In downtown Oslo not far from the Oslo City Hall is a specialty store, called Fenaknoken (meaning knuckle-bone of mutton ham), offering delicious Norwegian delicacies. The proprietors, father Gudbrand, mother Randi Funnemark and son, gourmet chef Eirik Bræk, have provided tourists and locals alike with quality food and a roundtrip in Norwegian food traditions – much like a living museum.
Fenaknoken, established in 1996, is a melting pot of Norwegian food culture, and the owners are eager to tell you about the food they’ve purchased from selected domestic producers being offered in the small shop. Brunost (brown cheese), for instance, is a staple of Norwegian kitchens, usually cut thin with a cheese slicer to top buttered toast or warm waffles.
If you really want to familiarize yourself with the best of food Norway has to offer, the shop is stuffed to the gills with dried meats, racks of lamb and wooden crates overflowing with cheese and salami. This is indeed one of the most unique shops in Oslo, a museum as well as an institution.
A choice of sausages, cured hams, smoked and dried meat, perhaps the best smoked salmon in Norway, Pata Negra Parma Hams, reindeer and whale, a huge selection of cheeses – it’s all there. Did you know there’s a Norwegian equivalent to French Roquefort? At Christmas the shop is filled with ‘pinnekjøtt’ (cured and dried lamb or mutton) hanging from the ceiling.
“Food is thought for the brain,” says father Gudmund. “Knowing more about traditional food is like having a college crash course. It’s about logistics more than anything else. The growing time is short in this country, but people should live from it all year round. It gives added value to the brain, so don’t let price kill the diversity,” he adds smiling.
Old Norwegian conservation methods demonstrate how curing, drying and salting raw materials created superb delicacies today as well as thousand years ago. Before modern household technology was invented, this was the only way one could preserve food for years without rotting.
Gudmund Bræk tells us that he has experienced a lot of peculiar episodes in the shop. A Japanese customer once visited the shop and when he should pay his credit card did not function. “You can pay next time you’re here,” said Gudmund. A year later the Japanese customer entered the shop again, showed the sales slip and paid.
“We buy and sell trust,” explains Gudmund. “It’s all about generosity, spaciousness and humility,” he adds.
Fenaknoken is a living larder.
Owner, Eirik Bræk, is a well-educated chef and has worked in restaurants in Japan and in the United States, where he worked in the Norwegian Pavilion at the EPCOT Center in Orlando, Florida. Since 1996, he and his father, Gudbrand Bræk, have been in charge of providing traditional Norwegian quality food to the public. Mr. Bræk is originally from Kviteseid in Telemark County, and has a strong affiliation with the local food culture.
All photos: Jon-Arne Foss
Norwegian Food Traditions – A Living Museum in Oslo, written by Tor Kjolberg
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