When I was four, we moved to Sweden. It was the home country of my mom’s dad, and we all benefited from her pleasure at connecting with the country of her ancestors. One Swedish tradition that persisted in our home ever since that time was Santa Lucia Day.
It is a day that has become synonymous over the years with the sweet, earthy smell of saffron and the rich yellow that results when you bake with it. This year, I was determined to have some saffronsbrod to offer at our Santa Lucia Day breakfast.
You start with saffron. This is one of the richest colors I know, and the scent immediately transports me back to countless Santa Lucia days of my childhood and later. We always dry it on a piece of tinfoil. It wasn’t until quite recently that I realized one could dry it on just about anything. But in my childhood, part of the magic involved shaping a sparkly piece of tinfoil and shaking the saffron onto it to be dried in a low-heat oven.
Next, you dissolve the yeast. This is a bowl from my paternal grandmother. I don’t particularly remember the bowl from her home, but it gives me such satisfaction to use something of hers while carrying out traditional family cooking.
Melt some butter…
…add flour and sugar and currants and stir.
It is impossible not to spill flour on myself – or the floor.
Let it rise…
This scrap of paper with the recipe is over 25 years old. I was in graduate school in LA and couldn’t find the recipe in my stuff. I got on the phone with my mom and wrote it down. On the other side are directions to my friend Liz’s home in Los Feliz, CA.
My folks came over for breakfast this morning and we had a lovely time. What a pure pleasure to make something that -through sight and scent -creates a thread reaching back almost as far as memory goes. Thanks, Mom, for knowing what’s important and doing it all through my childhood. I think I’m finally catching up.