People are traveling great distances only for food. We like to call them ‘Flight Foodies’. It’s the ‘next big thing’. Scandinavian food today is well worth the flight.
Traditional Danish Food Culture
Danish food culture and culinary heritage – has been cultivated and improved for many generations – and is mainly rooted from the old country kitchen – with ancient food recipes from all over the Danish kingdom – created first and foremost – as a shield to protect the Danes against the cold weather conditions in Denmark.
That’s why the Danes for centuries have eaten a lot of meat – especially loads of pork – but also beef together with plenty of potatoes and vegetables. Poultry and fish products are the Danes second choice. The cold and often wet climate in Denmark requires a lot of food with high nutritional values that contains many vitamins – minerals and proteins to mobilize a great potion of energy – which is a vital source – needed for work – at school – for sports and other form of daily activities – when living in a dynamic and modern society like Denmark that demands plenty of individual energy and human recourses every day.
Preserved Danish food
The natural content and ingredients in Danish food culture has been built up for centuries and flavored to match the taste of the traditional eating habits of the Danish people from region to region and up to this century. To preserve food in olden days – the items of meat – fish and fruit was either salted – smoked or brine-pickled and could be stored for a very long time. The modern Danish kitchen uses many old recipes from the non-refrigeration period – and is still highly preferred and enjoyed at the dinner tables in Denmark.
Traditional and Conservative Food Culture
Rye bread and beer has for thousands of years been a basic part of the daily food consumption and later potatoes and heavy gravy was the main supplement to fish and meat dishes. The present Danish food culture is still very traditional and conservative – and is nevertheless based on deep-rooted recipes prepared during generations and centuries – in spite of influence from foreign countries and cultures.
Almost every Danish restaurant in Copenhagen serve the traditional “open faced sandwich” called“smørrebrød” – with many different potions of food items as cold cuts – pieces of meat or fish – various paste – salad dressings and cheese on buttered rye bread and decorated with all types of toppings that gives the creation a great visual appeal – and is surely a piece of genuine art – when presented on a well laid table with cold Danish beer and snaps. “Smørrebrød” is normally served together with the famous Danish beer and snaps.
How much food is it physically possible to heap on top of a slice of rye bread? At Copenhagen’s smørrebrød restaurants you’ll find out! Smørrebrød comes in hundreds of varieties including veggie options, fish, pate or meat. And just for reference, you don’t fill a smørrebrød open sandwich, you decorate it!
Restaurant Ida Davidsen is probably the most famous place in inner Copenhagen to taste Danish smørrebrød also called open-faced sandwiches.
If you think Danish Crown Prince Frederik, footballer Michael Laudrup, or entertainer Victor Borge are dishy, Restaurant Ida Davidsen may be the place for you.
Danish Food Quotes:
“The impracticality of eating cold duck is that it has to be roasted first!”
(Det upraktiske ved kold and er – at den skal steges først!) Robert Storm Petersen – Danish Cartoonist – Writer – Animator – Humorist – 1882-1949
How to boil a three-minute egg?
“Bring a piano into the kitchen – and play the Minute Waltz* three times!”
(“Hvordan koger man et blødkogt æg på tre minutter? – Anbring et klaver i køkkenet og spil minutvalsen tre gange”!) Victor Borge – Famous Danish Entertainer – Comedian – Conductor and Pianist – 1909-2000
Norway’s traditional dishes
are being modernized for a new generation of visitors seeking choice local ingredients and delicate flavor combinations.
International media interest in Scandinavian culture has exploded in the last couple of years and a growing appreciation of Norwegian cuisine has been a part of that. With an emphasis on fresh local fish, meat and game served with sweet and sour flavours, the Norwegian kitchen today is a mix of traditional and global influences.
Fish can be prepared using almost every known cooking method; frying, dry-curing, brining, grilling and smoking. Meat dishes tend to be roasted, braised, stewed or fried, depending on the cut and recipe. Vegetables are usually boiled or braised. Root vegetable, fish and meat soups and stews are a link to Norway´s agricultural past but remain popular today.
Norwegian and Swedish chefs have long been exported to some of the world´s leading restaurants, but now many internationally trained Norwegian chefs have returned to open successful restaurants and cafes in their home market.
Three Norwegian restaurants now have a total of six Michelin stars awarded in 2014. Five restaurants have one star whilst Maaemo, the innovative Oslo restaurant has retained its two stars. Statholdergaarden, Ylajali and Fauna have single stars.
