By Josh Farber and Greg Zarb
As the smell of Nordic home cooking filled every square inch of the Sons of Norway Loyal Lodge in Saint James on Saturday, it was nearly impossible for the hundreds of Long Islanders, with and without Scandinavian roots, to fill their holiday shopping bags without filling their stomachs first.
But with the crowd stuffing the lodge to capacity, it meant some missed out on lapskaus (Norwegian meat and potato stew) as well as the Yellow Pea soup, almond cake and other homemade goodies members of the Lodge had prepared for their annual Scandinavian Bazaar.
“We’ve never had it this busy,” Michael Pedersen, a member of the Sons of Norway Loyal Lodge, said. “We’re running out of pretty much everything. We opened at 10 and we were out of the pea soup by 11:00.”
Shoppers had their pick from nordic blankets and coffee mugs printed with country flags, to more traditional items like julenissen, nordic elves and other nordic holiday decorations. An assortment of traditional packaged foods were also available, all imported from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland.
With the bazaar going on upstairs, lodge members scrambled downstairs in the kitchen to prepare more food for the line snaking up a staircase and out the front door.
The increased crowds compared to previous years were attributed to increased publicity on social media as well as an article from Long Island’s Newsday,
“There was a line of people today that you wouldn’t believe,” Eric Johansson, Vice President of the Loyal Lodge, said. “Newsday wrote an article about us and because of that we had a record number of people here. My wife made 20 pounds of lapskaus and 12 almond cakes and they’re all gone.”
While the homemade treats were popular, many came to try and get their hands on Nokkelost cheese, which the lodge tried to import 150 pounds of. U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized more than two-thirds of the specialty Norwegian cheese due to import limits, leaving the lodge just 44 pounds to sell.
“We were very upset about that,” Johansson said. “We sold that cheese out in the first 20 minutes. Gone. 44 pounds of cheese.”
There was a shortage of cheese, but there was no shortage of lingonberry jam, Melkesjokolade chocolate and other Scandinavian specialties.
“They’ve been disappointed but they’ve been very understanding once I explain the situation to them,” Karin Ryan, a member of the Loyal Lodge, said.
Those still wanting to get their hands on Nokkelost could try entering in the Lodge raffle, where prizes included a mini Viking ship filled with the cheese and other Nordic treats.
Proceeds from the raffle and sales of items go towards supporting the lodge, as well as the Lodge’s scholarship fund, and youth group events, Margaret Zavala, a member of the lodge, said.
The combination of traditional food and familiar faces provided an opportunity for those with a Scandinavian connection to reconnect with their heritage and get in the holiday spirit.
“It’s nice to see such a large crowd of enthusiastic people coming to reestablish their roots,” Paul Zola from Blue Point, said.
This year’s bazaar was the first where the Lodge was showing off their newly restored replica Viking boat, which they acquired from Peconic Lodge in Riverhead this spring.
“Their lodge disbanded and they gave the boat to us, but it hadn’t been used in 25 years,” Thom Brownworth, a member of the lodge, said.
The boat was prominently displayed outside, sporting a fresh coat of paint, a new dragon head and tail on the bow and stern, and new shields on the sides. While this was one of the first public showings, Lodge officials are looking forward to hitting the seas next spring.
“We really wanted to sail this thing on October 9th this year for Lief Erikson Day,” Johansson said. “We’re gonna take this thing out in the spring for sure and have some fun with it.”