Native and Spanish influences, intermix with ingredients from
across the Pacific, add a dash of good old American cowboy
western and… Eureka!, it’s
Diversity aside, we never expected to stumble upon a
big dollop of Denmark right in the middle of Santa Barbara County.
Eureka!, it’s Solvang.
Here’s the scoop: A few Danish teachers got sick and tired
of the brutal winters in the Midwestern United States and
decided warmer climes must be attained.
A pioneer spirit and
disdain for layering clothing
brought to California the Danish Capital of America.
for sunny field, was founded in 1911 by these intrepid
educators and they set about building a Danish folk school and
a little slice of Scandinavia on the former Spanish land grant
Rancho San Carlos de Jonata.
Now that’s cultural diversity.
town really began to flourish after the Saturday Evening Post exposed their secret to the world in a 1946 article.
arrived in droves and soon hotels, restaurants, attractions and
the inevitable crap shops sprung up to serve them and remove the
funds from their pockets.
these establishments have not overpowered the charm of the town. Solvang doesn’t seem feel like a big tourist trap.
is authentic, not movie-set-false-front-ish, and the cultural
roots feel nourished and well watered.
We noticed that most of the gift shops were sporting wooden
This seemed out of place because lumber clod-hoppers
are generally considered
to be Dutch, not Danish. We investigated, google-style.
the Danes had a flourishing wooden shoe industry back in the late
1800s, they just didn’t get famous for it. Same situation with the
Whew, we could relax knowing there was no breach of culture. Solvang’s got more Danish flavor than a Sara Lee breakfast.
The town’s not large, just a little over 5,000 folks, so we could
dawdle a bit and still hit all the hot spots.
We started with
a stroll through the downtown area among the charming old
world-style buildings surrounding Hans Christian Andersen
A statue that we thought might be Gene Wilder as Willie
Wonka, turned out to be good old Hans himself. Duh.
Solvanginians, Solvangers… um, residents of Solvang are really
into Mr. Anderson. They even created a museum in his honor.
We figured that should
be our next stop.
kid growing up within the last century has been exposed to
Hans Christian Andersen, learning valuable life lessons from
the fellow that made the fable famous.
The Little Mermaid, The Princess And The Pea, Thumbelina,
and The Ugly Duckling are all from his pen and the little museum
features these along with lesser known yarns. Many in first editions.
In addition to his writings, Hans was also pretty handy with a pair of
scissors and several of his paper cutouts and silhouettes are on
display along with sketches, artifacts, and Anderson-related memorabilia.
usual, food became our focus before too long. Maybe it was
all the talk about peas with that princess.
So with peas on
the brain (as opposed to pea-brained) we headed just up the
road to Buellton and Pea Soup
Andersen’s has been serving up All You Can Eat of the
green broth for over eighty years.
Famous cartoon chefs Hap Pea
and Pea Wee greet guests
and entertain with their crazy pea splitting
put a serious hurt on their profit margin with that offer
— learning that the old elementary school joke was accurate
— “what you have for lunch? Pea green soup. What did
you do all night, pee…”
Sorry ’bout that.
Pea Soup Anderson’s is a Southern California institution. Ask around,
everyone’s been here.
By the way, we didn’t get the name turned
around. For some reason Andersen’s decided to put the Pea Soup in
They don’t claim to be related to Hans Christian, but you never