Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Light Meal

This blog is for my friend Ken Mueller, who is really into ethnic food. He's been bugging me since I got here to describe the food, so I'll do my best.
First of all, let me say that Norwegian food is, by definition, grouped into the general categories of 'Western ' and/or 'European'. So if you come from one of the countries in that group, you will find the food to be similar. However, there are distinct variations between countries and even within countries which we would call 'regional specialties'. This is also the case in Norway - just as there is dialect differentiation, there is culinary differentiation. This can be said to be due to geographical boundaries to some degree, but by and large the food people eat is similar across the breadth of the country.
Since Norway has traditionally been a country of farmers and fishermen (at least in the recent centuries, vikings having become more and more scarce), the fare you find here comes from the land and the sea.
S7302162.JPG A traditional meal can be seen here: bread and cheese. The bread is whole-grain, some of the tastiest bread I have eaten, and substantive - not fluffy and airy but thick and heavy and filling. The cheese comes in many different varieties (Jarlsberg on the left), but the favorite of most Norwegians is their special brown goat's cheese, seen on the right. This is made from the milk of goats that graze in high mountain pastures, and every region of Norway makes their own - differing slightly in texture and flavor. It is extremely flavorful - almost nutty - and sweet.
S7302164.JPG Another specialty to be eaten with bread is Norwegian honey. The most special kind of honey can be seen in the foreground of this picture and is hard like butter. This kind of honey must be spread with a knife, and it melts on warm bread or toast. In the back, right, you can see a Norwegian cheese slicer, which is probably the best kind of slicer that is made. Personally, with my toasted, honeyed bread and cheese I like something a bit sweet - in this case banana, which is not native to Norway. During the summer and fall, though, other fruits come into season. Norwegian apples are especially well known and are exported to many countries. This particular part of Norway, along Hardanger Fjord, is famous for its cherry orchards and in the spring many tour buses come through to view the cherry blossoms along the roads. I love cherries, so maybe I'll go and pick some when they come in. =)
S7302168.JPG<S7302172.JPG As a side note, we keep our bread in a traditional place - two large ceramic pots upended on one another. It keeps the bread fresh for weeks on end. Usually we finish the bread off long before that, but it's amazing how fresh it keeps in these pots.
So that's a Norwegian meal! We eat a lot of other things besides bread and cheese and honey, of course, but this is a traditional light meal here in Norway. If you have lots of bread and cheese and honey, it could be a heavy meal I suppose... but this kind of takes the edge off for most people. I'll try to get another blog up here before too long that's just about food. Just for you, Ken!

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