1997: A Norwegian Breakfast on the Farm

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Throughout my childhood, my Norwegian grandmother used to take me on trips to Europe just the two of us every year. My most memorable summer was spent on our family’s farm in 1997 when I was 6-years-old. We stayed with my great-grandparents in their small town called Øyjord outside of Narvik, Norway (population estimation around 100, no joke). As a young child, staying on the farm for about a month at a time, with no one my age, made me really homesick after just a couple days.

I remember driving down the old dirt roads for about an hour before we reached the nearest grocery store in town. My grandmother was a great cook and appreciated quality. She would let me pick out my favorite foods when we went shopping. It made me feel like more of an adult than a child around her, like I was important and my input was valued.

Since I didn’t speak Norwegian, I would feel completely lost in the store comprised of Norwegian labels and brands that I didn’t recognize. We were grocery shopping one day and I was so excited to see Yoplait yogurt in the dairy aisle. Any little reminder of America was a moment of relief for me. I grabbed an armful of strawberry yogurts and I insisted that they go in the cart.

Me (age 6) with my great-grandparents sitting at their kitchen table in Øyjord, Norway.

Me (age 6) with my great-grandparents sitting at their kitchen table in Øyjord, Norway.

The next morning, we were sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast. I pulled the foil top off of my Yoplait and dug in with my spoon. Before I could take a bite, my great grandfather started making all of this commotion.

I didn’t understand anything my great-grandfather was saying in Norwegian. I looked to my grandma with my eyebrows pinched for clarification. “What did I do wrong?” I asked while I hesitantly put down my spoon.

My grandma laughed and explained that I set the top down without licking the yogurt off of the foil. She told me my great grandfather doesn’t like to waste food. I handed him the yogurt foil, and his eyes softened. My grandma translated, “Lisa wants you to have it!” He licked the top and we all started laughing.

My grandma and the old red barn next to the farm house.

My grandma and the old red barn next to the farm house.

My grandma later told me about how their small town in Norway was invaded by the Nazis during World World II. Food was scarce when the Nazis demanded that every family gives 2/3 of their crops to the German soldiers, leaving barely enough food for my grandma and her family.

The Nazis eventually took over their farmhouse entirely and they were forced to live in the mountains until the war was over. Ever since, my great-grandfather vowed to never waste food, not even the lid to a yogurt.

I would do anything to be back on that farm sitting around the kitchen table with my grandma and great-grandparents. Looking back, if only I knew what to appreciate at the time. But this moment stuck with me, 20 years later.

Me walking to our relative’s house for lunch down the street.

Me walking to our relative’s house for lunch down the street.

While I’m sitting at my own kitchen table, I’m thinking about how laughter was a universal language for a little American girl spending a summer on the farm in Norway. A little girl who once didn’t understand the significance of this moment and now feels incredibly lucky to have shared this laugher.

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