Copenhagens Confused Cuisines

When I have been asked about what the food is like here, I am disappointed to say that I haven’t really seen anything new. I believe that this is because the shock factor of being in a new place and seeing familiar names, I want to compare them as much as possible. When my plane landed in Copenhagen, I wasn’t surprised to see a Burger King, 7/11 and Starbucks in the airport, as these are global icons and airports will commonly have these staples. However, when I hopped onto the metro I thought I was leaving my American food and brands behind. Little did I know that the first thing my eyes would see in the city Copenhagen would be a 7/11. As I couldn’t believe it, I turned around and saw another directly across from it, immediately as I got off the train. Now curious about the American influences in the city, I took a moment to really try to read the signs around me. To my wandering eyes, I saw a McDonald’s accompanied by a Burger King advertisement next door. At this point I realized that some of the comforts of home would be easy to find. 

It has been easy to find my preferred foods whilst navigating the Copenhagen foodscape. One of those foods is a sandwich, which can be found on any corner in a couple of different ways. It is harder to find the top piece of bread for my sandwich though as they usually have an open-faced version called smorrebrod. According to an article by Carol Schroeder titled The Cuisine of Denmark (pg11) the traditional Danish sandwich has been around since the 1840’s and loosely to the Middle Ages as a working-class lunch and are now currently eaten with a fork and a knife. 

Because Copenhagen is such an international city, most areas can be filled with tourists at any given moment. There have been many occasions where a single Dane couldn’t be seen in the shop, as immigrants from places like Czech Republic or Greece served its sole customers at the same moment, a group of 5 girls on study abroad from America. Picking the Dane out of the crowd is easy though at lunch time, especially in cafés that served sandwiches. We sat next to a Danish family one day who ordered the same sandwich we did, however they ate it completely different than how we just pick it up and eat it. They gracefully removed the top slice of bread and picked off a little bit of lettuce and then proceeded to eat it in a snore rod style.

Much like in an article by Amy Choi on what Americans can Learn from Other Food Cultures, I have seen a lot of food in boxes. What I mean by this is that you see the stereotypical foods that are seen on every corner in the United States- burgers and pizza. What makes this different however though is that they are often served under the same roof with some sort of shawarma as well. City centers like Copenhagen draw many people from around the world, some for work and others for pleasure, but there’s always a taste for everyone. A cultural melting pot, this area tries to highlight its diversity in quick serve restaurants, even though they are mostly “Darwinian” as Amy Choi would say. These are foods that aren’t made with love, but made to help immigrants survive. What Copenhagen lacks however, is quick serve traditional Danish food. This is due to the fact that Danes were more interested in other Western European cuisines more than their own (pg15 Schroeder). When we sat down with local wine bar and boutique owner of Rudder and Vins, he made it very clear to us that in order to have a fancy restaurant, it had to be Italian or French, never Danish.Through doing this, they were taking their own culture for granted, depriving Danes of quality cultural cuisines. Much like we have our steak houses because we love our meats (Choi), I couldn’t think of a place that particularly satisfies the average Danish food identity. In the coming weeks, I hope to change this observation, as I can’t leave without experienced Copenhagen’s true cultural cuisine.

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