Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Transformation of a Tradition....

Traditions change, we all know that. As a culture, we do things, celebrate things and don't remember the reason why. Such things happen in families as well.
I'm Danish, or a Dane, which ever is correct, well 25%, I'm also about 25% Irish, can you imagine the conflict inside me.
My oldest daughter is named after my great grandmother, Christine who came over from Denmark when she was twelve, with her parents and grandmother. So, I am the sixth generation and my daughters are the seventh, of women making "Sistacog" bread for Christmas and when together, being bossed around by their mother, grandmother and aunts- the main Danish tradition in my family.
Problem is this Christmas, I stopped and questioned what "Sistacog" was and well Googled it! I found it is not a known word,  no mention of any variation of  it on any site, both English and Danish!
Other people have their ancestral traditions at Christmas, some delicious, some down right stinky and gross like lutefisk. Where did our family tradition of  "sistacog" -a buttery, heavy on the eggs and milk, cinnamon raisin bread come from?
In comes Facebook- I hate facebook so hate giving it credit, but I am an honest person. Jon mentioned a post from an old friend describing the delicious bread he got as a gift from a neighbor, a delicious Christmas bread, calling it "Julecage".
I google "Julecage" and the recipe and pictures of the bread are the same as our "Sistacog". Eggs, butters, milk, sugar, spices and dried fruit.
We Google how to pronounce "Julecage" in Danish. The "cage" in English sounds more like "cog" with a little "cow" in there too in Danish. That sounds like how my grandmother would say it.
We discover that  "Cage" means "cake" in Danish.
We call my mom, my grandmother and great aunts gone now. She digs through old handwritten recipes and an old Danish cookbook, she verifies that yes, "cage" means cake. She doesn't have much faith in "Google".
But no explanation on "sista"?
So we figure out what "jule: means- back to Google.
"Jule" means Christmas. "Julecage" means Christmas Bread. My mom remembers that my great grandmother would make it all year, but at Christmas she would make it in a wreath shape, put more dried fruit in it and sprinkle it with colored sugar.
Sure enough back to Google- there are pictures of exactly that. I even found a Danish cooking blog and the recipe is the same, except she doesn't put dried fruit in it and uses cardamom instead of cinnamon.
This has been a fun family effort the day before Christmas, but I realize I should be getting to the actual making of the "Sistacog" instead of researching it- then it comes to me- "Christmas Bread", "Sistacog"............"Christa.....Cake"......"Cristacage!"
I think once in America, the word "julecage" morphed  literally into half English "Christa" and half Dansih "cage" and somewhere through the generations we dropped the "r" and forgot what it meant!
The day after Christmas, when I took the girls over to Durango and were in one of their bakeries, our "hunch"- though my mother still is not completely sold, since Google is our main proof- was more confirmed by this basket of "Christmas Breads for sell!

We are now trying to get "Sistacage" more to sound like "Christacage" though I think we will have look towards the younger generations for that. And in a way, for my love of my mom and grandmother, who I can just hear "poo pooing" such nonsense, it might need to stay "Sistacog"


  1. Anonymous4:29 PM

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  2. Hi Audrey- I am actually right near Fort Collins for the week, well- Loveland, helping my mom move. That is so cool that another family says "sistacog!" When I get home, I will try to put up the recipe how my grandma taught me.