Editor’s Note: Linda Nelson is Portland Ovations’ deputy director. She previously served as the Maine Arts Commission’s assistant director and co-founded Stonington’s Opera House Arts, where she served as executive director and producing artistic director.
By Linda Nelson
Special to The Ellsworth American
My paternal grandmother — or Gram, as we called her — Signe Petterson sailed out of Sweden’s western port of Goteborg when she was 19. Bound for the United States, she was going to join her sister and help care for her twins. She landed in a thriving Swedish immigrant community in New Britain, in central Connecticut.
Growing up in New Britain, we yearned for Christmas for all the usual reasons, but also because holiday was when Signe made her buns. That’s how we ever knew the twisted, faintly sweet, distinctively spiced rolls simply as Gram’s buns.
Gram made them directly on her kitchen table — no bowl, no mixer — just making a well in the flour — throwing in by hand sugar and whatever other mysterious ingredients made the rolls so special. No measuring cup and no written recipe.
After Gram died unexpectedly of a heart attack on my 22nd birthday, I was left to research and experiment to try and re-create those heavenly rolls we could never stop eating. Since the word “cardamom” had never been spoken in our household, I had no idea that this was indeed the super-secret, special ingredient that made the buns not only distinctive, but my own Proustian madeleine.