When I was living in Melbourne, it was never a far walk to my nearest hipster joint to pick up a deliciously prepared coffee every morning. Nor was it ever a far walk to a cafe that served to-die-for breakfasts on the weekend, or somewhere to grab a bite when you got home after work and realised all you had in your fridge was a piece of cabbage and an old jar of strawberry jam. The last suburb I lived in was Yarraville, a place booming with everything delicious and of course ‘hipster’ (the two just seem to have a lot in common). Just walking into the village on a sunday morning was an epic journey in itself, and you could smell the fresh coffee beans roasting from well beyond the train station. After breakfast, I’d pick up a lovely sourdough loaf from the local bakery, along with a cheeky croissant or two, and walk home in the early afternoon sunshine, contemplating where to have dinner that night. Ah the choices, the choices.
Going into the city and picking between sushi or laksa, Chinese or italian, Vietnamese or traditional British, Malaysian or Indian, contemporary Australian or Greek – the food choices are endless, in the multicultural hotpot that is Melbourne. Hell, I’m sure you could even pick up more authentic Japanese cuisine than in Japan. Melbourne is just that kind of city. Everything is real. Everything is awesome.
Now, anyone that has crossed my path would well know that I have been an Australian convert for many years. I have praised the laid back lifestyle, the open-minded and witty people, the fact that wine seems to compliment pretty much every meal (even breakfast at times), not to mention the rich multicultural society that gives Australia some of the best food and restaurants in the world (without a doubt!). And don’t get me started on the weather. I’ve never been one for snow, cold winters and rain. In other words, Australia has been my absolute Mecca!
Now that I’m back living in Norway, I’m having issues accepting that these wonderful things are suddenly gone from my life. Don’t get me wrong – Norway is great. It’s just different. For example, it’s hard to get a decent cup of coffee out of any major city. Sometimes it can even be hard to get a good one IN a major city . ‘Single, or double’ the waitress asks looking at me like it’s the most commonly asked question in the world. For some reason, coffee isn’t small, medium or large over here. All they want to know from me is whether or not I’d like a single or double shot of coffee. The size, or amount of milk poured in, is not even remotely up to me. One time, I got a coffee served in a soup bowl. I was confused to say the least. Another trend seems to be to serve a cafe latte with a plastic straw. I guess the reasoning behind it is that it’s a coffee with much more milk therefore aligning it with the milkshake family.
Then there’s the food. Now I do love my Norwegian food, and I do getamungstit with both liver pate and brown goat’s cheese. It’s just that no matter where you live, it’s nice to change it up once in a while. Like go to a proper Italian restaurant for a wood fire pizza, or how about Greek for fried saganaki, and I’m simply hanging for some authentic Chinese dumplings. However, this is simply a no-can-do over here. These immigrants just aren’t around to set up their restaurants. Instead, we have a few Pakistani kebab stores, and a few Chinese restaurants that have clearly done the whole Norwegian interpretation of their food (making it more suitable to the Norwegian pallet), except all it does is break the heart of someone who actually knows how Chinese food is meant to taste (and let me tell you there’s much more to it than simply throwing in a bit of oyster sauce). So, you may ask, what’s all this whinging about? Why don’t you just try and make this at home? Just try and re-create some great Mediterranean or Asian dishes in the comfort of your own kitchen. Yes, of course, that is all completely possible, and it’s just what we’ve been trying do. It would just be nice, every once in a while, to have the option to go out. Other than that, I suppose we can always fly straight to Rome for pasta, or Paris for cheese. It is, after all, just a few hours away.
There is obviously a lot on offer in Norwegian cities. I’m sure Oslo has a wide selection of cafe’s and restaurants, and so does Bergen, which is the town I live close to. However, out here in the suburbs, around 30 kilometres from Bergen town, it is simply just not happening. There are supermarkets, check, shopping malls, check, petrol stations, check, but no hipster cafes or cool coffee bars. No wine bar down the road, or excellent Mediterranean restaurants close by. Sometimes this new mother would have loved to leave the house with my baby-in-pram, head down the road and immerse myself in an inspirational coffee house. Forget for a moment that my hair is unwashed, tied up in a hopeless bun, because I didn’t have time to wash my hair today; hungry and coffee craving, because it was just too hard to butter up a sandwich at home with an infant in tow; to see other new mothers there, with their jumpers on inside-out, no make-up and that desperate look on their faces saying ‘I need a coffee, and you better make it a strong one!!’