Food Culture and Tradition

Food, People and Culture Resources

Danish Domestic Life


The old Danish proverb “First flowers, then food on the table” explains the Danish delight in well-designed table appointments and cookware. These, together with a collection of candles and accessories that is present in most Danish homes, makes it difficult not to set an appealing table. And if flowers are not already a part of the setting, they will likely be brought by dinner guests.

Although Danes are practical enough to readily accept many convenience foods and labor-saving devices, they still enjoy certain tradition-tested customs. Probably from her mother and grandmother, the Danish homemaker has learned to adjust the embers in her iron stove to the perfect heat for aebleskivers (round puffed cakes) or for a cast-iron pot of yellow pea soup.

But if the coal stove is still a part of the country kitchen, the city kitchen is more in keeping with the times. Small appliances are widely used, colorful, lightweight cookware is preferred, and gas stoves and refrigerators are all very much a part of the modern kitchen. In fact, many new additions to the traditional Danish kitchen and way of cookery have combined to make Danish dishes just as good as mother’s but prepared more quickly than grand-mother’s! Ekkodanmark, a branch of the Department of Agriculture set up to promote Danish foods, advises on canned and frozen goods, imported foods, and new recipe ideas.

The problem of food storage and preservation in Denmark, as in most of the northern countries, has always been carefully considered because extreme climate conditions can so easily spell hunger. Curing, salting, pickling, drying, and smoking were arts learned quickly because these techniques allowed meats and fish to last over long voyages or through periods of famine. Today, modern technology and storage methods lessen the need for these age-old approaches, but a distinct preference for salty foods persists, and even today salted meat and fish as well as dried or smoked foods are distinct Danish favorites.

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