Norway: a land of hot Vikings, beautiful fjords (that means waterway, like a river by the way, I had no clue before visiting), yodeling, Heidi-look-a-likes and smoked fish…Yup, that’s about it for their culinary experience, smoked fish, oh yeah, and 7-eleven.
My daydreams of Norway were of gorgeous, over 6-foot tall men sweeping me away on their longboats through their pristine fjords. Keeping each other warm through the long nights with body heat, hot stews and warm cider ale, or wine, food more along the lines of Ireland or Scotland, if you will. In my experience, that was so far from the case and it really perplexed me to say the least.
Norway confused me from the get-go on the whole food thing. That place is so expensive that it is just ridiculous to eat out. The first night I was there we had Chinese food, which to me was horrifying because I can order that at home with my remote control in my hand, not what I wanted for my first foray into the Norwegian culinary world. The food was decent but it was exorbitant, to say the least. I have had cheaper bills at Le Bernardin and I was not full nor was it something I hadn’t had before.
As my visit wore on, I realized that food is not an important thing to my dreamy Vikings! They would much rather buy beer than eat, so they wind up grabbing something that looks like a hotdog in the 7-eleven (which is absolutely everywhere to my dismay) and they drink alcohol to keep themselves warm and full. Now, mind you, I don’t mind the drinking part… but where is the food? So, now this is like a puzzle. I have to understand what is going on here. Do they eat? Don’t they have dinner parties or picnics?
On a positive note, to compensate for the exorbitant cost of food a lot of hotels offer buffets for dinner and snacks to help us lowly visitors who are not familiar with the situation. Which is extremely kind of them, if I say so. And I definitely took advantage of that. I made sure to make it to crepe hour in the Radisson Blu, Bergen, let me tell you…
One thing I love to do when traveling is to visit a local supermarket. I don’t care where I am, Mexico, India, China, Italy, wherever, I have to hit a food market. To me it is more fascinating than visiting a museum because I get to see how the everyday people, like me, eat. What are the ingredients they use? Mostly vegetables? Fish? Meats? Spices? What would I cook if I was a local from this strange land and this was my local market?
I take my time when I visit these markets too. I go through every aisle (which I never do at home because I know what I want, no dawdling please, move along!). I try to understand what is in the packages (very difficult in India and China, mind you), but overall, I can gleam the gist of the situation.
I finally found a market in Bergen. Literally, I was there for about 8 days and I didn’t see a market until the last stop in Norway, which was weird in and of itself. It was the size of my local QuickCheck, really, without exaggerating. I thought maybe it was just a local bodega, but no, that was it.
There was a whole aisle for baby stuff (boring), and, the requisite cereals and chips. Vegetables, you ask? It was a counter maybe..hmmm.. 3-feet wide. The most exotic thing they had were lemons that I would have to sell a (healthy) child to buy (and they were very hard, by the way), potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, NO eggplant, NO fresh herbs. How am I supposed to make ratatouille with that variety?? Not happening I tell you. Their foods were mostly prepared meals that you throw together on a cooktop or micro (like frozen dinners but not). It looked tasty, like the things that I would make at home: goulash and pastas, I recall, but it was pre-prepared. To me this is ridiculous. I can cook a pot of rice or pasta and make a stew for $15-20 max and feed 4-6 people easy with seconds. Why would I buy a frozen thing that would starve 2 people for $25?
Now, I am thinking on a micro/macro economic level. This country is expensive, ok. But, the natives have a higher standard of living and a higher income level. However, even still, there are no dinner parties going on because it is just too much financially to bear. The food is so expensive that people would rather eat a poorer quality meal, such as fast food, like McDonald’s, or a hotdog or prepared foods than buy food to cook a healthy meal. OK yes, they will get fruit to munch on, or smoked fish but overall they are eating junk because they don’t want to spend money on food that costs too much! This strikes me as extremely damaging to their health, to their relationship with food and forget the social aspect!
So, economically I get it. They are prioritizing. They’d rather buy other stuff, ok. My hips would definitely benefit from that, maybe not my liver, but my hips definitely.
Culturally or environmentally, where does this come from? The food’s expensive ok, but how did they get through the times before, when it was just clans keeping warm through the winter? Their growing season for grains or vegetables is short to say the least. And, then even in the best of environments there are bad seasons. You need grains to feed livestock, such as cows or goats and that comes full circle back to the growing season. So then what? The only constant to these beautiful Scandinavians are fish. So, how can you keep fish on hand for those days and long nights that are too cold to go out? Smoke it. Eat it raw, etc, etc. Everything else has to be imported for the most part and Norwegians are isolationists to a certain degree, hence the high costs and the lower consumption.
In a nutshell (by the way that was the name of the tour I did =) get it? Get it?), Norway is definitely filled with hot Vikings and beautiful Heidi’s and gorgeous fjords and you should definitely be kept warm at night… just don’t expect it to be with a full satisfied belly of food.. that’s all I’m sayin’… Am I going back? Hell yeah.
Tips for Norway:
- Try to book hotels that offer snack hours
- If you stay at the Radisson Blu in Bergen try to sneak up to the roof for a photo shoot
- Bring layers
- Their clothing is nice! Try to squeeze in some shopping time
- They have a really cool live music scene especially in Oslo
- Where I stayed in Oslo, cute and central– https://www.parkinn.com/hotel-oslo
- Hotel in Bergen, also cute and central–https://www.radissonblu.com/en/royalhotel-Bergen
- This place was Gorgeous in Voss http://www.fleischers.no/en/
- Hotel in Flåm: http://flamsbrygga.no