Tomorrow is the first day of fall here in Victoria BC, and so begins what is normally a few months of grey and rain through the fall and winter into the spring.
One thing that makes me think of fall is Festsuppe, or "party soup" translated from Danish. My Danish mother always made it, and my Auntie Edie. I'm sure my grandmothers made it, and it has been passed down to myself and my cousins. The interesting thing I've discovered is that no two people seem to make it exactly the same, but I guess that's true of a lot of recipes over time. I make it maybe once or twice a year.
As you can see in the picture above, Festsuppe consists of (in my recipe anyway!) beef broth, chopped carrots and celery, meatballs and dumplings. It is hearty and such a wonderful meal to have on a grey, rainy day. My daughters request it sometimes for a Sunday dinner, but it would also make a great lunch time meal.
In some versions, cubed beef or lamb is used instead of the meatballs. Some also include potatoes, rice, onions, leeks, tomatoes, even chili powder. I won't try to cover all of the possibilities here because there are too many. It is not only a Danish tradition, but it is also made in other northern European countries like Norway and Germany. The version I make is actually what I consider my Blended Family version. I make some of it according to a recipe in an old Danish cookbook, similar to what my mother made, but the dumplings are a recipe that my stepsister and brother remember THEIR Grandmother making. Her dumplings were more dense and chewy, which I liked, so I continue to make it that way.
When my mother Fanny passed away in 1972, one of the things I always remember was how my Auntie Edie made a batch of Festsuppe and then drove all the way from Coquitlam to Richmond (a couple of hours' drive at the time), just to deliver it to my Dad and I. It was the perfect comfort food for us at the time.
It just so happened that I decided to make Festsuppe today for our family Sunday dinner. I was probably in the middle of making the meatball part of it at around 4:30pm or so. Only an hour or so later, I learned that my dear old Auntie Edie passed away at that same time. She was 94 and had been not doing well for several weeks. I last saw her on Labour Day when I found out that her health was failing. She remembered me and she mentioned my Dad, her favourite brother, who we all miss so much. I knew at the time that it would probably be the last time I saw her.
How appropriate that today I would end up making the very meal that she brought to comfort me and my father in our time of grief. One day I will write more about my wonderful aunt, but for now, I will leave it at that. I miss you already, my dear Auntie Edie.
Love you always,