I always thought an open-faced sandwich was just a way of cheating a low carb diet, but, it turns out, open-faced sandwiches are a staple of Danish cuisine. Smørrebrød, the open-faced sandwich that seems to be the face of nearly every restaurant and cafe across Copenhagen, still surprises me every time I see it. There are so many different variations from restaurant to restaurant it’s hard to keep track of which one of the many variations I’ve already tried and it seems impossible to try them all. Shroeder and Shroeder’s “Eating Smart in Denmark” mentions the original intentions of smørrebrød as a take away lunch option, back when bread was used as a plate. That may make it seem like these Danish sandwiches are small and a natural “to go” option, but their sky-high toppings make it quite the opposite. Even with a fork and knife, a smørrebrød is not the simplest thing to eat.
While there are traditional smørrebrød ingredients at nearly every place I’ve seen, the toppings and flavorings vary from place to place. But, if there’s one thing I’ve noticed from smørrebrød to smørrebrød, it’s that these toppings are always fresh, colorful, and delicately placed on top of rich rugbrød. It’s suiting that these open-faced sandwiches seem to be everywhere — they perfectly resemble Danish cuisine and foodways.
Danish cuisine is always fresh, and it’s apparent chefs receive their food from locally grown sources. Their food tastes real. Eggs are always “happy eggs,” as my mom calls them, and have a bright orange yolk. Even foods you wouldn’t consider to have a fresh taste, like French fries, have a certain crispiness, taste, and color that makes it seem like they’re fried in gold. This trend doesn’t just start and end with Danish cuisine but transcends into their international foods as chefs continue to use local and fresh ingredients. No matter where you end up having food, you can count on the ingredients being colorful, bright, and tasteful.
But, smørrebrød also represents how Danes eat together. I have never seen a Dane eating with someone while on their phone, which is something you don’t see in America very often. Every time I see them eating together, it looks as though they’re right at home, dining in their living room. They’re lively with each other, always relaxed, and open to each other, not closed off by technology or the constant rush we experience in America. There’s never a rush to order or finish, and it’s evident that they enjoy their time with each other. Much like Watson’s descriptions of McDonald’s in Hong Kong, in Copenhagen, food has a significant role in the social life of Danes. Restaurants serve as a setting to do more than just eat; they also serve as a place to connect. It seems like they’re a home away from home you can find anywhere within the city. Restaurants not only have the ambiance of home but the cooking of home. From the bottom of the plate to the top, it tastes like every piece is made with the same care you’d get with a home-cooked meal.
There’s no doubt that Copenhagen is home to a variety of different food options, from fancy to casual and Danish to international, you can always count on the food being fresh and locally sourced.