Almonds aren’t just almonds

2014-12-26T15:17:40+00:0014 December 2012|Estonia, Food and drink, Norway, Norway, Seasonal, current|

Christmas is just around the corner and it’s time to think about almonds.

Why almonds, you ask?

Well, here in Norway all kinds of almondy goodness are on the menu this time of year, in the form of marzipan and kransekake. Kransekake is simply ground almonds, egg whites and powdered sugar shaped into circles of different sizes and baked, then put one on top of the other into a gooey, scrumptious tower. I’ve seen it translated as Garland Cake, Tower Cake and Wreath Cake.




When I was an exchange student in Oklahoma a million years ago, I was given cards and presents from everyone in the neighbourhood (even people I didn’t know – Americans are generous like that) – and heaps of a white sweet. Nom nom, I thought, marzipan. But it wasn’t. Instead it was divinity. I had never heard of it before – and haven’t since. Like marzipan, divinity is made with egg whites and sugar. Lots of sugar. But no almonds.

Pecan Divinity

Divinity with pecans – very Southern.  Photo by Accidental Hedonist


Nothing wrong with divinity. But it isn’t marzipan.

…and almonds aren’t just almonds.

This summer, my daughters took a cruise in the Baltic. The girls (my 11-year-old in particular) think I’m an absolute bore on cruises (probably because I’m bored), so this time they decided to go on their own. One of their ports of call was the capital of Estonia – and as a small consolation, they brought me a burlap bag of roasted almonds from Tallinn.

Almonds from Tallinn

Almonds from Tallinn


As it turns out, almonds aren’t just yummy. They come with other benefits as well, at least these almonds do. These almonds, you see, ‘have reached Tallinn on the vessels of Hanseatic merchants’, and according to this quote from 1470

dried almonds keep one from getting drunk if you eat five pieces of them. The frying oil of almonds nourishes the weak and tired.

Happy Christmas all!

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  1. Vera Marie Badertscher 14 December 2012 at 1651 - Reply

    I love that–Nourishes the weak and tired. Indeed!! Just sent out my Christmas food gifts, but next year, I think I’ll include an almon dish that “nourishes the weak and tired.” I also just baked a recipe from a Jewish friend–Mandle Brot (almond bread). It isn’t bread at all, but rather a twice-baked cookie. Yum!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 December 2012 at 0959 - Reply

      I’ve tried Mandelbrot. Yummy!

  2. Leigh 15 December 2012 at 2009 - Reply

    I love almonds and am crazy for marzipan. I know Europeans don’t have the love affair that we have with peanut butter but if you tried almond butter on fresh bread you might think you’ve died and gone to heaven.
    Now I am off to the kitchen for an almond butter snack.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 16 December 2012 at 0128 - Reply

      Ooh, almond butter sounds delicious. Now to google a recipe…

  3. Steve 16 December 2012 at 0956 - Reply

    Almonds on their own are OK, but almonds covered in chocolate are fantastic! I might save some room for some Marzipan though. I’ve heard a lot about how great that is.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 16 December 2012 at 1736 - Reply

      You’d love chocolate-covered marzipan then 🙂

  4. ItalianNotes 17 December 2012 at 1047 - Reply

    Funny – in Denmark we eat ‘kransekage’ at midnight on New Year’s Eve, while marzipan around Christmas is shaped like pigs. To me almond sweets have not been quite the same luxury after I’ve acquired about 10 almond trees and have to shell all the nuts myself. By the way – divinity looks a little like Torrone. Is it the same using pecans instead of almonds?

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 17 December 2012 at 1653 - Reply

      We have marzipan pigs as well, the chocolate covered ones are very popular.
      Torrone is a form of nougat, no? In the photo here, they’ve added pecans, but I think divinity usually consists of just egg whites and sugar.

  5. Andrew Graeme Gould 17 December 2012 at 1653 - Reply

    A love of marzipan is something we have in common then, Sophie. And your mentioning
    Tallinn reminds me once again how much I’d like to visit that charming looking city.

    A very happy Christmas to you and family!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 17 December 2012 at 1655 - Reply

      And to you anad yours 🙂

  6. Turkey's For Life 20 December 2012 at 1538 - Reply

    Hmmm, interesting. Might have to go and buy me some dried almonds before Christmas and make sure I eat five each time we decide to partake in the festivities. 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 December 2012 at 1756 - Reply

      Just to be on the safe side 🙂

  7. InsideJourneys 27 December 2012 at 2307 - Reply

    I love almonds but I’ve never had marzipan.
    We have a slightly different type of almond here — more elongated, the outer skin brownish red — that we use to make almond “drops” — melted sugar and almonds dropped on a cookie sheet and baked.

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