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Starved for America

Thu, Apr 19th, 2012
Posted in All Norwegian Ancestry

I'm sitting in class, and all I can think of is my mom's scalloped potatoes. I'm riding on the bus, and a heaping bowl of Schwan's ice cream with Hershey's syrup and crushed peanuts will not have mercy on my mind. I'm staring into my empty cupboard, and I start to hallucinate visions of juicy hamburgers, Chipotle burritos, Barq's root beer and Oreos with peanut butter. You could say that I'm starved for America.

Now, of course, I don't really have empty cupboards, and I shouldn't be complaining about missing food from home because Norwegian food is delicious. But I have noticed that the more I have fallen into a routine, the less exciting Norwegian cuisine seems to be, and the more I miss food from home. However, I can already anticipate the Norwegian delicacies that I will miss once I arrive back in America.

Before coming abroad, I was very skeptical of the Scandinavian diet. This was warranted, I think, because what is scarier than lutefisk?! I heard that seasonings are just north of bland and everything tastes like fish because scraps are used for fertilizer. Luckily, this has not been the case.

I'm guessing that brutal treks across the mountains and long days on the farm inspired the Norwegians to always start their day with a hearty breakfast. The main difference from America is the lack of anything sweet at breakfast; while we have Pop Tarts and Captain Crunch, they have unsweetened porridge or a slice of bread with salami or brunost. Remember how I said that I'll miss some Norwegian delicacies? Brunost is definitely one of them. It is a smooth, silky cheese made with both cow and goat's milk, which is the best of both worlds in my book. During the process of making it, the sugar turns to caramel and gives it a light brown color; this, of course, is why it is called brunost, or "brown cheese."

Lunch is not taken too seriously because in the past, Norwegians relied on matpakke to get them through the full day of work or skiing. Matpakke is loosely translated to "food pack," and it's easily the most popular lunch choice for Norwegians bringing their food from home (a very common thing to do because food is so expensive). It is basically a stack of open-faced sandwiches topped with different types of cheese, meat and vegetables. Many sandwiches are also topped with slices of hard-boiled eggs and dollops of Norwegian caviar, which is a paste made of smoked cod roe.

Snacks in Norway can be as simple as an orange or a candy bar, but they also have some traditional foods that are commonly eaten between meals or at sporting events. The first is a waffle, which is very different from the American version because it is softer, thinner and made on an iron that creates heart-shaped pieces. These treats are often eaten with freshly whipped cream and a berry jam.

Believe it or not, the hot dog is one of the most commonly eaten foods in Norway. And after devouring hot dogs the Norwegian way, I don't think I can ever go back to the American style. The hot dogs are topped with ketchup, a delicious honey-mustard sauce (that I will undoubtedly be smuggling back to the States with me), and crispy fried onions. The best part, however, is that they are not eaten on a white hot dog bun but wrapped in lefse.

After enjoying brunost, sandwiches, waffles and hot dogs all day, Norwegians still take time to enjoy traditional dinners of fish, boiled potatoes and a salad of lettuce or cabbage. The absence of beef and pork is the biggest difference I have noticed, but like everywhere else in the world, globalization has forced common meals of pizza, lasagna and Asian dishes into the menu as well. Uff da . . . now I'm hungry.

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