Unique New Nordic Experience

When I heard that we were going to a fancy three course meal restaurant, I was intrigued because it is something I would never choose to do on my own, since it is so expensive. I was expecting that I would be served tiny portions of food that I probably would not like, but I still wanted to try everything because why not. I also expected it to be a lot like a scene in the movie Always Be My Maybe where they go to a fancy restaurant and eat crystallized lavender sugar bubbles. I thought it would be eating a lot of strange things that you would never even imagine being edible. However, based on what we read about this type of food in the New Nordic Cuisine Manifesto, the chefs who created this cuisine made a 10-point manifesto so that everyone has the same idea of what types of food are prepared and what foods can be used in certain seasons. I enjoyed that this was an aspect of new Nordic cuisine because, in America, people all have different opinions about what kinds of food are considered American. I was excited about this last meal, and I kept an open mind for the food that I was about to try.

When we arrived at Höst, we were told to go downstairs to the staff table in the cellar. It was sort of strange that we were not walked to our table because that is something that would have happened in the U.S. I was also disappointed about eating in the cellar because it was quite plain in comparison to the rest of the restaurant, but I knew that our group was too large to fit upstairs. The part of the cellar we were in had a country rustic feel to it, had a plant in one of the windows, and about five pizza peels were hung on the wall. The lights above us were dimmed, and there was an open archway that led to the other tables. Our table had lit candles, bottles of still and sparkling water, a bowl of two types of bread on hay, and butter on a ceramic dish. The atmosphere was a lot calmer than I expected it to be, and more casual because some people were wearing shorts, while others were wearing suits and dresses. Throughout the meal, there was an excited mood since everyone was unsure of what was being served and no one from our group had been to such a fancy dining experience before.

Once we were all settled, our waitress came to ask if anyone wanted to order any wine as we waited for our first appetizer. Before eating, we were informed that the chefs at Höst change their menu every week, which I found interesting because they want to get the freshest, locally sourced, and in-season produce every week. This is something I also expected because Matt Goulding explained in his article that new Nordic chefs stopped importing produce from different countries. Instead, chefs get it from local farms, since farmers like Søren Wiuff expanded the types of foods that they grew, and they can get better foods from Scandinavia than other countries. Once the wines were served, our first surprise appetizer of shrimp salad cups, radishes, and pickled strawberries, on top of charcoal. The next expected dish was raw salmon with cucumbers, red tomatoes, and a dill spiced horseradish sauce. Our third surprise appetizer was a malt pancake with crab salad and onions, which also had intense flavors from the onion and leafy greens that were inside, so I only liked the crab salad that was inside of it. The fourth dish was our main course, and it was baked hake with green asparagus and fish fume. The fifth surprise dish was a liquid nitrogen cream that had a coffee flavor and a tiny pine cone placed on top, and it sat on a plate of pine needles. The final dessert was Danish strawberries with yogurt sorbet and rhubarb. There was quite a bit of time in between each course being served, but it felt like you had to be done when everyone else was because the waitress took all the plates away at the same time before the next course came. When each new dish arrived, everyone at our table became hushed as we anxiously awaited to be told what we would be eating.

I was not too wowed by many of the dishes that we were served. The only part of our main course that I loved was the piece of asparagus, it was probably the best asparagus I have ever had, and I wish I had a whole plate of it. However, I still ate all the appetizers, even though they were not my ideal choices. The raw salmon was probably my least favorite dish because I do not like raw fish, it had interesting flavors, but it tasted too fishy to me. The one extra dish that I was unable to eat was the pine cone dish because I am allergic to pine trees, and I just never thought that I would need to worry about eating a pine cone. My favorite part of the meal was the sorbet dessert because it was sweet, creamy, and had hints of fennel, so it was delicious and looked beautiful. I enjoyed that for certain dishes, the waitress would come back after setting out plates down, to add a sauce to the fish. The food at Höst was what I had expected it to be because it was quite fresh and they told you where certain fish or vegetables came from, which is an aspect that new Nordic chefs add to their eating experience.

It was something fun to experience with all my friends on the last night because everyone was trying something new. I probably would never go to a restaurant like this ever again because it is just not the types of food that I enjoy. I would not say that I felt full from all of these courses, but I was pleased with what I tried because it was all new to me. I am glad that I had this experience because I most likely would never have chosen to do it on my own since it was so expensive. Overall, it was a truly unique experience.

