Just a Taste
Traditional Norwegian Food and Drink Culture
In Norway, tradition intersects with modernity daily, as the country’s deeply rooted gastronomic culture and ancient culinary heritage collide – with a steadily accelerating demand for (and pride in) all things local, organic, seasonal and artisan. This combination results in not just edible but delectable, distinctively Norwegian fare and abundant kos (cozy, intimate good times).
Traditional Norwegian foods retain their popularity for all the right reasons: They’re delicious, deeply satisfying and help Norwegians retain a rich connection with customs of their ancestors and with the sea itself. Food traditions are firmly rooted in the game, fish and produce available in and around Norway – and in ancient efforts to preserve them for food reserves, to be consumed in leaner months when resources are more scarce. Globalization has significantly impacted national cuisine, and thus more international foods than ever can be found in Norway today, yet traditions endure. Examples are multitudinous, but prominent traditional favorites include:
- Rokelaks (smoked salmon), orret (trout), sild (herring), lutefisk (stockfish, lye and water)
- Lefse (soft, flat potato bread), flatbrod (dried, crispy thin bread), cakes, waffles, biscuits
- Farikal (mutton stew with cabbage and potatoes), kjottkakaer (meatcakes with sauce)
- Ribbe (roasted pork belly with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes), potatoes with everything
- Brunost or geitost (sweet, brown, caramelized goat cheese)
- Offal (liver, tongue and other organ meats)
Traditionally, Norwegians enjoy locally produced beverages including cider, craft beer, gin and vodka, not to mention coffee; having friends over for black coffee and cakes or dessert is extremely popular. Though residents certainly enjoy it, Norway’s climate is less than ideal for wine production, so most is imported. Time-honored favorite local drinks include the following:
- Aquavit (Norway’s national drink, a potato-derived liquor flavored with herbs)
- Glogg (a syrupy, mulled wine with nuts and fruit, cinnamon and cloves)
- Bjor or mjod (variations on a cider-like brew of apples and honey, rooted in Viking eras)
- Coffee (world’s second-largest consumer, award-winning varieties are hugely popular)
Food and Drink Culture
Where Norway’s food and beverage traditions collide, a robust and sustained dining culture emerges with distinct customs. Eating in homes with family and friends, face-to-face over large tables, is customary. Hospitality and a warm welcome over shared foods and drink are always appropriate. Local traditions include krabbefests – outdoor seafood-cooking parties with crab, prawns, beer, white wine and simple garnishes like lemon wedges, bread and mayonnaise.
Based on established customs, Norwegians eat three to four daily meals, the most substantial of which is a hot, evening dinner (middag) with family. Breakfast (frokost) and lunch (lunsj) are often light and cold. The fourth meal or supper (kveldsmat) is supplemental and smaller, enjoyed late at night and often a simple sandwich or snack. However it is enjoyed, traditional Norwegian food and drink culture celebrates what is local, what can be preserved and what is shared.