Norwegian cuisine is all about fantastic local ingredients such as king crab from the Barents Sea, excellent fish such as cod or halibut, organic Lofoten lamb or the tasty cloudberry for example. Norway also has chefs to rival the best in Europe; a vast array of local specialities; and traditional dishes for all seasons. Some local dishes may test your resolve as well as your tastebuds (‘smalahove’, salted and smoked head of sheep, is considered a delicacy, but only few foreign visitors dare try), but curious foodies will find plenty of unexpected, pleasant surprises awaiting everywhere.
Famous café on the ground floor of the Grand Hotel on Oslo’s main street, Karl Johan. Grand Café is steeped in tradition and one of the city’s great meeting places since the time of Henrik Ibsen and Edvard Munch. Ibsen himself ate here daily.
Norwegian Quotes on Food
“I am sure my music has a taste of codfish in it.” Edvard Grieg, Norwegian composer (1843-1907)
“A rich and varied menu is for people who have no work to do.” Roald Amundsen, Norwegian explorer (1872-1928)
What you should know about Sweedish Food
Lingonberries go with anything
Just like ketchup and mustard, lingonberry jam is widely used to accompany a variety of dishes, from meatballs and pancakes to porridge and black pudding (blodpudding). But despite its sweetness, it is rarely used on bread. Thanks to the Right of Public Access (Allemansrätten), which gives everyone the freedom to roam and enjoy nature, many Swedes grow up picking lingonberries in the forest, and using these tiny tart red fruits to make a jam-like preserve.
Pickled herring – centre of the smorgasbord
You might swap meatballs (köttbullar) for mini sausages (prinskorvar) or pick cured salmon (gravad lax) rather than smoked, but your smorgasbord wouldn’t be complete without pickled herring (sill). This fishy favourite remains the basis of every typical Swedish buffet. With an abundance of herring in both the North and Baltic Seas, Swedes have been pickling since the Middle Ages, mainly as a way of preserving the fish for storage and transportation. Pickled herring comes in a variety of flavours – mustard, onion, garlic and dill, to name a few – and is often eaten with boiled potatoes, sour cream, chopped chives, sharp hard cheese, sometimes boiled eggs and, of course, crispbread.
Crispbread – what’s your favourite topping?
In addition to bread and butter, you’ll often find a type of crispbread (knäckebröd) served alongside your main meal. This is what the Swedes tend to reach for. Once considered poor man’s food, crispbread has been baked in Sweden for over 500 years, can last for at least a year if stored properly, and remains among the most versatile edible products. The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) ran a campaign in the 1970s suggesting Swedes should eat six to eight slices of bread a day, including crispbread. This comes in various shapes, thicknesses and flavours, with entire store shelves devoted to it. Crispbread can be topped with anything from sliced boiled eggs and caviar squeezed from a tube for breakfast; to ham, cheese and cucumber slices for lunch; to just plain butter along with your dinner.
The right of public access
Allemansrätten – the right of public access – gives everyone the right to enjoy Sweden’s outdoors. It allows the public to roam freely, even on private land, to camp overnight and to pick mushrooms and berries. The right also brings responsibilities – to treat flora and fauna and other people’s property with care. It can be summed up in the phrase ‘don’t disturb, don’t destroy’. The right of public access is written into the Swedish constitution. But it is not a law as such, rather a custom or part of the cultural heritage that has evolved and become accepted over the years.
Stockholm is a great city for foodies. However, rooting out places that serve traditional swedish (“husmanskost”) food can sometimes be difficult. Which is a shame, really, as there are some really interesting and unique dishes to sample in the city.
Tranan is a nice restaurant close to Odenplan tube. Traditional but not stuffy, with excellent service and atmosphere. Crowded most nights of the week – go early or book ahead. The fried herring (stekt strömming), meatballs (köttbullar), cured salmon (rimmad lax) and isterband (coarsely ground sausage) are all excellent and well worth a try. Also – try the biff rydberg, which is diced beef served with fried potatoes, horseradish and egg.
Räksmörgås and other open sandwiches
When you order a sandwich, don’t be surprised if it involves just a single slice of bread, the typical Swedish smörgås. The Swedish concept of open sandwiches dates back to the 1400s when thick slabs of bread were used as plates. In Sweden, the shrimp sandwich (räksmörgås or räkmacka) remains the option fit for a king. Piled high with a mix of boiled egg slices, lettuce, tomato and cucumber, this seafood snack is often topped with creamyromsås – crème fraîche blended with dill sprigs and roe. Shrimp sandwiches are such an integral part of Swedish culture, they have inspired a popular saying: ‘glida in på en räkmacka’ (literally ‘glide in on a shrimp sandwich,’ but roughly corresponding to the expression ‘get a free ride’), meaning to get an advantage without having done anything to deserve it.
