The truth is that, like most other places in the world, globalization has made it so that pizza, pasta, tacos, stir-fry and of course the invasive species of Western fast-food chains are all available in Norway. On the other hand, there are some common traditional dishes and staples, many of which I will never try.
Please, don’t get on me with all this “you don’t know until you try it” or “when in Rome” stuff. I have tasted and tested foods all over the place. I don’t recall EVER spitting it out or vomitting in front of an eager local chef. I’m open-minded and polite, when I believe my stomach can handle it.
Norway is probably most known, at least in terms of their culinary culture, for it’s seafood. And rightly so. Smoked and salt-cured salmon were pretty much invented here. Pickled herring, lutefisk (fish steeped in lye, for real) and and local fish braised or poached are common. In the grocery store this love of fish leads to a large, prominent and, shall we say, aromatic section. You can buy fresh, spiced or pickled fish by the piece or by the heaping cartful if your heart so desires. I’m not much of a fish-eater myself, and the uncooked variety in some sort of brine appeals to me even less than usual. And it’s a pity, what with the distinctive fragrance, that they find it wise to put this section right next to the fruit and veg.
Right down the way from the seafood section, you’ll find another Norwegian staple: meatballs. Ikea’s weird little food section has got it in our heads that the Swedes have a monopoly on balls of meat, but that isn’t so. From what I’m told, the Norwegian version are a bit more coarse and served with a brown sauce or a berry relish. Lapskaus is some kind of stew, but meat is still meat by another name, and I don’t stop being a vegetarian when I cross the Atlantic, so I won’t be able to review these for you.
The good news is that right after the seafood and the meat, comes the dairy. As much as I’ve tried to cut back, I still can’t deny my love of cheese. And Norwegians have it. From their typical, mild and slightly Swiss-like Jarlsberg to much more pungent, aged cheeses, it will take me a while to discover them all. In fact, at the game the other day I came upon one quite by accident. I purchased a waffle (made of 4 little heart-shapes!) and after picking it up off a pile WITH MY FINGERS (which is nothing really compared to the no-glove dentistry, but still) I was urged through a mimed conversation to shave off a piece from a peanut butter colored cylinder of a fudge-textured substance with a grater. That peanut butter colored fudge turned out to be CHEESE, thank goodness, called brunost or geitost. It’s a strong, somewhat sweet, carmel-esque taste and it was, not surprisingly, the highlight of the hockey game for me.
But despite all these new and different choices, my diet tends to say similar and simple from country to country. I love adding new things, trying new cheese, sampling liberally from the aisle with the chocolates and the gummies. But most of my favorite meals involve a piece of toasted bread. Toast with butter. Toast with peanut butter. Toast with Nutella, or Nugatti if you are in Norway. And now I’m adding toast with brunost. All on the best bread I can find where ever I am located at that moment. It doesn’t make me seem very sophisticated or worldly. But it does make me full and happy.
*Dave wants me to say “Tell them how much I love Nugatti.” He’s pushing to try ‘Nugatti Air’, whatever that means. So now you know.