When I was planning my trip to backpack Europe on a budget, I was almost certain that I would be visiting Norway. Mostly because, at the time, Oslo, Norway was one of the cheapest European cities to fly into from my hometown (and because I wanted to experience the culture of the country and Norwegian food so badly).
Unfortunately, my plans for the trip changed, and I had to remove Norway from my itinerary. I was so sad, but this has just meant that I must need to plan an alternative trip to Norway soon!
Until then, I must fulfill my urge by learning about Norway through the eyes of Tonje from Hint of Healthy. Norway has a beautiful history with delightful traditions and unique food, and it was so fun learning about these things from Tonje!
Tell me about your background with Norway
Norway has actually been listed as the best country to live in by the UN, and I feel so lucky to have grown up there. It’s an amazing place where you have an overwhelming feeling of being safe and free, which I didn’t really understand the significance of until I moved abroad a few years ago.
It’s also a large country with a small population, which means that there’s a lot of space and nature. Norwegians spend a lot of time in nature by going on hikes, hunting or fishing.
School was great! I was a massive nerd, so I loved doing homework, and was such a teacher’s pet. Schools are quite small, and it’s relatively common for an entire school to have less than 200 students, which means that you end up being quite close to everyone.
What is your favorite Norwegian tradition that you practice? Do you have any favorite memories focused around Norwegian food?
We have so many traditions in Norway! Most of them are centered around holidays like Christmas, but my favorite tradition is Fredagskos, which translates to something like Friday cozy time.
Every Friday (yes, EVERY Friday!) Norwegian families will cuddle up on the sofa to watch the TV lineup with family friendly talk shows and game shows, accompanied by a sharing bowl of snacks.
Fredagskos is such a great way to just wind down and spend time together as a family, and I definitely plan on continuing the tradition with my new British family.
Do you find that Norway’s Viking era has had an influence on the way foods are prepared in the country? If so, what foods showcase this influence?
Definitely, to some extent. The vikings mainly ate what they could harvest and grow, and most traditional Norwegian dishes are based on the same ingredients. They ate a lot of meat based stews, which we still do to this day!
Herring is so different from anything we eat here in the USA. Can you describe herring to me?
So we mainly eat small herrings, which are somewhat similar to anchovies. To be honest, it’s one of those foods that are much more popular with the older generations.
Herring doesn’t taste much on its own, but rather absorbs a lot of flavor from sauces and spices. Pickled and marinated herring is popular on toast at Christmas.
Does the wilderness and fresh game available in Norway affect the food eaten there?
Absolutely! Traditional Norwegian food is very much based on the local game and produce available. In 2020, you can go to a supermarket and buy food from all over the world, but back in the day people lived off of mutton, pork, beef and any fresh game such as moose and deer. They also ate (and still eat) a lot of berries like blueberries and lingonberries, along with hardy vegetables that can grow in the chill climate.
Nowadays, I’d say people enjoy a variety of foods. Tacos, spaghetti and pizza are easily among the most popular weeknight dinners. We reserve traditional Norwegian food for holidays.
I’ve heard that coffee is very important to Norwegian cuisine and culture. Do you find this statement accurate? If so, can you tell me more about that?
Haha, yes. Most adults drink on average 4-5 cups of coffee every single day. Many people start their day by fixing a whole jug of coffee, which they will enjoy through their morning. Then a few cups at work. Then maybe one or two in the evening.
We also heavily associate drinking coffee with being social. We go out for coffee more than we go out for lunch. And if someone asks you “do you have any coffee?”, they are actually asking if they can come over for a social visit.
It’s also worth noting that coffee in Norway means black coffee. Although you’re able to order coffee drinks like lattes or mochas when you’re out, most people simply drink plain black coffee on a daily basis, without milk or sugar.
Tell me about Norwegian Food.
I’d say the most common meats are beef, pork and chicken, are most common. We are also world famous for our salmon. We eat more hardy vegetables like broccoli, carrots and root vegetables, but also import more tropical varieties throughout the year.
What is your everyday Norwegian food? What types of things are common for breakfasts, dinners, snacks?
We usually have 3 or 4 meals a day. The day starts with breakfast, which is usually cereal, open faced sandwiches or oatmeal.
Lunch is served early, often around 12, and is a very small meal. Kids in school bring packed lunches like sandwiches, and many adults will also bring a packed meal to work. We rarely eat warm lunches, unless you count microwaved leftovers from last night’s dinner.
Most families will eat dinner at 4-5PM, and we eat a variety of different meals. A typical weeknight dinner would be spaghetti bolognese, tacos or tomato soup.
Lastly, because we have an early dinner, some people like to have a light evening meal before bed. This is also often a sandwich.
We don’t actually eat a lot of snacks in Norway! I didn’t realize how many snacks the rest of the world eats until I moved to the UK. If anything, we snack on fruit during the week. Candy and snacks like chips are only enjoyed on Fridays and Saturdays, and usually shared with the whole family as they are only sold in sharing packs.
Is there anything eaten in Norway that’s not eaten anywhere else in the world? Anything surprising?
We are famous for our brown cheese! It looks like cheese, and we call it cheese, but it’s actually not technically cheese. It looks and tastes like sweet caramel, and we mostly use it on toast or waffles as a sweet treat.
Visitors to Norway don’t seem to like it much, but we love it!
What’s your very favorite recipe from Norway? What is your least favorite food that is traditionally Norwegian?
I love a lot of Norwegian food, but you can’t beat a traditional Norwegian waffle with brown cheese on it!
Norwegian cuisine has a lot of lamb and mutton, which I honestly can’t stand. Luckily it’s quite easily to steer clear of those dishes, as they are only commonly enjoyed during holidays.
Are there any ingredients that you love that just aren’t the same unless you’re in Norway?
Cheese! Norvegia cheese is a mild cheese that melts easily, and we use it as an all around cheese for everything. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to locate a similar cheese in the UK yet.
Tell me about your food blog! Why you started it, what it features, etc. What is your favorite Norwegian recipe on your blog?
I started Hint of Healthy a year ago because I really wanted to share my love for food with the rest of the world. The blog features easy and healthy everyday recipes. My goal is to show people that eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated, boring, plain or expensive – and to motivate more people to adapt sustainable, healthy eating habits.
My favorite Norwegian recipe is my Norwegian apple cake! This is definitely best made with freshly picked seasonal apples, ideally from your own garden.
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