Review of Ingrid, My Swedish-American Life and Adventure

by Elder M. Lindahl

Ingrid, My Swedish-American Life and Adventure, by Ingrid Bergstrom, Chicago: Swedish-American Historical Society, 2003, 184 pages, paper, $16.50.

This recent book gives one an excellent picture of immigrant emellan, of a life lived in-between two countries, two cultures, and two languages. I highly recommend Ingrid’s book to the readers of Pietisten and to anyone who wants to read about an exciting, modern immigrant experience. It’s a fascinating book—one which you won’t be able to put down. Ingrid writes much like she talks—enthusiastically in delightful English with a cheery Swedish lilt and effect. “Ja,” very naturally often begins and completes her sentences.

Ingrid and her husband, Gösta, born in Dalarna and Lappland, respectively, immigrated to the States in 1947. They lived in New York, California, and Illinois. Ingrid tells of an early acting career, of being a waitress and a hostess in various fine restaurants, and of being the owner, with her husband, of the Verdandi Restaurant on Clark Street and the Sweden Shop in North Park. She relates some exciting incidents of meeting many interesting people during her work and in her world travels. In her book, as in her life, she comes across as one who really loves life, who continues to love passionately both her native land and her adopted land, and as one who thrives on new experiences and on meeting new people. As the pictures in her book show, she’s a classic, Swedish beauty.

She and her dear, Gösta, have also gone through times of grief and suffering together. In Ingrid’s realistic words, “It hasn’t been all good times, but that’s the way life is.”

The book has a definite message for everyone, but especially for young people. Don’t be afraid of doing things. “The world is full of surprises and adventures. The opportunities are there, but you have to look for them and do something about them. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter what the opportunities are. If you don’t go after them, nothing will happen.

You know, if you have a car and no gasoline, what does it matter if you have a car? So you have to go and buy the gasoline! That’s the key!” (159)

Gösta, with the Wall Street Journal in hand and a fine business sense often provided a steady balance and support for Ingrid’s unexpected and unpremeditated ways. He was, and is, her life-long, generous, understanding, loving partner. Now, with his failing eyesight and some health problems, Ingrid is his steady, devoted, care-giver. What a remarkable, unforgettable, handsome couple!

Ingrid concludes her book with some of her favorite Smorgasbord recipes. I enjoyed reading about the background of some of them, especially Ingrid’s explanation of Jansson’s Temptation. It is said that Erik Jansson, the infamous Bishop Hill prophet who preached against the pleasures of the flesh, simply could not resist this anchovy, wine, cream, onion, and potato concoction. The dish has a powerful attraction for many Swedes and Swedish-Americans to this day.

To order you can call the Swedish-American Historical Society at 773-583-5722 or order online at www.swedishamericanhist.org Price: $16.50 (Society Members $14.85).