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Meat Care Package

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A box sent by my mother just landed on my desk. No note inside, just a foil-wrapped package about the size of my shoe, nestled among a few cold packs. It doesn't smell all that different than my shoe, either, so I instantly know what's inside: rúllupylsa, a Norwegian rolled-meat log my family makes dozens of every year in the weeks before Christmas.

As far as we know, nobody in my family has ever written down a formal recipe for rúllupylsa, but an oral history has been passed down for generations. My father takes a whole flank steak, pounds it thin, adds a layer of thinly sliced salt pork, then a layer of finely chopped onions seasoned with turmeric and ginger. This lot he tightly rolls and stitches up with butcher twine (and a very large needle). These he simmers in a huge pot of water for a few hours, then lines up on a baking sheet. He places another baking sheet on top, weighs it down with some bricks and sets it outside to freeze (in my native Minnesota, this doesn’t take long). Once he snips and yanks out the butcher twine, the rúllupylsa is ready to be sliced crosswise and served cold—on its own or with lingonberry jam and rye crackers. The result is stringy, grayish meat swirled with a fatty, oniony white spiral. It’s basically a Norwegian meat Ho Ho.

At least I think rúllupylsa is Norwegian: I’ve actually never seen it mentioned in any Norwegian cookbooks or menus, and I’ve never spoken to another Norge who’s actually heard of the dish. The only references to rúllupylsa I can find on the Web are a few mentions of a similar-sounding Icelandic dish, made with lamb belly. Perhaps my family has been mistaken or misled for generations upon generations, just as there might be some family in Korea that covets its heirloom recipe for lasagna. To be honest, I’d rather not know the truth.

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