Did you hear the one about the cheese fire in Norway?
Actually, it’s not a joke. Recently, a truck carrying 27 tons of brunost, a sweet, high fat cheese sold in the United States as gjetost, burned for over six days blocking a tunnel in Northern Norway. “This high concentration of fat and sugar is almost like petrol if it gets hot enough,” explained a public official to the New York Times. Of course, the cheese is normally consumed like any cheese, not flambéed unless there is some kind of accident.
When you’re enduring Arctic, or sub-Arctic, temperatures, either because you live in Norway or Sweden, or in so many parts of the United States plagued with this winter’s unusually cold weather, it’s easy to develop an appetite for things like a sweet, fatty cheese, loaded with the calories your body craves.
We won’t go into the subject of blubber, but myMEGusta’s Eskimo readers are welcome to add their Comments.
But let’s look at some other treats of the north.
My personal favorite, and I am the only non-Scandinavian in the world who likes (no, LOVES) it, is lutefisk. Cod or other white fish which has been preserved in lye, lutefisk has the dubious honor of being the world’s most ridiculed fish. People claim that it smells up the house, and then tastes horrible. Well, myMEGusta is here to tell you that the lutefisk you buy today has been pre-soaked and de-odorized, so the old wives’ tales of the smell are just that, anachronistic and just not true any longer. Because of how it was cured, the fish has an amazing gelatinous texture, almost melting in your mouth. My favorite way to enjoy lutefisk is on a very cold day, swimming in cream sauce (perhaps seasoned with a little mustard) and melted butter, with boiled potatoes and lefse, a kind of potato pancake, on the side. Oh yes, in a restaurant in Stockholm.
Another wildly popular Swedish dish, traditionally served on Thursdays, is pea soup accompanied by pancakes and lingonberries. This pea soup is not the insipid, overly pureed stuff in most cans, but rather a thick, chunky mélange with the aroma of smoked pork, and a perfect companion to the hot pancakes.
Moving south to the Alps’ frigid high altitudes, there’s fondue. Quite the fad in the United States in the 60s and 70s (the joke was how many fondue pots people got as wedding gifts), “fondue” came to mean anything dipped in a pot. You had beef fondue (tenderloin deep fried and served with dipping sauces) and the emergence of chocolate fondue. But the real deal is a cheese mélange (including white wine and perhaps seasonings) into which bread is dipped, perfect for an apres-ski supper. High in calories and fat, another goodie to enjoy on a cold night.
Then there the hot beverages which are to be found in little huts in the Christmas markets that dot Northern Europe in December: wine punch, mulled wine, gluh, gluehwein.
Every culture there has its own variation, but they’re all a combination of a wine and/or spirit (red wine, port wine, brandy, vodka) usually plus sugar, fruit juices/rinds and spices (cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom being the most popular), sometimes even raisins or nuts, all served warm.
You can even find hot mead, made from honey.
But what are the best of all of winter’s culinary and beverage treats? The ones consumed in front of a roaring fireplace.