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01.15.2007

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nordic nosh
winter dishes, Scandinavian style: part one

by Kiera Tara O'Brien | 1 2 3 4

Last year I watched a man in a business suit tuck himself into a snow-proof jumpsuit, stash his briefcase in a backpack and head off to work on a pair of cross-country skis. I had only just become accustomed to wearing scarves and wooly underwear and the whole ski-for-transport thing was a bit much for this Californian native. I had to stare. Slipping and sliding my way to the bus stop a few minutes later, though, it was hard to ignore the good sense of Mr. Business Man. Four or five groups of skiers swooshed past on their way to work or guiding their children to morning classes, while I promptly lost balance on a patch of ice and struggled to grab hold of a nearby bush. It was the first full-blown day of winter in Oslo and I had snow up my sleeves. Drat.

Clearly existing in a different state of mind than me, these Norwegians had a long established relationship with their snow. Half the region sits above the Arctic Circle (and the other half feels like it should get an honorary Arctic mention of its own). When the freeze comes to town, no straight thinking Norwegian would be found clinging to a bush wearing a haphazard pile-up of summer t-shirts and a borrowed coat. Unsurprisingly, the country that had the good sense to invent skis also knows how to work a fine winter meal.

Until the exploitation of oil and mineral resources began in the early 20th century, Norway was a country of farmers and fishermen. Even the Vikings, long publicized as nasty raiders of Christian Europe, were actually mainly agriculturists. One of the richest industries in the Middle Ages in Europe were the cod and herring fisheries in Scandinavia. The salted, dried and smoked goods often provided the only source of reliable food stocks for growing urban populations on the continent and a nutritious meal that wasnít banned on the many fasting days implemented by the church. In Norway, fish is served for every meal: pickled, salted, smoked, grilled, boiled and baked. There is something different for every day of the week.

Itís not all scales and fins, though. The other half of Norwegian cuisine is influenced by a long running farming heritage. Livestock, dairy and grain products are everywhere. Bread and cheese, sometimes with meats or preserved fish, are eaten for both breakfast and lunch. In the evenings, lamb and pork are customarily served with rich sauces (and more bread) to round out this energy-giving winter diet. Cold, wet and hungry, nothing warms a chilled belly like a hearty Norwegian feast of traditional sea and farm fare. No doubt Mr. Business Man would trade his right ski for a tasty rack of ribs.

menu 1 northern lights: land-lovers spread
Brød: Norwegian Flat Bread
Fårikål: Lamb and Cabbage Stew
Lefse: Potato cakes
Kjøttboller: Pork and Beef Meatballs
Salat: Jarlsberg, Apple and Fennel Salad

ski on this way for the recipes

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