Where’s that hipster cafe and where’s my coffee?

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!!’

kaffe2 kaffe3 kaffe

 

 

norwegian food

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!!)

komle

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.

kaffe og vaflr

 

Pass me the guilt, please!

My favourite television show at the moment is ‘Little Paris kitchen’ (SBS, Thursday nights @ 8 pm), where a young lady from the UK is living it up as a cook and food writer in a tiny apartment in Paris. I’m completely obsessed with the show, and so are a lot of people around me. So, apart from the whole living in Paris scenario, what makes this show so good?

  1. Rachel Khoo (the cook and food writer) is wearing her excellent collection of vintage outfits, which includes funny coloured knitted socks. Of course everyone loves vintage, so it’s sure to be a hit.
  2. She’s got a fringe extraordinaire going on (from one fringe queen to the next).
  3. Apart from a super cute British accent, she speaks perfect Françoise, enough to make me embarrassed I ever tried to learn it for five years in school only to end up with a half dodgy ‘tu t’appelle comment?’
  4. She lives en PARI! (Ops, already said that).
  5. She cooks in a tiny kitchen, with one stove top and a tiny oven, which should make any poor student living in dire conditions ashamed of their baked beans on toast diet (ashamed, I tell you!).
  6. She gets to eat all the baguettes and cakes she wants because quite frankly, it tastes too damn nice to resist and besides, she lives in Paris for God’s sake.
  7. And staying on the matter of eating, the absolute BEST thing about this show is that Rachel is cooking with…drum roll please…. cheese, cream, sugar, chocolate and BUTTER!! (iiiikk).

Now, can I please at this point be allowed to have a nervous breakdown about all the guilt that exists in my life…….I mean, I eat BREAD (in fact I love bread so much I tend to have it for breakfast AND lunch!), I eat butter (oohhh), I eat cheese (Greek feta, goats cheese, brie, cheddar, you name it and I eat it, several times a week), I eat cream, I eat eggs (why hello cholesterol, and by the way: how un-vegan of me!), I eat potatoes after 7 pm and I eat pasta whenever I see fit (ravioli, spag bol, carbonara, sometimes even a cheeky mac and cheese however always homemade, not the processed stuff…ehhh). So please allow yourself to point the finger at me, because I have already declared myself well & truly guilty! I have absolutely no knowledge of any super foods; I have a dodgy old blender which hardly blends, inherited from my mother in law; my favourite drink is red wine (no healthy juices here) and every day, I eat a big, fatty avocado, as if it was some kind of healthy fruit! (duuuhhh..)

So here I was, looking at websites where women had substituted bread with dust, pasta with quinoa and coffee with something green and slimy (gives you great energy, apparently! Well, so does coffee!!!!!), thinking that ‘gee I must be half dead already’. As it that wasn’t enough, I also visited some strange online airwaves where super skinny women were photographing their super toned abs (steroids?), and their firm bums in the latest Nike run wear, whilst proclaiming their love for the gym (at least 7 times a week everyone, oh wait does that mean every day of the week, hmmm oh well who has a job and a life anyway!). The same women were cooking their gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, and hold on, sugar free foods, in other words food without the nasties, ‘the horrible stuff’ (i.e. flour) and at this point I felt just about ready to curl myself into a ball and rock back and forth whilst singing a hymn from my child hood.

But please, don’t get me wrong, I own both a gym membership AND a cookbook by Michelle Bridges. I also make a lot of wholesome home cooked meals, but I am not prepared to die of shame the next time I discover I don’t have much in the fridge because I work hard and catch public transport, and instead end up devouring boiled pasta with butter and parmesan cheese (and a maybe tiny bit of cheddar…!) for dinner. Or for enjoying sitting down at a street cafe with a cappuccino and a croissant, and for putting the finger up at the buckwheat chocolate cake. For me, life is all about give and take. I go to the gym, I love working up a sweat, and I love getting strong & fit. However I also cut myself some slack at the same time. Meaning I don’t always eat five a day (although I try my best) and I don’t need to be slaving in the kitchen for hours to make every tiny ingredient from scratch (and quite frankly, who the heck has the time to do that anyway)!

So here I was, feeling beyond guilty about my ‘crazy’ lifestyle: involving anything from coffee first thing in the morning, to a sandwich for lunch, and wait for it, roast potatoes and pan-fried fish (in butter of course) for dinner! And then Rachel came along, rosy cheeked and all smiles, cooking with beautiful French cheeses, cream and more than a dollop of salty, French butter! Can I just say….THANK YOU RACHEL! Not only for preparing and endorsing mouth-watering dishes on telly, but for being normal, and by that I mean having a normal body weight and cooking with simple, old-fashioned ingredients like white flour, caster sugar and filo pastry. I will not proceed to have a nervous breakdown then, after all, because at least now I know that there are two of us out there with our crazy, normal ‘eat everything in moderation’ diets!

Now, where is that smart phone so I can get a photo of those abs……..

#guilt #nervousbreakdown #howaboutsomechocolatecake?

Rachel KhooCheese_blog

 

LorraineRed_Wine_Glass