Food Culture and Tradition

Food, People and Culture Resources

Domestic Life in Norway


Although Norwegians treasure their solitude and privacy, they do enjoy social occasions. In rural areas social occasions are often combined with cooperative efforts concerned with smoking, pickling, salting, and preserving meats and fish, preserving berries and other fruits and communal baking of huge batches of flatbrod, enough for a whole season. The dimpled crispy round bread keeps well and is the perfect accompaniment to the many cheeses made over the summer months when the sheep’s and goat’s milk is at its richest.

Refrigerators and freezers are used almost everywhere, but traditional foods and implements continue to play an important role in the Norwegian kjokken (kitchen). Indeed, many large restaurants and modern homes proudly use the intricately carved wooden butter molds that were in use hundreds of years ago.

Although agriculture is fully mechanized, the Norwegian farmer still keeps a few cream-colored Westland “fjord ponies,” more out of nostalgia than need. And dotted over the landscape are the stabburs, two-floor storehouses reminiscent of a time before electricity and freezers, yet still much in use. The main floor is used to store grains, apples and pears, home preserves, pickles and root vegetables. And the sweet and musty food smells mingle with the heady aromas of fermenting beer and wine and waft upward to the second story which is used as a guest house and where the Norwegian family proudly keep some of their best possessions. Travel throughout the more remote areas is often difficult, and guests are always welcomed and expected to stay at least overnight.

Also reminiscent of former times are saeters, the tiny cabins perched precariously on craggy ledges near the pastures. In summer months the women of the household would often spend weeks at a time at the saeters busily collecting, churning, and aging the creamy milk from sheep and goats into a variety of cheeses. Today most of the cheese making is carried out commercially in factories, and the picturesque saeter is treasured as a summer cottage by the solitude-hungry urban Norwegian.

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