It recently dawned on me, whilst on holiday in Norway, how much Norwegians love their food! The specialities are endless: fresh bread with liver pâté, pasta salads with shrimps, fish! fish! and fish! salmon, cod, meatballs and “komler” (potato balls with salty meat and sausage), cured meats, brown cheese, black coffee, waffles and the list goes on. As we sat in a small town near the coast, about 35 km south of Bergen, enjoying ourselves a serving of traditional fish soup, Matt started thinking about how the small cafe serving traditional Norwegian foods & snacks could re-invent itself into something much more interesting and profitable. ‘This fish soup’, he said, ‘is pretty average.’ ‘How about some more interesting dishes, like a tasty pasta dish, a delicious curry or at least something a bit more interesting? This business could do really well.’ Like any other Melburnian, he believes interesting is better than traditional. That garlic and onion should form part of everything you cook. That wine is better than water (well hey, I’d have to agree on that one!!)
Thing is, after careful consideration, I realised Norwegians love their food just like the Italians love their pasta. Like the Chinese love their ducks. The Norwegian cuisine might look dull at a first glance, and let’s face it, you are lucky if you even get some salt & pepper in your fish soup! However it is what it is, and every time I’m there I seem to scoff down those fish cakes like there is no tomorrow. I eat bread for breakfast AND lunch, sometimes even dinner. I emerge myself in ‘lefser’ & waffles & brown cheese (the latter has yet to be approved by the French as cheese, but I’m not one of those who judge a cheese by its smell). I sip black, filtered coffee like it’s something I do every day anyway, and I like it (however I also think it could be about time to start importing some more espresso machines over there!). Then there’s ‘rekesalat’, that shrimp coleslaw you slap onto fresh bread. Not for beginners necessarily, but all in good time. Just getamungstit.
So in reality, the Norwegian cuisine isn’t weird or dull. It’s just….Norwegian. And while it ain’t breakfast 638 ways, I still have a big place in my heart for it.