Pea soup and pancakes
Many Swedes grow up eating pea soup and pancakes (ärtsoppa och pannkakor) every Thursday. This tradition has been upheld by the Swedish Armed Forces since World War II. While its true origins are widely debated – from Catholics not eating meat on Fridays, thus filling up on pea soup on Thursdays, to pea soup being very easy to prepare by maid servants who would work half-days on Thursdays – the tradition has well and truly stuck. Most traditional lunch restaurants serve pea soup and pancakes with lingonberry jam or any kind of jam (sylt) on Thursdays.
A princess cake is not only for royals. Swedes eat it all year round to celebrate important events.
Prinsesstårta – a royal indulgence
Colouring the window displays of bakeries throughout Sweden is the all-time favourite green princess cake (prinsesstårta), topped with a bright pink sugar rose. Comprising layers of yellow sponge cake lined with jam and vanilla custard, and then finished off with a heavy topping of whipped cream, the cake is carefully sealed with a thin layer of sugary sweet green marzipan. A relatively recent addition to Sweden’s culinary history, princess cake debuted in the 1920s, courtesy of Jenny Åkerström. She was a teacher to King Gustav V’s brother Prince Carl Bernadotte’s daughters – Princesses Margaretha, Märtha and Astrid – who loved it so much that they inspired its name.
While the third week of September is officially princess cake week, this popular cake is now eaten during special festivals and is used to mark many milestones in people’s lives. Today, it comes in a variety of colours – from the classic green to yellow for Easter, red at Christmas, orange for Halloween and white for weddings.
The calendar of sweet delights
In Sweden, people can always find a good excuse to tuck into something sweet – so much so that specific calendar days are designated to the celebration of particular sugary specialties. Cinnamon Bun Day (Kanelbullens dag) is celebrated on 4 October. Buns filled with cream and almond paste known as semlor are eaten on Shrove Tuesday or ‘Fat Tuesday’ (fettisdagen) as the Swedes call it – the day before Ash Wednesday (askonsdagen), the first day of Lent. Waffles (våfflor) are consumed on 25 March, and creamy sponge cakes decorated with chocolate or marzipan silhouettes of King Gustav II Adolf (Gustav Adolfs-bakelse) on 6 November in memory of the Swedish monarch who was killed on this day in 1632 at the Battle of Lützen.
Swedes & their sweet tooth
The average Swede eats cakes and pastry equivalent to 316 cinnamon buns per year (2010). Even though the majority if 16 to 84-year-old exercise at least twice a week, it’s not quite enough to compensate for the calories gained.
148,766,006 kilos is the total weight of cinnamon buns consumed by Swedes a year – or around 350,000 moose. (Source: The Swedish Board of Agriculture and Statistics, Sweden)
Crazy for crayfish
Crayfish parties (kräftskivor) are popular in August, when warm summer evenings are spent feasting on these red bite-sized freshwater shellfish – or saltwater shellfish (then called langoustine or, funnily enough, Norway lobster) – in gardens and on balconies all over Sweden. Eaten only by Sweden’s upper-class citizens and aristocracy in the 1500s, crayfish have become a national delicacy enjoyed by all, with mass importation having significantly brought down the price over the centuries.
There’s something fishy about Surströmming
Every culture has at least one culinary speciality that makes both locals and visitors cringe. From late August to early September, a stinky tradition is upheld in Sweden, particularly in the northern part of the country. This is when cans of fermented sour Baltic herring (surströmming) are opened – a tradition dating back to the 1800s. The custom preferably takes place outdoors owing to the overpowering, unpleasant smell, which many compare with rotten eggs and raw sewage.
Lördagsgodis (Saturday sweets)
The average Swedish family, with two adults and two children, eats 1.2 kilos of sweets per week – most of it on Saturday, sweets day. Upheld mostly to protect people’s teeth and prevent dental cavities, the once-a-week tradition is historically linked to dubious medical practices. In the 1940s and 1950s, at Vipeholm Mental Hospital in Lund patients were fed large amounts of sweets to intentionally cause tooth decay, as part of a series of human experiments for research purposes. Based on findings from 1957 of the direct relationship between sweets and tooth decay, the Medical Board suggested Swedes eat sweets only once a week – an unwritten rule that many families still stick to.
Perhaps you now better understand why many travelers come to Scandinavia just as flight foodies?