Food Culture and Tradition

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Danish Meals and Customs


Although Danes adapt readily to new ideas, they still relish foods in season, like tiny shrimps, which they heap on buttered white bread; the first delicate straw-berries; new potatoes; fresh white asparagus. They still believe firmly that the best lunch is smorrebrod and that beer is the best chaser for the best drink – akvavit. Some things are too good to change.

Danes show their sophistication in elegant table settings and in their fondness for formal entertaining. It is almost second nature to set a table with candles and flowers. Dessert spoon and fork will be placed above each setting; no water glasses will be on the table; no host will wrestle with meat by carving at the table; the artfully arranged main dish platter is always prepared in the kitchen. The success of a dinner party will be judged by the abundance of food, the lateness of the guests’ departure, and whether or not they asked for recipes.

Breakfast is usually very early since schools start classes and businesses open at 8:00 a.m. Lunch is invariably the smorrebrod, which is any artistic and flavorful combination of thinly sliced foods deftly balanced on thinly sliced pieces of dark rye bread. With beer or coffee, who needs more? Dinner may be a hearty soup and dessert or a multi-course meal introduced with akvavit and beer, nibbles of salted or smoked foods followed by one or two hot dishes, and later fruit and pastries with coffee. More usually dinner at home is a simple two-course meal of meat and potatoes or poached fish with sauce and potatoes or soup and dessert.

Danes seldom stay at home, and enjoy any excuse that takes them out to have a beer or a coffee, to take a walk, to see friends. Danes love a good joke and a hearty laugh. They love people and conversation and what better way than to enjoy both at the many small snacking restaurants, sidewalk cafes, stalls and booths and pastry shops? But who counts the number of drinks, snacks, or nibbles in any given day? When they talk about their meal patterns, average Danes don’t consciously include them either.

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