A Concept Americans Could Never Fathom (But Hopefully Will Consider)

When we were told that we would be volunteering with Foodsharing Copenhagen, I was excited because I had never heard of anything like it. Before we arrived in Copenhagen, our professor had told us that the organization takes vans to get food that would have been thrown out. The volunteers then lay it out on tables and give it away to those who wait in line for it. Going into volunteering with them, I had expected this straightforward explanation, but there ended up being a lot more to it. When we arrived on our first volunteer day, it was calm when Luke, one of the board members, gave us an overview of food sharing before our shift started. Once we got inside, it took a little while for everything to get started because the organization had recently been told they need to meet food and health requirements, which caused come chaos since it changed how they functioned. This had visibly thrown a wrench in their system because those who had volunteered there regularly were confused by all the new requirements, such as cleaning all the crates regularly, cleaning the tables, and throwing away any food that touched the ground and did not have a peel. I think the first week we volunteered may have just been one of their off weeks since there were new changes, but the other weeks still had their challenges as well.

Some of the food set out at our second food sharing event

This lack of organization surprised me because generally people who volunteer places in the U.S. regularly, know exactly what to do and know what position they will be in throughout it, but many of them did not. I think their volunteers also do not come to Foodsharing Copenhagen consistently every week and the new regulations made the process more difficult, so those could be some reasons for them not being as organized currently. The first shift was very interesting to experience since it was like nothing I had ever done, and it blew my mind that all the food they brought in three trucks was only 10 percent of the food that would be wasted. It was also interesting that people within a Copenhagen community decided to create this type of food sharing event because in America this type of thing would be sanctioned by the U.S. government.

While volunteering, I think sometimes it was hard for me to think about all the benefits of the experience because I initially focused on everything I noticed as different from volunteering in America. One of the incredible benefits is that when volunteering, I met people from Prague, England, France, and many other countries. It was so interesting to see so many people from different parts of Europe coming together for the common goal of reducing food waste and increasing sustainability. This helped me in accomplishing a personal goal of meeting people from other countries and having conversations about where we both live. I also really enjoyed handing out the food at the second shift because you got to see all the food dwindle, and people appeared to be grateful for receiving whatever was available. One of the difficulties I had with volunteering in Denmark is that sometimes the board members who volunteered weekly would get “breaks” which would be just standing around and not do anything for an extended amount of time. This bothered me because every organization I have volunteered for in America had the leaders working hard the whole time and delegating roles. I believe this is where our cultures may differ in volunteering because in the U.S. people are very concerned about getting things done as quickly and efficiently as possible, and in Denmark, it was a little more relaxed. I think it was also difficult being an outsider because you did not get breaks and communication with some of the other volunteers or people who came to get food was difficult. This was also challenging because if they had a hard time speaking English, and we did not know their language, we had to think of different ways to explain certain things or use gestures. Although I had certain obstacles, it was fun to try to overcome them, and I learned to adjust to these new situations.

When I first heard about Foodsharing Copenhagen, I thought that it is an amazing concept because here you do not have to prove that you are low-income, and anyone can come that wants to reduce food waste. In the U.S. you would have to have some sort of form that indicated you do not make a lot of money and deserve to get free food because the notion is not to reduce food waste but to help those in need. I think once I participated in the organization, my view did not change because it proved to be an interesting idea to help waste less food. At this pace, I think it does not have the potential to eliminate food waste since they only pick up 10 percent of the food that will be thrown away, but it is still beneficial to allow people to get free food that would otherwise be thrown out. This experience changed my idea of food waste and food justice because now I am more conscious about the foods I buy and what I throw out, and you do not always need to buy the prettiest pieces of food because the ugly ones can still be edible. Selina Juul, a food waste advocate, explained that food waste is a problem world-wide because in places like America, it is easy to do, and no one thinks anything of it since there is so much food available. Since volunteering in Foodsharing Copenhagen, I have been more careful about what I buy because I watched those who came to get food strategically take only what they needed and would use. Based on what I have seen with those who volunteer for Foodsharing Copenhagen, I believe Americans have a lot to learn about being more sustainable with their eating habits.

