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NORDIC COUNTRIES

use of whey, the substance remaining after cheeses are made, is specific to the northern regions. It might be boiled into a sort of soup and eaten together with bread (sour milk was also used this way). Whey might also be boiled for hours until it became a thick substance. This was then put into wooden cases to cool and, when fin- ished, looked like brown bricks. This “cheese” was either made from the whey of sweet or sour milk (the sour be- ing the cheapest) and was spread on flat bread instead of butter by the poor and servants.

Bread—Flat, Soft, Hard, Sweet, Dark, White

The cold climate and the meager soil in the north made it difficult to grow grains other than oats and barley; since these do not contain gluten, they could not be used for leavened bread. The result was different sorts of flat, thin bread, specialties of the northern regions. These stood in contrast to the leavened rye bread in the southern part of Scandinavia, Denmark, and the Swedish region Skåne (which was part of Denmark until the seventeenth cen- tury). In Finland a dividing line can be drawn between the west and north, where different sorts of hard breads were baked, and the east, where soft rye bread was com- mon.

The Danes, like the German and Dutch, had smørre-

brød (butter bread), a dark rye bread served with butter and cheese, cold meat, sausage, liver paste, or other del- icacies (internationally known as “open sandwiches”). While the flat bread in the north was baked on griddles (iron plates), bakery ovens were more widespread in the south, and the Danes often bought their bread from the baker. The Danish bakers, organized in guilds with strict rules, were obliged to have certain products ready at all times: white bread, coarse rye bread, and skonrogger (from sifted rye), in other words, alternatives for all classes of society. The status of bread had to do with the kind of flour used: for example, during festivals, the elite would eat only white bread made from wheat flour. This bread was best when fresh, but most people would let their bread dry out, which made it more economical since it would last longer.

The Swedes are especially known for their sweet and spiced breads. One French diplomat remarked as early as 1634: “The bread had a terrible taste, made as it was with wort and sweet fennel.” This was the dark vörtbröd, made with beer wort, molasses, spices, citrus peel, and raisins. These sweet breads were earlier a luxury or used only for festive situations. The expression “sweet bread days” meant (and still means) good times.

Porridge—For Hunger and Luxury

Porridge is an old dish, perhaps more ancient than bread, and it has been used in many cultures. Flour mixed with water (“water porridge”) was the simplest variety and was long thought to be a synonym for poverty. Scandinavians also mixed the grains with milk, cream, or whey. As was already mentioned, whey soup was eaten with bread. Milk

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FOOD AND CULTURE

The Sami Diet

A portion of the Sami people lived as nomads with their flocks of domesticated reindeer, but some also lived on the coast (the sea Samis) and were more residential in na- ture. Their diet placed an emphasis on meat and milk. The Samis ate meat from many wild animals: bear,

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made the porridge more attractive, and during annual fes- tivals and rites of passage it turned into a luxury dish, rømmegrøt (sour cream porridge), with the addition of cream or butter. In modern times, porridge is more like a pudding made from rice and milk and is often sprin- kled with sugar and cinnamon, but the butterye (a lump of butter in the middle) is still a relic from the past.

In early modern times and up until the nineteenth century, rice was a luxury that very few could enjoy. It was more common in Denmark, where they also ate por- ridge from maiz (corn), buckwheat, and pearl sago. Oats were not popular in Denmark unless they were made into groats, which were easier to digest. Danish porridges were often boiled with sweet milk, but in Skåne (south- ern Sweden) there is also a tradition of serving beer on porridge. In Denmark they have øllebrød (beer bread), which is rye bread that is diced and boiled in beer with sugar and lemon peel. In characteristically Norwegian style, when øllebrød was introduced there it was made with a mixture of beer and milk.

Nordic Drinks

Blanda, sour whey or milk mixed with water, was previ- ously mentioned as a daily drink in northern regions. But beer production occurred everywhere: a very light and simple beer for daily use, and stronger brands for festi- vals and special occasions. Since the Middle Ages, more exclusive beers were imported from Germany, and the more affluent of society imported mead (made from honey). Grapes have never been grown in the Nordic countries, but wine has been imported since the time of the Vikings, especially after clergy with southern Euro- pean roots established churches and monasteries in the region.

Ever since the eighteenth century, akevitt—brandy made from grain—has become more and more common. It is considered good for health and physical strength. Farm hands received a shot of akevitt when they started work at around 5:00 A.M. and when they began to tire in the afternoon. Akevitt was also used with sugar and spices in drinks, but imported brandy was preferred for this use. The introduction of potatoes in Nordic countries offered new and cheaper possibilities for akevitt, and the pro- duction and consumption led to widespread alcoholism in the countryside in the early nineteenth century. How- ever, things began to change when popular temperance and abstinence movements emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century. The government introduced re- strictions on distillation of alcohol, and coffee gradually replaced beer and brandy as the daily restorative drink. 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