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Community Spotlight

Member Spotlight: A Seat at the Nordic Table

ASI members Kathryn Schenk and Allan Mahnke share what they love about Nordic Table classes
January 29, 2024 By Nina Andersen

Can you please introduce yourselves and your connection to ASI?

We are retired music/fine arts professors who have had a long love affair with ASI. We were both well-acquainted with the ASI “castle” even before we knew each other. At first, it was a charming place for us to visit, especially at Christmastime, but then we came to understand and treasure the many other cultural experiences offered by ASI: plays, concerts, art exhibits, and even a memorable and moving dance program featuring the “spirits” of the mansion. As the programs at ASI expanded, we found ourselves increasingly drawn in.

When and why did you start taking Nordic Table classes at ASI?

Our first ASI “class” predated the formal Nordic Table classes by quite a few years, probably in the early to mid-1990s. As a result of the popularity of the Sunday Smörgåsbord, regularly offered in the castle, ASI offered a class in which Anna-Lena Stenberg Sköld taught us how to make some of the classic dishes on her menus. We all crowded into the kitchen in the basement of the castle for the class, and it was heavenly! We still have and often refer to the photocopied sheets she gave us. As ASI’s program has gradually but vastly expanded, including online classes offered in addition to in-person classes (all under the creative and brilliant leadership of Erin Swenson-Klatt) we have found ourselves even more involved. It didn’t and doesn’t matter to us if the subject of the class is a repeat from previous classes; after all, we have taken at least four courses on gravlax and learned something new each time!

If you were to recommend a Nordic Table class to a friend or family member, what would you say?

We would tell our friends, and actually already have said to some, “Don’t fret about the title or subject of the class. You may think that you aren’t interested in a particular topic, but go! Sign up! You will have a great evening with lovely people and terrific teachers. You will even find that the things you learn start to appear on your table at home. And you will make new friends among your classmates.”

Why do you choose to be ASI members?

Over the years, from our teaching, we have come to understand the important roles the arts play in human life. They help show us who we are, who “our people” are, and where “home” is for each of us. We have been deeply impressed with how profoundly ASI understands these concepts. Art, including culinary art, is a means to bring us all together. It does not exclude! It is ultimate hospitality. And this is why this pair of non-Swedes feels absolutely at home at ASI, and would encourage anyone to come along.

Kathryn and Allan’s Midsommar celebration at home, featuring rhubarb herring, a recipe learned at one of their Nordic Table classes.

ASI is grateful to Kathryn and Allan and our members for their support. Members enable ASI to remain a vibrant, innovative, and welcoming cultural center for all people, serving our community with contemporary, accessible, and creative experiences to learn, explore, and connect. Learn more about ASI membership here.