The food sharing idea would be something I would like to bring home because in the U.S. food waste and food insecurity is a huge problem. Michael Pollan explained in his article that Americans have never had to think about the effect their wasting of food has on the planet because they spend less on it, cook less, and eat more processed food. However, I think this reducing food waste in this way would be difficult to bring home since Americans have the mentality that only those who are food insecure should be able to get free food. I think it would be difficult for people to understand that it is more about reducing food waste than helping those who cannot afford food. When I go back home, I think I am going to make those around me more aware of how much they buy and throw out because many people buy more than what is needed. This volunteering experience has truly enhanced my adventures in Denmark because food sharing is something I may never be able to get to do again in America, but it also gives me the opportunity to bring ideas from it home.

Shelby, me, Brittany, Rachel, Grace, and Emilia at our second Foodsharing Copenhagen event

Classic Italian in Denmark

Choosing the restaurant to go to for my ethnography was a difficult choice. Initially, I had wanted to go to Nova because it was around the corner from our DIS housing. We had seen it as we were walking back from class and we had noticed there was a lunch deal from 11 am to 5 pm. However, when Shelby and I were walking towards Nova at around 4:45 pm, we noticed that the restaurant across the way, Ristorante Italiano, smelled delicious, and the food looked better. We quickly looked at the menu, noticed they also had a lunch deal for pasta and pizza, so we asked if the deal would still be available. The waiter quickly looked at his watch and said we could get the deal because we would have 10 minutes until 5 pm. He motioned for us to sit in the outdoor seating, so we sat at a table that was close to two girls, and we noticed that there was also indoor seating. Large umbrellas cover the outdoor seating, there are heaters for the cold nighttime weather, and each seat has a blanket. The tables are placed close together and set up with small plates, napkins, gingham table cloths, an ashtray, seasonings, and oils. The outside is also lined with older pictures of the restaurant, as well as the walls are covered in vines, and fresh flowers hang on the walls and sat on the tables. The restaurant had a romantic and cozy setting for customers to enjoy a nice meal outside.

We quickly decided what we wanted, and I ordered spaghetti with carbonara sauce, and bacon and Shelby ordered cannelloni with ricotta cheese and spinach that was baked in a ceramic dish. Pork is indeed served in many meals, so much so that it was in my meal at this Italian restaurant. Overgaard explained in her article that pork is so prevalent in everyday Danish dishes, that certain Danes are concerned that the traditional meat will be replaced for certain religions that do not eat pork (p. 2). However, it would be narrow-minded to say that pork must be eaten because it is a Danish tradition, there should be options not to have pork in meals if a customer request for there not to be. I do believe that if I had said I could not eat pork at this restaurant, they would have accommodated to my needs and not put it on the dish.

As Shelby and I waited for our meals, we noticed that this restaurant was tourist-friendly because there was a lot of English on the signs, tables, and menus. All the waiters and waitresses spoke English as well, but we found out that most of them are from Italy or Argentina, so occasionally they used Italian phrases such as bon appetit, finita, and grazie. It was interesting because the waiters and waitresses would communicate with each other while working if they needed help or a favor, so it was nice to see them working together since they always looked busy. Since this was a fancier restaurant, they wore a white button-up shirt, black pants, shoes, and an apron. The manager was always walking around the outdoor area and appeared friendly because he was patting customer’s shoulders, shaking hands, and greeting people as they came up to the restaurant. One waiter even walked around singing and for some reason when he saw my pop socket on the table he touched it with his finger and said, “beep beep,” which confused me, but also made me laugh. Overall, we both enjoyed that we were eating Italian food made by people from Italy because we are a lot closer to Italy now than we have ever been.

