Gudrun's Kitchen: Recipes from a Norwegian Family

By Irene O. Sandvold, Ingeborg Hydle Baugh, Edward O. Sandvold, and Quinn E. Sandvold

Paperback: $22.95

ISBN: 978-0-87020-462-3

272 pages, 15 b/w photos and illus., 8 x 8"; E-book now available


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The youngest of a large Norwegian immigrant family, Gudrun Thue Sandvold was known for her beaming blue eyes and a reserve that gave way to laughter whenever she got together with her sisters. She took immeasurable pride in her children and grandchildren, kept an exquisite home, and turned the most mundane occasion into a party. And to all who knew her, Gudrun's cooking was the stuff of legend.

Part cookbook, part immigrant story, and part family memoir, "Gudrun's Kitchen" features hundreds of Gudrun Sandvold's recipes for comfort food from a time when families and friends gathered at the table and connected with one another every single day. This book is much more than a guide to Norwegian culinary traditions; it is an important contribution to immigrant history and a vital documentation of our nation's multicultural heritage.

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Irene Sandvold grew up in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, and graduated from the University of Wisconsin School of Nursing in 1960. She went on to become a doctor of public health, a public health nurse, and a certified nurse-midwife and is a leader in her field. To those who know her, she is an extraordinary chef and hostess in the tradition of her mother, Gudrun. She lives in Washington, DC. 

Irene's daughter, Ingeborg Hydle Baugh, is a freelance writer with a background in finance. She lives in Washington, DC.

Edward Sandvold graduated from the University of Wisconsin. His love of food and cooking began in his mother's kitchen, and he delighted in replicating the unique tastes and flavors of her food. He passed away in 2005.

Eddie's son Quinn Sandvold has been a lifelong cook in the tradition of his father and grandmother. He is a designer for snowboarding gear and equipment and former national amateur snowboard champion, professional snowboarder, and fly fishing guide. He lives in Longmont, Colorado.

Interview with Irene Sandvold

Wisconsin Historical Society Press: Why did you decide to write "Gudrun's Kitchen?"

Eddie and I started putting together the recipes that we had enjoyed from our mother's cooking, compiling those that each of us had collected. We had planned to prepare this cookbook to give to family members, and we felt an urgency after our mother passed away in 1980. We planned this cookbook over many years, collecting the recipes, remembering, and trying to recreate the tastes and smells of Gudrun's cooking. Ingeborg had the idea and motivation to write the story of the connection of the family between Norway and the United States, and the political and economic conditions evolving during her life. She also decided to search for a publisher, instead of being satisfied with an end product of photocopying for family members. We were delighted when, before Thanksgiving in 2008, Ingeborg received an e-mail from the Wisconsin Historical Society Press stating their interest in publishing the collection as a book.

We found that one of the best parts of the project was the opportunity to work on a project as mother and daughter. The whole process was a marvelous opportunity to share the excitement of uncovering information, and sharing ideas, and collaborating.

WHS Press: How did you divide up the research and writing?

Eddie thought we should add little anecdotes or stories about Gudrun to each recipe or favorite meal, and I sought the help of my daughter. Ingeborg, who was only a toddler when her grandmother died, took on the task of researching our family's life in Norway and arrival in the United States, where our story is one in the tapestry of American history. She decided to write the story of the sisters and their emigration from Norway to America, and while doing so, she researched other societal, economic, and political events that Gudrun and her family lived through. Ingeborg conducted family interviews, watched old video tapes, collected stories, transferred the oral history into writing, and compared the oral tradition to the various documents and records she uncovered in her genealogical research. She did the entire Part 1 and then typed in all of the recipes that Eddie and I had collected, recipes written by Gudrun in letters, and some stories I had written to accompany some of the recipes. Quinn made comments on the cover, and on some design issues and prepared some photos from which the selections were made.

WHS Press: What were some surprising or interesting things you learned when researching Gudrun's history?

Both Ingeborg and I were surprised to learn about the early movement of family members to America. I could not believe that I had not talked with my mother about all her brothers that I had never met. Ingeborg was surprised to learn that her grandfather had been in the Norwegian Army before coming to America and that he was about to go into the U.S. Army in World War II, but at the last minute he was told not to go because he was in a food producing and distributing business. It was interesting to find out how Gudrun became a cook and how she was somewhat isolated from the Great Depression by working in an affluent household. We looked through so many old family pictures. I found a picture of my grandfather's birthplace, and among Gudrun's possessions, I located two old cookbooks and paged through each page. Thank goodness I did because I found a letter on onion skin paper, folded carefully inside the pages, to Gudrun from her Father for Christmas 1931. This letter touched me in so many ways. The parents had kept their children who had emigrated in their hearts and must have missed them very much.

WHS Press: The second part of the book features Gudrun's recipes. Do you have personal favorite recipe?

A major favorite is krumkake. We love Norwegian meatballs with all the trimmings. Gudrun-style meatballs had to be served with steamed potatoes, lots of good gravy, lingonberries or cranberries, carrot salad, peas and carrots, flatbread with butter, and cucumber salad. Chocolate Chip Cookies are a family favorite. We also love Angel Pie, Chocolate Cake with the heavy dose of chocolate frosting (double chocolate), the fish ball dinner served with curry cream sauce, steamed sliced carrots, steamed potatoes (Minnesota new potatoes are best), and cucumber salad, and the entire Turkey cycle at Thanksgiving. I could go on and on.

WHS Press: What do you hope readers take away from "Gudrun's Kitchen?"

