when i was living in melbourne, july was the coldest month of the year. i had started to associate july with short, rainy days, poor indoor heating systems, blankets & rugs & trackies, electric blankets in bed, cardies & mockies, bottles of red on a wednesday night and lots and lots of hot chocolate.
in norway, july is the month of absolute summer joy. the days are humid and warm, and as most people are on holiday from work, there is this real sense of peace and serenity around us. traffic is good, supermarkets half empty and the residential streets are filled with happy kids on school holidays. the rugged fjord landscape has been turned into impromptu swimming spots, and people are setting up their little “take away” barbecues anywhere and everywhere. our short winter days have been replaced with never ending summer nights, that just go on and on, and you wonder when you’re going to be able to have an early night, because it is simply impossible to hit the sack before 1 am. in the balmy night, we dream of dark, green grass, and black rocks leading into the dark blue sea. in the morning, we wake early, full of anticipation of what’s to come, another day in july, the month we dream of all year, and that keeps us sane during the darkest of times.
sometimes, you couldn’t ask for more, and we know it so well. this is bliss, this is life at its best, knowing that everything happens right now, and we are lucky enough to be here to experience it.
There’s nothing quite like Norwegian summer. Just like that, winter has lost its grip on the landscape and nature has undergone a complete transformation. Gradually, we have witnessed our surroundings turn green and seen what miracles can be achieved in just a week, sometimes even just a day. When the world is green, it’s easy to forget that it’s not always like this. It’s hard to remember that winter is always there, always behind the scenes, waiting, lurking, making sure of his return, once summer has done its time. But for now, we enjoy these peaceful, light summer nights. It’s hard to go to bed before midnight, and even harder to sleep past 7 am. It gives me endless peace to look outside just before I go to bed, seeing the green, luscious landscape hovering out there, and to think about how the sun sets for just a few hours before she is back for another day of bliss.
I love this country living. The familiar smell of freshly cut grass in the warm summer sun makes me so happy I’m about to burst. The subtle, but distinct sounds of the farm surroundings – some birds chirping, insects buzzing and the quiet wind brushing over the green landscape. It’s absolute bliss.
When I lived in Melbourne, dinner at a restaurant was common practice several times a week, and Italian wood fire pizzas one of my absolute favourites. Now that I’m back in Norway, authentic wood fire pizza is unfortunately not so easy to come by, that is unless you make it yourself. So this Saturday, Matt bought a pizza stone, which is literally just a stone you heat in the oven and put the pizza on to bake. We made some the same day, and it was divine! I recommend simple toppings such as pepperoni, mozzarella, anchovies, parmesan and basil.
We also visited an old farm on the weekend, that didn’t even have a road connected to it. The weather was warm & sunny, and we walked through a little forrest to get there. The main house was from 1868 and it was all so typically Norwegian that I almost wanted to buy it, get some goats and live happily ever after!
I wasn’t quite sure if this blogging thing was right for me. That’s why I kept quiet for ages, and let my old page turn dusty.
Now I’ve got a second wind, after the talented hjartesmil worked her magic and created this new, pretty page for me.
So much has happened in my life in the last 6 months. New country, new home, new job, new daily life, new routines, new existence. Baby boy due in 8 weeks. Matt practicing his Norwegian with me every night at the dinner table. Feeling like life is starting again, somehow, and that the past is just a distant dream. All thanks to this growing presence within, the one I can feel, but who I don’t know yet. It’s a beautiful thing.
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.
Ai, ai ai, Norwegian Wood has been quiet for way too long! My sincere apologies to all you great people out there.
I’ve just been having too much fun! How you say? Well, it certainly involved leaving dreary, wintery Melbourne behind. So after a quick stop over for some much needed rays in Bali, we headed off to… (drumroll)…Norway! Had a fantastic time; ate lots of untoasted bread with liver pate and hiked up mountains just for the sake of it. Norwegian living at its best!
Breakfast. It’s the new dinner. All over Melbourne, people are ditching the old classic ‘toast with vegemite’ for a deliciously cooked breakfast, and I’m not talking about the traditional bacon and eggs. The varieties are endless, and it seems the more unconventional, the more exciting. What may have started out as a bit of sassy avocado on the side, has now evolved into breakfast on steroids. There are Middle Eastern breakfasts, Spanish breakfasts, Mexican breakfasts and Singaporean breakfasts. There are croissants and baguettes, straight from the boulangerie, and various 1950s inspired fruit buns and scones from the hipster bakery around the corner (and yes, that is an apron from your grandma’s collection they are wearing). You can order the crocodile and emu sausage, cooked in a skillet with spinach and melted Yarra Valley cheddar, or the haloumi stack with potato hash, poached eggs and Egyptian dukkah. Or how about poached eggs on a lemon infused roquet salad with parmesan cheese, Tasmanian smoked salmon and smashed avocado (I once got a lemon wedge on the side of my breakfast, and got scared and chucked it on the floor because I didn’t know what to do with it). In fact, it shouldn’t really be necessary to eat anything else on the day of your chosen brekkie, because you’ve already covered lunch and dinner IN the serving (not to mention at least 5 of the essential food groups). Don’t get me wrong, I’m always happy to step away from the dry piece of toast first thing in the morning. I’m just really curious to see what’s next in the world of over the top (otherwise known as OTT) breakfast varieties. Perhaps it will be meatballs (3 ways) on sourdough with creme anglaise and a touch of peanut butter caramel sauce? Or twice cooked pork belly with poached eggs and fried porchini mushrooms? Every day of the week, and it doesn’t even have to be the weekend, people cram themselves into tiny inner city Cafe localities, containing more tables than they can really fit in, to enjoy the comfort of a fabulously cooked breakfast and barista quality coffee (btw, it’s no longer good enough to drink coffee from your $1000 coffee machine at home, ok?). Young families throw their kids into retro, vintage high chairs and tell them to save the crying for later, as the parents are on a quest for the perfect breakfast. While the kids are hanging off their chairs and whinging for brekkie at Maccas, their parents are frothing in whipped avocado, sourdough bakery goods and double smoked Italian pancetta, (organic of course), and free range, and ethically sourced and produced and, and hang on, if it’s made in Italy, doesn’t that mean a massive carbon footprint..?…Anyway, moving on, if you are one of those people who dare to whip up a brekkie at home, make sure you hide under your bed whilst consuming it, as the monster Cafe brekkies will point the finger at you and laugh in that ‘muahhhaaaahaaaaa’ kinda way. It could almost make you go nostalgic on instant coffee and toasted crumpets!
Meanwhile, my husband is still trying to supress his memory of breakfast in Norway, where he was forced (he says forced, I will only account for coerced) into downing liver pate on untoasted rye bread before 9 am on Sunday mornings, whilst nipping at the cold meats selection on hand (I think the special Christmas meats he referred to as ‘Frankenstein meats’ were his favourite) and getting thrown the occasional piece of mustard infused herring (or rotten fish as he so fondly nicknamed it). However by the way things are going, maybe this could be the latest trend to hit Melbourne? After all, that’s just what this city needs: another breakfast variety to make your head spin before 10 am on an otherwise peaceful Saturday morning!