På Barselbesøk i Gammel Tid–and Today

I found food advice for new mothers in a Norwegian textile magazine yesterday.

bestova-previewWhile watching the front desk at the Weavers Guild, I looked through a number of issues of Bunad magazine recently donated to the Textile Center Library.  I love that magazine for the beautiful photography, historical research, and interesting, technical articles on sewing bunads (Norwegian costumes) and making everything that goes with them. Even if you can’t read Norwegian, I recommend looking through them.

Appropriate to this week in my life, I read a very interesting article by Sigrunn Berdal about customs surrounding visits to new mothers (Bunad, April 2006, p. 38-39); the title could be translated as something like “On Post Partum Visits in the Olden Days.” This wonderful illustration by Theodor Kittelsen was the image used with the article, “Grautkjerringer” (porridge women). (via Wikimedia Commons)


The article begins,

“Think about getting a visit from the porridge women right after an exhausting delivery…  They come wandering with rømmegraut (cream porridge) in a rosemaled porridge bucket. So rich that you see more butter than porridge. They were dressed in their best finery, with silver jewelry that shone, and with a tight braid hidden under their head coverings. It might have been all right to blame the fog of breastfeeding if everything wasn’t gleaming clean and tidy in the house.”

In Setesdal, when the neighbors came, both beer and spirits were served; a keg of beer was put up for each child born. It was said that home-brewed beer and rømmegraut were all a new mother could tolerate, and in some places they were the only things served to her.

It was a tradition with long roots.  The porridge was to compensate for all the mother lost during childbirth and give new strength for the important times to come. In some places the porridge was called “nornegrøt.” Norner were the heathen soul- and childbirth goddesses who reigned over birth.  They spun the thread of life and needed rewards for their work.  In Setesdal and the Faroe Islands that name is still used.

So Margaret, only four days after delivery, received a Minnesota variation of the Norwegian tradition tonight–wild rice soup with cream and a nice local beer.  Since I didn’t have a nice grautspann (porridge bucket), I took the beer in a beautiful rosemaled sending basket, painted by my cousin Gretchen.

Jeff and Fitz: Dads need energy, too, right?
Margaret and Jeff drinking Saga beer — because the next years will be a Saga.