton racket and sat on a crown of sorts, over the burner. This allowed it to be pivoted to heat each side. The cookies came out round, flat and soft like a crepe, about the size of a waffle with designs imprinted from the iron. We would then quickly roll them around a wooden dowel about the size of a broomstick handle until they cooled. They could be filled with cream just before serving, but we never did.
I was usually coerced into assisting in the tedious job of making these Norwegian cookies. It involved a lot of counting and hot fingers. You had to wrap them before they cooled and then take them off the dowel at the precise amount, so that they remained in the tubular shape. They were a labor of love and perfumed the air with the smell of cardamon, vanilla and nutmeg. Every year, the women would scour the supermarkets for the freshest ground cardamon.
Mom would make several batches, sometimes by herself if she couldn’t recruit anyone to help her. One batch made around 60 cookies. Often, she and Aunt Ruth would be making these after they worked all day, made dinner and put the kids to bed. After the cookies were totally cooled, they would package them up to give to neighbors and friends for Christmas. They were so delicate that only a few could go into a container without crushing them. Consequently, we had tins stacked all over the house.
Not everyone cherished these delights. One time my mother gave a few to the paperboy. She watched through the window and he got on his bike with one on each finger, sticking up like Edward Scissorhands. After tasting one, he threw them down the sewer drain. Mom still laughs about that memory.
Some family members refer to them as rolled cardboard. The translation of krumkaka means curved cake. If you didn’t eat them just right, they would break into a pile of crumbs in your lap, which was my translation of the word. They were just one of the traditional culinary treats of our holiday.