Their menu, including both English and Italian explanations
Their informative table cover in English

In the outside dining area, there was never anyone eating alone; since it seemed to be a tourist spot, there were mostly middle-aged men and women, a few younger couples, and only a couple families with younger children. There were more women seated than men, and there were many groups of middle-aged women, so it appeared to be a meeting spot for them. The waitress came and gave us a bread basket, but there was nothing to put on the bread. We soon realized that we shared the oil and vinegar with the table next to us, so we asked them if we could use it. I do not think it is normal to interact with other customers at restaurants in Copenhagen because these girls looked at us weird for interrupting their conversation, but politely said we could. As we sat there, eating bread, multiple cars, bikes, and people went by, as well as a shirtless man with a parrot on his shoulder. Many people ate their pizza with a fork and knife. Most of the customers cleaned their plate, which showed that they were all pleased with the space and the taste of the food. We also noticed that no phones were used while eating because they were all talking to each other. Observing families and couples being social was one of the reasons I had wanted to go to a sit-down restaurant, rather than a fast-food restaurant. This is because as Pollan explained Janet Flammang’s views in his article, family meals are becoming increasingly less social with the convenience food movement (p. 10-11). Since this restaurant attracted mostly tourists who were passing by on the street, everyone appeared to enjoy their meal while chatting with those at their table after a long day of sight-seeing.

Ten minutes later, the food arrived. This was the fastest service we had gotten in Denmark at a restaurant so far. Shelby noticed her food was hot, while mine was only warm, but this could have been because hers was baked in a ceramic bowl. My spaghetti had a light, but creamy carbonara sauce, as well as a lot of pepper and bacon. Shelby’s cannelloni seemed like the ricotta and spinach mix was premade, then rolled in the pasta, and baked in the creamy tomato sauce. My food tasted as though it was freshly prepared, and it was delicious. Also, since Americans love ice, we were surprised to notice that they served their drinks with a lot of ice, unlike many of the restaurants we have been to in Denmark. While we ate, there was quiet chatter from everyone around us, but it was not loud and obnoxious as some American restaurants tend to be. Halfway through, a man came and sat down across the street to play music on his guitar that added to the ambiance, and he later came through the tables politely asking for money. The waiters and waitresses were so busy running around helping people or setting tables, that they never came to check on us during the dinner, which is typical of a restaurant in Denmark.

Our Italian pasta dishes

As soon as we finished, a waiter bussed our table. Since it was a tight space, they were quick to spread tables apart to fit in more guests. They were also quick to change the flowers on the tables to candles as it became later at night. They were so fast at everything that I felt the need to get out of there because they were looking at us constantly while we sat and observed. This was something new that I had not experienced in Denmark before because generally, they have left you alone while eating and did not rush you out. When we decided we were done, we caught a server’s attention and requested to have our bill, and we just left the money inside of it on the table. After we paid, we wanted to look inside the restaurant and see the rest of the seating. One of the waiters escorted us throughout the inside, showing us that they could fit 100, 200, and up to 500 customers as the seating continued down the hall and to the basement. Everyone there made it a very welcoming experience, and they were all kind when we spoke to them.  

Their outdoor seating
One part of their indoor seating

Denmark Dished Out

So far, I have been happy with all the food I have tried in Denmark, except for one meal at Wok On because they could not make it their noodle dish without onions, and it ended up being loaded with them. I was not exactly sure what Danish food was before coming here. However, Schroder and Schroeder emphasized in their article that pork, rye bread, and potatoes are staples in their diet (p. 6-7). Smørrebrød is also a type of food specific to Danes, which is an open-faced sandwich with many toppings on it and uses only one slice of bread. It is so popular that when we went to eat sandwiches at the Marble Church Café, I witnessed a Dane who was eating a sandwich with two slices of bread, take off the top layer of bread to eat it as if it was open-faced with a knife and fork. Smørrebrød appears to be a type of modern Danish food because I have yet to taste a traditional Danish meal of a protein and a starch. I believe I have not tried traditional Danish food because Fie and Zoe explained during our food tour that Danes are not particularly proud of their food. Hopefully, in the next few weeks I will be able to eat traditional Danish food. 

Turkey, mozzarella, avocado, and mayo sandwich from the Marble Church Cafe

My favorite meal so far was at Sweet Street, where I had a simple grilled sandwich with smoked ham, provolone, mayonnaise, and tomatoes on rye bread. I am surprised that I liked Danish ham and rye bread because I do not like it back in the U.S. I believe it has to do with their ham being less salty and thick, and their rye bread is much softer, as well as has a different flavor in general than what is made back home. Schroeder and Schroeder also explained in their article that rye bread has been made in Denmark for over 1,500 years and worked well with the climate, so it is understandable for Danes to continue to eat it over the years (p. 6). They also discussed that the Dutch farmers brought cabbage and carrots to Danish agriculture (p. 8). I noticed this was popular with a couple of the meals I had because at the Hungry Dane, they put both carrots and cabbage as a topping on my burger and it was included as a side of coleslaw for another meal at TGI Fridays.