I would like readers to take away the love gained through eating together, preparing the many delicious dishes, and the family connectedness that is enhanced by sharing food together each and every day. Taking the time to cook is a wonderful gift. Gudrun never wasted a part of the raw material. If we ate watermelon, she made watermelon pickles out of the rind. She wanted to give anyone who came in the door a cup of coffee, smorbrod, coffee waffle, or a meal before anything else. There was always enough food for anyone who happened to stop by. She loved to bring food over for friends or anyone who may have a need. No one could visit our home without taking home some cookies or other food.

2011 Midwest Independent Publishers Association Midwest Book Awards
Finalist in the Cookbook Category

Jon M. Grinde, President, Idun Lodge, Sons of Norway

"'Gudrun's Kitchen' is a heartwarming recollection that will remind many of their own upbringings in Norwegian American households. Gudrun's personality, her foods, what she values, and her love of family are all captured for generations to enjoy in this wonderful book. Tusen takk!"

Joanne Raetz Stuttgen, folklorist and author of "Cafe Wisconsin" and "Cafe Wisconsin Cookbook"
"This is a delicious family album filled with snapshots of the many chapters of an ordinary woman's life — Norwegian immigrant, independent working woman, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, friend — expressed through the recipes and food for which she is lovingly remembered. It is as much Gudrun's personal history as it is a cultural history of America."

Joan Sanstadt, "Agri-View"
"Whether you are looking for the perfect gift for a friend of Norwegian descent, or whether you want to try out some luscious new recipes, do take a look at 'Gudrun's Kitchen.' I can almost promise you’ll be hooked!"
"If you've never known a gifted old world cook, one who cooked just for the joy of it, then pick up a copy of 'Gudrun's Kitchen.' ... It's charming. It's enlightening. And the recipes are wonderful. I read every word and felt teary when Gudrun's story ended, but perked up as I went over each recipe. They're real treasures."

This review by Joan Sanstadt appeared in "Agri-View" on November 14, 2011

The first sentence in the Preface of this book tells it all: "This is the story of a life in food and family." History can be told in many different ways-perhaps through a person's travels, their medical history or through their literary interests. Two of Gudrun Thue Sandvold's children and two grandchildren put their heads together to come up with the book called "Gudrun's Kitchen: Recipes from a Norwgian Family." Together and with the help of as many relatives as they could find (both here and in Norway), Gudrun's recipes (her cooking was the stuff of legend) are now ready to be shared with readers of the book.

The family, whose history is here in the Midwest and also on the western coast of Norway, is well-told. It encompasses two Wolrd Wars, German occupation of Norway, and many tidbits of information that are interesting to all. Who knew there was a Norwegian newspaper in Chicago, for instance?

The book has its lighter moments. When Gudrun first heard people talking about "speakeasies" her immediate thought was, "Perfect. I don't speak English very well."

Gudrun and her husband, Irving, lived for 20 years in big cities. It was after they moved to a seven-acre farmette near Fort Atkinson, where Irving raised chickens and eggs, that Gudrun's fame as a cook really beagn to spread far and wide.

Grandchildren loved to visit knowing they'd enjoy a "hullabaloo" at grandma's house. The hullaballo was simply a huge platter of snacks that included cookies, pinwheels of peaches and oranges, carrot curls, ice cream and something good to drink. (Those pinwheels reminded me of the thinly-sliced oranges my granmother used to prepare for her grandchildren, only she called them wagon wheels.)

The recipes range from Norwegian Coffee Waffles, to all the traditional Norwegian dishes (yes, Lutefisk and Lefse are included), as well as Chinese recipes and soups. When I saw there were TWO Pea Soup recipes I was sure one of them had to be for the French-Canadian Pea Soup my cousin in Minnesota still makes. (Her recipe is best made with whole, yellow peas; hoever, they are nearly impossible to find.) However, one of Gudrun's pea soup recipes was blended and could be frozen and the other used either yellow or green split peas.

Gudrun must have had an especially patient butcher because her recipe for Norwegian Meatballs mentions how she'd ask the butcher "to grind the meat five or six times to get the best texture."

Whether you are looking for the perfect gift for a friend of Norwegian descent, or whether you want to try out some luscious new recipes, do take a look at "Gudrun's Kitchen." I can almost promise you'll be hooked. The book is published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press.

This review by Grace Edquist appeared in the January 2012 issue of "Madison Magazine."

"Gudrun's Kitchen" (2011, Wisconsin Historical Society Press) weaves the story of Norwegian immigrant Gudrun Sandvold, who settled in For Atkinson after arriving in the U.S. in 1923. Sandvold brought her traditional recipes to the states, and the elder's love for cooking inspired her children, Irene and Eddie, and grandchildren, Irene's daughter Ingeborg Hydle Baugh and Eddie's son Quinn Sandvold, to write the book. The result is a charming depiction of the impact food can have on families for generations.

With almost two hundred recipes, "Gudrun's Kitchen" gives familial and cultural context to traditional Nordic dishes like homemade meatballs, pickled watermelon rinds and rosette cookies. Although the food in this book is more traditional than the contemporary dishes of the New Nordic movement, it gives the reader insight into its roots.

The book contains a glossary of terms to clarify some of the foreign food lingo. One of the more familiar dishes in the world of Nordic cuisine is the smorgasboard, which translates to "bread and butter table." The smorgasbord is a traditional Nordic buffet of both hot and cold foods, such as meats, cheeses, salads, bread and fish.