Food and Culture in Denmark
The mainland of Denmark, together with its surrounding islands, juts into the cold and stormy waters of the Skagerrak and the Kattegat, the North and Baltic Seas, yet within the hearts and the homes of the Danes there is a special warmth. The Danes have their own word for it: hygge. It describes, in one word, that pleasant sensation when one is at ease with oneself and the world. Hygge is a feeling, an atmosphere, and a way of life. It is evident in the meticulously groomed dairy farms of the low rolling countryside. It is even reflected in the apparent contentment of the animals the Danes raise. The cows produce some of the world’s finest milk, which is churned into butter and fermented into cheese. The pigs, which are cured into pork products, are of unparalleled quality. And chickens
produce eggs so fresh, they are proudly date-stamped.
Today’s Danish farmers are related to the early conquerors and rulers of England (1013-1035), and later expansions saw them ruling many shoreline areas of the Baltic Sea, Iceland and, even for a brief period, Norway and Sweden (the Kalmar Union, which lasted until 1523). Sweden won her independence then but it was not until 1815 that Norway, by the Congress of Vienna, was taken from Danish control only to find itself then ruled by Sweden. About this time, Danish trade expanded to the West Indies. (Perhaps the Danish fondness for rum desserts dates from this time.) But in 1917, Denmark sold the Virgin Islands to the United States and about the same time granted Iceland her independence.
The adventures of the Danes were not limited to northern Europe or even to the West Indies. As early as 1619, Captain Jens Munk landed at what is today Churchill, Manitoba, and claimed the land for Denmark, calling it Nova Dania. It is uncertain why his claim was not taken seriously, but what is known is that most of his crew succumbed to scurvy. Captain Munk and only two members survived that tragedy. Over 200 years later, more Danish ships brought settlers to establish what is today a community in Victoria County, New Brunswick.