Fika & Hygge for Back-to-School Season (Plus Chocolate Rye Waffles)
September 2, 2020
If you’re here just for the recipe for chocolate rye waffles, feel free to scroll down. But if you happen to have kids who are going back to school, stick around for some thoughts on how to make this pandemic back-to-school season a little less uncomfortable.
This is a back-to-school season like none we’ve ever experienced, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make it memorable for my children, even though we’re beginning the school year remotely. It’s been five and a half months since the pandemic forced school to suddenly shift from in-person to distance learning, and also that long since my children have experienced the typical freedoms of playing with friends, worry-free and without having to think about social distancing, masks, and all the things required for health and safety during a pandemic.
Honestly, they’re handling it admirably well, and they each can think of good things about this period of time. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy for any of us. As they go back to school with screen-based class time, I really want to infuse this year with the excitement of past back-to-school seasons. So I’ve converted our family room into a classroom and stocked their desks with fun school supplies (cat pens, anyone?) and splurged on some balance boards and wobble seats to allow them to get the wiggles out when they’re having a hard time focusing.
But more important than the things, I’ve been thinking about how I want our school-at-home to feel. And since I specialize in Scandinavian food and heritage as a writer, I began thinking about ways that the ideas of hygge and fika could infuse our days with delight.
Replacing the afternoon snack with fika
Since kids thrive on rhythms and routines, I’m planning to enjoy a daily fika with them, probably in place of our afternoon snack. Some days that will involve baking something special together, other days it will involve an afternoon tea and hot cocoa with a PB&J or whatever else they’re in the mood for. Every once in a while, I’ll whip up something special, like the Norwegian heart waffles they love so much. But the most important thing about it this time will be the opportunity to connect with each other–to decompress after a day of learning and to enjoy relaxed time together.
About those treats – and my chocolate rye waffles
Family heirlooms come in a variety of forms, and some of my most treasured ones are recipes. The women on my mom’s side of the family have amassed quite the culinary legacy over the years, passing down recipes from one generation to another—sometimes by the hundreds. One of my most cherished recipes is my great-grandma Josephine’s Norwegian waffles. I learned to make these from my Grandma Adeline years ago, and they have become a staple in my home.
Creaming together butter and sugar, I know that a special
treat is only about a half an hour away (less if I skip the recommended
chilling time, which I often do). While I usually stick to a couple simple
variations—cardamom sometimes, a mix of cinnamon and vanilla at other times—I
love to play around with the base every once in a while, and that’s where this
recipe comes in.
I first discovered the wonder of pairing chocolate and rye
together some years ago in San Francisco. At Tartine Bakery, I ate the most
satisfying little chocolate rye cookie—not too sweet, with an intriguing flavor
complexity provided by the rye. The flavor combination is now one of my
favorite riffs on my great grandma’s recipe.
And the nice thing about having recipes as heirlooms? I can alter them as much as I’d like–as with these chocolate rye waffles–and there’s no harm done. I can always return to the original.
And then there’s hygge
There’s been a lot of talk in America about hygge over the past several years, and for good reason. Who wouldn’t want the happy, cozy image that the word tends to conjure up? But hygge is about more than just cozy things. It’s a lifestyle that involves togetherness, time spend in the company of loved ones, lingering in a pleasant activity or setting.
While I haven’t figured out all the hows of infusing our homeschool days with hygge, I have some pretty good ideas, which I’ll be sure to share. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you’re making the most of this strange moment in time.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Stir in the milk, cream, white vinegar, and vanilla extract. Add flour, rye flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda and mix to combine. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat a heart-shaped waffle maker and cook the batter according to your model’s instructions.
Feel free to dust these with powdered sugar or perhaps a dollop of whipped cream or raspberry jam.