Scandinavian-Style Cucumber Pickle

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I am, by disposition, easily moved to laughter or tears and I have an unusually expressive face. It takes no special training to sense my mood or humor, but every once in a while I fool everyone. I mention this, because last weekend I was moved to tears by something quite extraordinary. Bob and I make it a point to attend local celebrations and festivals. These events were originally created to celebrate family, community and heritage, and we like to honor that spirit whenever we can. Last weekend, one of the towns close to us held their annual Scandinavian Festival and we happily attended. Usually, the entertainment consists of folk dancing and music from Finland, Norway, Denmark or Sweden. The dancers are members of groups that meet bi-monthly for practice and some of them are very good. They are, however, amateurs. What makes them special is the participation of families who often have three generations on stage for any given performance. Despite the participation of families, the number of dancers dwindles every year. There, obviously, are not enough young people to replace the seniors who can no longer participate. It's sad to see the passing of a tradition, but we enjoy it while we can and applaud the efforts of those who try to preserve memories of the old ways for their children. We sat through a handful of dance performances before heading to the beer garden to sample some typically Scandinavian food and drink. We never made it. A men's chorus, about 50 members strong, had taken the stage and, as they began to sing, it was clear we were in for something special. These were not young men, and I'd guess the youngest of them to be my age. That meant the group had lots of time to practice and perfect their singing, and perfect it they had. As they sang, my throat started to knot, but I kept my act together until the end of their performance when they began to sing the Finlandia hymn. As they sang, an elderly group in the back of audience stood and joined hands. Some of them were moved to tears and as I watched I, too, began to cry. Now it was a sedate cry, mind you, but the tears were very real. I was moved by the haunting beauty of the music and their obvious remembrance of times and places once well known but never more to be. I think you might understand the emotion if you listen to this small portion of the Finnish national anthem. It is quite beautiful.

Now, because this is a food blog, I can't let you go without sharing a recipe. It's time for us to move from the sublime to the ridiculous. Actually, there will be two new Scandinavian recipes, but only one of them will be featured today. This is a cucumber pickle that is lovely to serve with dishes as diverse as barbecue or Swedish meatballs. It is amazingly easy to make, and, as long as you thinly slice the cucumbers, you can't go wrong. Ideally, the dish should be made with seedless cucumbers, but as you can see I break my own rules. I know you'll enjoy these. Here's the recipe.

Scandinavian-Style Cucumber Pickle...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Gourmet magazine


1 English cucumber

1/2 cup white-wine vinegar

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Cut cucumber crosswise into very thin slices (preferably using a manual slicer). In a bowl whisk together remaining ingredients until sugar is dissolved and add cucumber, tossing to coat. Marinate cucumbers, covered and chilled, stirring occasionally, 4 hours. Yield: 10 to 12 servings.

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