No, I’m not talking about the new hip-hop song, “Norwegian Food” from Joey Baddass (because you know I’m a huge hip-hop fan), I’m talking about actual food of course.
If you’ve been reading here just a bit, you know how much I love food. It’s kind of funny, because if you had met me at the age of twelve, you would never ever imagine I’d become such a foodie. As a kid, I didn’t like much of anything. I could barely chew a piece of chicken, as I would let it clump up in my mouth like some sort of gummy cement and then felt like I would surely choke if I swallowed it. I could only eat chicken wings with their fatty, tiny slivers of meat. I stuck to the American “classics” of macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, rice a roni, BLT sandwiches, ravioli, bagels, and fried rice. Luckily my dad (who in his spare time became a nutritionist in the 70s), continued to serve us a salad with fruit and veggies every night with dinner, so I managed to do okay with that stuff.
I grimaced my way through his mushy brown rice, whole wheat linguini, and even whole wheat pancakes. Funny how it took me twenty years to see the value in how clean he was eating. Even more so today – my dad eats no beef, no pork, no white flour products, no sugar, no butter, no salt…basically everything is all-natural with either just one or a few ingredients and nothing processed. He was doing it before ‘raw’ and ‘vegan’ and ‘gluten-free’ were cool. He already knew.
I know moving to Chicago 15 years ago, had a huge impact on the expansion of my food horizons. Since my job at ABC greatly entailed covering new restaurants, I was quickly eating Sushi, Indian, Middle Eastern and everything in between. Plus, not only was I growing, so was America’s general restaurant-scene and attitude. Ethnic spots were no longer just Chinese and Italian. Sushi, Thai, and falafel was becoming normal and no longer exotic or scary.
And now as I travel, trying the local foods has basically become the most important part of my trip. And, now, I too eat healthier than I ever have. I don’t come close to my dad’s diet, but I don’t eat much meat anymore (I never buy it at home) and am trying to eat real foods and much less processed.
So, what about Norway’s food, you ask? Oh yeah.
Norwegian Food did not disappoint me, especially the breakfast.
Norway Buffet Breakfasts
I am really not sure whose was better: Sweden’s or Norway’s. I’m talking about frokost here – breakfast.
This ain’t no ‘continental’ American-style affair. I don’t think I stayed at one hotel in either country that didn’t include a huge spread, yes an actual Smörgåsbord (okay, that’s actually a Swedish word, the Norwegian word is: koldtbord) of deliciousness with which to start your day…or cause you to want to go back up to bed for a nap.
Here, the day does not start with a paltry glass of juice and a muffin. Oh no. These are luscious, gluttonous even, full-on buffets o’ plenty. The worst part was simply remembering moderation while all this glorious bounty tauntingly sat in front of me. Oh the shame. Every hotel I stayed in (now granted I was staying at some pretty posh spots this go around) trumped the last with their A.M. offerings.
Norwegian Breakfast Fare
Most of these foods were at every one of them: choices of at least three different kinds of herring (cream sauce, mustard sauce – my favorite, and pickled with onions), beautiful pink and glossy smoked salmon, salty and decadent smoked mackerel (I can’t get enough of this), hard and soft boiled eggs, sausages, several types of cheeses (like the nation’s Jarlsberg (Yarlz-berg) which is a mild-cow milk variety similar to Swiss cheese), sliced meats like salami, a Prosciutto-like ham, caviar, my new favorite – Kaviar spread (kind of like taramosalata for all your Greek fans), cereals, yoghurt, dried fruits, fresh pineapple, watermelon, kiwi, grapes and of course baskets of carby goodness – croissants, warm multi-grain loves, Wasa crisp bread in a multitude of varieties, lefse (a soft flat bread), dense, healthier multi-grains, and pastries of course. Luckily, I’m not much of a bread eater. I’d rather have more smoked fish. And I did. The whole thing was heaven on earth or hell…because if I ate it all I’d surely be returning home a size larger than when I left. Or maybe I did.
Every buffet included what is likely the ONLY cheese on earth I do not like: Brunost (brown cheese). This is said to be Norway’s vegemite. You either love it or hate it. And most locals who grew up eating it, love it. It is a sweet-savory cheese that never goes through any maturation. Since my love of cheese is a result of its saltiness, this oddly sweet, caramelized cheese did not do it for me.
Smoked Salmon, Lox, Gravlax
Whatever you call it, I LOVE it. As a nice Jewish girl from New Jersey, I was weaned on bagels with cream cheese and lox. Yum. To me this is comfort food. It tastes like home. It tastes like being with my grandparents on Sunday mornings. It makes me feel warm and good inside. AND chock full of Omega 3s, it is good for me (when you overlook the sodium content) too.
Norway’s long coastline and many fjords, with cold, clean water, make Norway one of the world’s biggest exporters of fish. Not only is there a lot of fish, it is also said to be very high quality because the fish here grow more slowly in the cold water so their flesh develops a firmer structure with more flavor than fish in warmer waters.
Smoked salmon is the one traditional Norse dish with a claim to international popularity. Traditionally, gravlaks would be salted, buried in the ground and left to ferment. Contemporary gravlaks, however, is salt-and-sugar-cured salmon seasoned with dill and (optionally) other herbs and spices. More please.
Disclosure: During my time in Norway, I was a guest of Visit Norway. As always, all opinions are my own.