Sunday, May 29, 2011

Experience Norway: Eat Its Food

Like many, I argue that to get to know a culture you must eat what the locals eat. Most traditional dishes are comprised of the natural ingredients available to the ancestors of that country. Norway is no exception. The simple ingredients in Norwegian cuisine tell the story of its people: farmers harvesting grain and potatoes, fishermen catching salmon and cod and dairy workers producing milks and cheeses. They ate what was readily available and needed the carbohydrates and proteins for energy throughout the long, cold and dark winters. Much of the eating habits you will find in Norway stem from these early laborers. And even if you live in another country—the United States, for example—it’s easy to prepare a quick snack or meal that will give you a taste of Norwegian cuisine. And perhaps, a taste of its culture. Here are some ideas:

1. Buy some bread—or use a flatbread cracker like Wasa—and some smoked salmon strips. Boil an egg and get some mustard—not French’s yellow stuff—and dill. Put it all on top of the bread in an open-faced style and enjoy.

2. Buy some high-quality cod or salmon from a decent seafood shop—this cod won’t be like the stuff that they put in fish sticks or the McFish Fillet, or whatever—and cook it with a bit of salt. Boil some potatoes and add a glass of beer.

3. Eat black licorice—salted if you can find it.

4. Go to a store that sells imported or “fancier” liquors and grab a bottle of aquavit—Linie if they have it. This type of aquavit is transported in crates via ship across the equator and back to enhance the flavor. I have no idea how that produces a superior aquavit compared to others, but it’s damn good.

5. This is really Norwegian and only for the adventurous. In the cheese section of most decent grocery stores you will find a type of cheese called brunost, or gjetost in America. It is produced by Tine and is branded under the Ski Queen moniker in America. Brunost translates to "brown cheese" and the taste is somewhat like a blend between cheese, peanut butter and caramel. Slice some up and put it on some flat bread. Add strawberry jam too, if you want.

Those are just a few simple ideas to sample some Norwegian cuisine from wherever you are. I’ll probably write more about the food at some later date, but those are just some thoughts for now. 

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