Ham, provolone, mayo, and tomato sandwich from Sweet Street
All beef no patty burger, topped with cabbage and carrots, from the Hungry Dane
Chicken fingers with a side of coleslaw and fries at TGI Fridays

Danish foodways are exceedingly different than American foodways. In one aspect, they are more social than ours because they have large community meals, and when they are eating out, they tend to eat with many friends or some family for long periods. Their meals also appear to have more of a leisure aspect that allows them to take their time eating. Whereas in America, eating tends to be less of a social opportunity because everyone is always in a hurry, so there is less time spent eating. In a way, I enjoy Danish foodways more because you are never rushed to get out of the restaurants. Whereas, in America, the waiters are always rushing customers to get out of the restaurant quickly, and everyone eats quickly. It has been challenging to get used to the service of their restaurant staff because as an American, I have the mentality of when I am waiting for the check or the waiter, that I am wasting time. It was not necessarily that I felt that the waiters have been rude, but I was thinking about all the other things I could have been doing while I was waiting to find them. I believe this is one of the things about Danish foodways that made me think differently about American foodways because I enjoy not being rushed to eat. I believe it would be beneficial if restaurants in America were less focused on getting more customers in and more focused on letting people enjoy their time there, as Danes seem to do.

Over the last few days, I have felt that their ordering and line system contradicts their leisure aspect because all the lines I have been in were fast-paced and the cashiers have always asked if you wanted to eat it there or take away. The statement Choi made in her article was true that the way a country eats its food is telling of their culture (p. 5). This is because by Danes always asking if you want to take meals out, it shows that they enjoy being outside while eating their food, socializing, and smoking. In the U.S. it is similar to frequently have customers take food to go, however when we take food out, it is usually to take it home or in the car with us while traveling. This difference is evident in the phrasing that both countries have because when Danes say, “take out,” they mean taking the food outside, and when Americans say, “to-go,” they mean to take it home with you or while traveling. This is another one of the things about Danish foodways that made me think differently about American foodways because I wish we had more opportunities to sit outside in nice weather and enjoy different events.

I feel as though there are very subtle similarities between Denmark and America. Globalization appears similar in Denmark and America because both countries attempt to have a variety of different kinds of foods from different cultures. This includes Denmark having McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC, which all originated from America and keeping the original names maintains the tie to America. Watson explained how, in Hong Kong, when McDonald’s created an establishment there, they had to integrate McDonald’s breakfast items into Chinese culture (p. 86). This can also be seen with each of these restaurants because they all have menu items exclusive to Denmark, making it, so they have things that they enjoy here in Denmark as well as the food sold in America. Americans and Danes both also love to use a lot of salt, Danes appear to use it slightly more, but it does not show as much in their health because they are more active with biking and walking. Overall, there are many similarities and differences in Danish and American culture, but it is difficult to tell which foodways I enjoy more.

Finding My Way to Flavor

I was told that when I was a baby, I refused to eat baby food because I hated the taste of it, so my parents would cut up what they were eating into tiny pieces for me to eat. I also ate extremely slow when I was younger for some reason, probably because eating has just never been my favorite thing to do. I think this truly exemplifies me being a picky eater- it started the day I was born and has only slightly lessened over the years. I feel like I never know what I want to eat, but I always know what I don’t want to eat. I think I have grown a lot in terms of being willing to try different foods. I now love to eat sisig fries and lumpia from Filipino restaurants, orange chicken from Vietnamese restaurants, salad kai with chicken and fried rice from Thai restaurants, ramen and sushi from Japanese restaurants, as well as many types of dishes from Mexican restaurants. I am still pretty picky when I eat, but I feel like it’s because I don’t like spending money on things I may not like. However, sometimes I take the risk, and a lot of the time, I end up liking the food. I wouldn’t say I am very adventurous when I eat because I have a hard time trying new things, but I have been a little more adventurous recently. I am excited to be able to try different dishes while in Denmark to expand my pallet even further.

