Kransekake and gravlax

I am usually lakeside, at the family cabin, for this holiday weekend. Circumstances happy (a wedding) and, shall we say, inconvenient (knee surgery but 2 1/2 weeks ago) kept me in unseasonably sunny San Francisco this year. There have been many ice cream cones (the ridiculousness of debating where go to—Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous, Bi-Rite Creamery, Humphry Slocombe, or St. Francis Fountain, all of which are to greater and lesser degrees in what we consider our neighborhood living, as we do, betwixt and between the Mission and Potrero Hill—does not escape us and we are well aware of this bounty of riches) and a wee bit of grilling, but my relative immobility has kept me pretty much out of the kitchen.

So I was going to write about missing being at the cabin, and how much I itch to be diving into the cool northern waters this time of year. My connection to northern climes was highlighted even more, however, with the news that my grandfather died yesterday.

It is sad because death is always sad and we loved him dearly, but I count myself beyond lucky to be mourning a grandparent when I am in my forties.* He was a funny, independent, good-looking man who died with his mind and his head of thick hair remarkably in tact. He had a strong Norwegian-Minnesotan sensibility, as best evidenced by the fact that he always told me that he checked the weather in San Francisco everyday to see how I was doing, the two things being, to his mind, inextricably linked. I might miss most how his strong Minnesotan accent pronounced my name, with a nice long o in the middle. Accents that strong—remember the guy shoveling his driveway in Fargo? for a moment there in the theater I thought the Coen brothers had somehow recruited my grandpa for the role—aren’t too common anymore.

I’m very glad I once made him the kranskake, an almond Norwegian ring cake served at weddings and other festive occasions, pictured above. He teared up when I carried it into the room on Christmas Eve.

On the one hand, it would be fun to make a kransekake today and I have the ring molds; on the other hand I also have two filets of wild Alaskan salmon in the fridge just waiting to be turned into gravlax, an equally fitting tribute. I’m going to go ask my dashing husband to set me up with a stool at the counter, strap an ice pack on my knee, and get to work.

* There are a lot of long-lived people in my family. I had three great-grandparents into my teens; my grandparents all lived to see me to at least 27. My grandfather’s grandmother lived to be 95, her father to 94, his grandfather to 93.