I love stopping by Petticoats & Pistols in the role of guest blogger. It’s always a fantastic experience for me. Mainly because I like to think some of the amazing-ness of the lovely, talented Fillies will rub off on me. (Hey, a gal can hope.) I also enjoy focusing on one of my favorite topics/passion—all things Western, especially all things Old West.
I have no idea when my fascination with the Old West first started. Unlike my husband’s side of the family, I have no direct connections to the area. My family came from Scotland in the early 1700s (they were outcast Highlanders). The Andersons settled in Virginia, migrated to Georgia and ultimately ended up in Jacksonville, Florida sometime in the latter part of the nineteenth century. But that’s a whole ‘nother story that goes back to that outcast thing.
On the other hand, my husband’s family—the Halversons—came to this country much later. They traveled directly from Norway and settled on the fertile Midwest prairie. This was really just an interesting factoid to me until I signed on to write my latest Love Inspired Historical, HEARTLAND WEDDING: Book 2 in the AFTER THE STORM historical continuity series. Waving to Vicki Bylin, one of the Fillies who wrote Book 3 in the series, KANSAS COURTSHIP, which will be out next month. Valerie Hansen wrote the Book 1, HIGH PLAINS BRIDE, which came out last month. Both books are fabulous!!!
But I digress. One of the great things about HEARTLAND WEDDING is that it features a Norwegian Immigrant heroine. Rebecca Gundersen is a cook at the local boarding house in High Plains, Kansas. I loved researching Rebecca’s background because it afforded me the opportunity to explore my husband’s heritage as well.
In my research, I came across many of the reasons why people left Norway. I’m going to give you what I think are the top six.
- The promise of fertile land. This was true of many of the pioneers, but especially true of the majority of the emigrants from Norway. These Scandinavians were mostly farmers. Settling in the Great Plains made sense, especially the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. This area was often called “New Norway” since over eighty percent of Norwegian immigration settled there.
- Heavy promotion by emigration agents and newspapers. These entities worked tirelessly to advertise the benefits of a new life in the United States. The Norwegians liked what they heard and took a chance on the promise of a new life.
- Railroad and mining companies promoted the stellar employment opportunities. Jobs in American cities also offered more work at higher wages than was available in Norway at the time. Are we seeing a pattern here? Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity.
- Handbooks were published and distributed throughout Europe, and especially Norway, praising the climate and stellar living conditions in the United States.
- Political freedom and the opportunity to vote. Although there wasn’t universal voting in the United States in the nineteenth century, the right to vote in Norway was only available to an elite minority of the population. The majority of the Norwegians who came to the United States were not in the upper class.
- Word of mouth, or rather letters sent to friends and families back home. The sender often urged the receiver to join them in America.
So, there you have it, the top reasons for Norwegian (and most other) immigration to the United States in the nineteenth century. Aside from learning about the Norwegian’s motives, one my biggest pleasures throughout the research phase of this book was learning how to cook some of my husband’s favorite Norwegian dishes. Most of Norway is above the Arctic Circle so of course these dishes are rather harder.
Although I was bred on southern cooking, I took it upon myself to make a few of the easier Norwegian recipes in my own kitchen. Unfortunately, I managed to fail more often than not. I will never mastered Kumla, one of my husband’s favorites. Essentially, Kumla is potato dumplings plopped into a boiling broth and cooked until the dumplings are cooked through the middle. Not as easy as it sounds. Here’s a typical recipe for Kumla:
Cover with water about 1/2 the depth of ham.
Boil from 2 – 3 hrs., or until tender and done.
Cook the ham in a large kettle with a lid.
When the ham is done, take out of the broth to be served later with the potato dumplings.
How you make the Dumplings:
Start preparing the dumplings about an hour before the ham is done.
5 cups grated and peeled raw potatoes
About 6 cups unsifted flour
9 tsp. baking powder, should be level
Taste the broth to see if it is salty- if not salty add 1 tsp. or a little more salt.
Mix flour, baking powder and salt together. Add to the grated raw potatoes.
Stir together, should be like biscuit dough.
Take some of the dough the size of a small baseball, roll in flour to absorb some of the
stickiness, shape into round dumplings with your hands- drop into boiling ham broth.
Boil very gently for 1 hour, turning dumplings for more even cooking.
Do not put too many in kettle, allow some room to raise. Use the cover when boiling dumplings. Serve with lots of butter!
ENJOY! If you dare. Remember, most Norwegian recipes are very, uh…hardy. This one more than others.
Thanks again, to all the Fillies for having me here. I’m giving away three copies of HEARTLAND WEDDING. Leave a comment and you’ll be entered in the drawing.
Renee Ryan is a multi-published author with Steeple Hill. She writes for both Love Inspired and Love Inspired Historical. Find out more about her upcoming releases at www.reneeryan.com