Sisig fries from Papa Urb’s Grill
Lumpia from Papa Urb’s Grill

There are a lot of foods that I like and a lot that I do not. My favorite thing to get at a restaurant is a burger and fries. You can never go wrong with a good batch of warm french fries; they cure emotional and sometimes even physical pain for me. One of the foods that I strongly dislike is soup, which really causes problems when I am sick because I have to force myself to eat it and hopefully get better. I also have a heartburn disease called GERD with a hiatal hernia, so I am unable to eat foods that are spicy or acidic. This leads to a life that sort of lacks a lot of flavor because I can’t eat onions, tomatoes, lemons, limes, oranges, pork, wheat, etc. When I first was diagnosed with the disease, I tried to stay away from anything that caused me to have painful heartburn, but now I mostly stay away from onions and tomatoes because they trigger it the worst. This problem has shaped the way I eat because it is quite restrictive, but if there’s no avoiding certain foods, I just eat them and make sure to take medicine before or after I eat.

My relationship with food is kind of complicated because of my heartburn disease. In one way I don’t particularly enjoy eating because pretty much everything gives me heartburn, some just make it worse than others. In other aspects, I want to try different foods because if I don’t try it, I’ll never know if I like it. Most of the time if I want to try something new, I just make sure there aren’t onions, and if there are, I request for them to be left out. I also tend to think of food as sustenance because I get lightheaded if I don’t eat enough or if I don’t eat enough protein. My family is middle class, so I tend to eat what I want as long as it’s not super expensive because cheaper meals can be just as good. For special occasions, my family has splurged for certain meals, so I do tend to do that if I feel like I deserve to go somewhere more expensive and get what I am craving.

I do not believe that my foodways throughout my life have been based heavily on culture. Ethnically, I am mainly Mexican and Canadian. Growing up, my grandma taught my brother and me how to make homemade enchiladas, which take almost half a day to prepare and cook. A few months ago, my dad got a tortilla cooker because his Nane used to make homemade tortillas. This led to us getting Nane’s recipe from my grandma and figuring out the right technique to make soft and thin tortillas. Other than those two recipes, my mom tends to make meals that we all like during the week, usually including chicken, potatoes, and a vegetable or fruit. Then on weekends my dad would cook ribs or use the grill to make chicken, burgers, or hotdogs. When I was younger, and even when I come home now, my family eats together every day at six o’clock and either talk about our days or watch one of our favorite TV shows.

Me figuring out the proper way to roll out tortillas
My dad’s ribs, that he makes quite often now that he found out how good he is at making them

One of our family traditions is that on every person’s birthday, they get to choose where they would like to eat or if there are any special meals they would like to request to be made. On my birthday, my mom always made me pancakes for breakfast, then my whole family would go out to dinner, including my grandparents. I most likely would ask to go to a restaurant that serves burgers or Mexican food. Also, for certain holidays, my mom would make special foods, like her green pancakes on St. Patrick’s Day. I even brought that tradition to school with me and made myself green pancakes that day since I couldn’t go home for that holiday. For all of the major holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, my family and my grandparents eat dinner together.

My green pancakes from this past St. Patrick’s Day, they look funky, but taste like normal pancakes
My family after Christmas dinner wearing our Canadian cracker crowns

More recently, I have noticed that I tend to eat out of convenience, which is more culturally American. This would be considered “eating like an American” because Americans are always in a hurry and tend not to take the time to cook at home. I believe I have started eating this way because I am in college, do not live at home, and I feel as though I do not have time to make fresh meals on school days. This leads me to resort to frozen food on weekdays, fresh food on weekends, and only occasionally eating fast food on the weekends. When I am home during holiday breaks, I tend to eat with my family at home or with my boyfriend. However, when I am living on campus, I tend to eat alone for most meals and occasionally eat with my cousin for dinner.

Overall, I think I have improved in being picky because I am willing to eat a variety of foods. The only thing that slightly hinders me is my heartburn problem, but I can easily request for meals to be modified if possible. Now that I am living away from home, I cherish family meals or just eating with others in general because I have never liked eating alone. I think going to Denmark will expand the types of food I like eating and I will hopefully be able to find recipes that are similar to foods that I enjoyed eating there.