I’ll never forget the first Christmas Eve my dad set the plate in front of me. My eyes barely peeking above the table surface while aunts, uncles and cousins all watched proudly as if my baptism had finally come. The giggling mash of fish jello wafted a rotten smell. My stomach churned. I shoveled in a heaping scoop and grimaced while it sank down my gullet.
Frankly I’m still unsure why of all the cultural traditions to come out of Norway, fermented fish jello, or lutefisk, is one of the few we keep alive across the pond. Trust me when I say there are more exciting, better smelling ways to celebrate (ie lefse). Nevertheless, when taking my first stroll around Oslo, my first time in the country, many food stereotypes I held close were quickly proved false.
In Oslo there are seemingly more burger joints and tiny kebab/falafel restaurants than pairs of blue eyes. The supermarkets have aisles lined with frozen pizzas and Tex-Mex ready-to-serve. I shouldn’t have expected anything different from a modern society, but this severe westernization of day-to-day diet took me by surprise. I had romanticized the markets to be filled with the latest catch and other seafoods, maybe a butcher, and undoubtedly a vast selection of cheeses. I will say, the cheese selection is impressive, but the other produce is simply underwhelming.
Now my task for these next three weeks is to hunt down these iconic foods, and authenticate my Norwegian experience a bit. I’ll stay away from anything fermented for now, but I’m on a mission to eat my way through the best Norwegian culture has to offer. Stay tuned.