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Five Norwegian food mistakes you only make once

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
Five Norwegian food mistakes you only make once
Here are five mistakes you'll only make once when it comes to Norwegian food. Pictured is an open sandwich. Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Moving to Norway comes with a whole host of culture shocks, no matter how well you prepare. Likewise, the world of Norwegian food is full of perilous pitfalls you won't want to fall into more than once, if at all.


Not taking the construction of your sandwich seriously 

Most of the options on this list will either leave your wallet bruised and deflated or your tastebuds recoiling in disgust, but this mistake risks making you a social pariah. 

A quick walk around Oslo's centre, you'll see the complex and intricate design that goes into buildings like the Oslo Opera House or Munch Museum.

However, Norwegians probably construct their sandwiches with more care and precision than their showcase skyscrapers and cultural monuments. 

Norwegians love their open sandwiches. For some, it will make up two of their three daily meals or three of their four if they fancy some kveldsmat

If you ever peer into a colleague's matpakke (packed lunch), you may notice that they eat the same two or three open sandwiches over and over again. 


Part of the reason is that they have constructed a sandwich they have perfected over many years of making it over and over again. Everything from matching the bread and pålegg to the ratio of mayo or butter to bread is considered. 

Should you fail to show the same care and regard for a slice of bread with a bit of meat and cheese on top, you could become the topic of conversation over breakfast or lunch. 

I have been reprimanded around a table a few times for combing cheese with mayo or using mayo where there already is butter. Everyone at the table asked one another if they'd seen what I'd done.

All this happens before you have a chance to tuck in. So eventually, you are left with no choice but to tuck into the sandwich of shame that you've just been grilled about. 

Not knowing when to politely decline a Norwegian 'delicacy' 

Norwegian food doesn't get a lot of love on the world stage. Domestically too, quite a few freezers are full of frozen pizzas- with Friday nights reserved for Tex-Mex tacos. 

However, you'd also be doing yourself a disservice by turning your nose up at some of the excellent food on offer in Norway, be that seasonal produce or some of the finest meat and seafood found anywhere in the world. 

Still, everybody has their limit (mine is rakfisk) where their culinary sense of adventure gives out, and something turns from a unique local delicacy to unappetising and off-putting. 

Not knowing where this limit is or overstepping it can give you a poor impression of Norwegian food and put you off trying potential future favourites due to being scarred from your previous experience. 

Sometimes it's better to know when to politely say "nei takk" and instead save yourself for more palatable Norwegian classics, without any bad memories of the first time you tried lutefisk, for example, still fresh in your mind. 


Therefore, instead of forcing yourself to tuck into smalahove and rakfisk, try shifting your focus to become a connoisseur of Norway's numerous tasty baked buns. 

Doing a grocery shop without keeping track of what's going in your basket 

Many in Norway, even those with what can be considered quite a good salary within the Scandinavian country, don't have the luxury of throwing whatever they want in their shopping trolley without looking over their shoulder for impending bankruptcy. 

The analogy may be extreme, but even before inflation tightened its grip on Norwegian consumers, you'd still have to think carefully about what you were taking off shelves or which supermarket offers the best value for money. 

It's entirely plausible that a typical shop in another country (barring Switzerland and Norway's Nordic neighbours) could cost approaching two times as much as it would in Norway. 

Therefore, many crunch numbers in their head while shopping, so they don't get a nasty surprise when they reach the tills. Many residents, both Norwegians and foreigners, have flashbacks to feeling their stomach drop when it's time to pay for a trolley full of food bought on an impulsive hunger-fueled whim. 

Even then, someone can run into their nearest store for a few bits to go with dinner or some essentials that need topping up and come away upwards of 400 kroner poorer. 


 Finding unexpected liquorice in your pick and mix

For some reason, liquorice is extremely popular in Scandinavia. Visitors from other countries looking to treat themselves to a bag of sweets may be surprised when that unassuming sweet they thought was blackcurrant flavour turns out to be liquorice.

Your chocolate bar isn't safe, either. Many chocolate brands have salted liquorice flavours, and you'll also find liquorice variants of other popular sugary treats.

So if you don't want a salty, liquorice surprise when you think you're about to enjoy some delicious candy, watch out. The bitter-tasting plant is a master of disguise.

Salted liquorice is the absolute worst when it comes to ruining of a perfectly good bag of pick and mix, as the salt gets everywhere, leaving a disgusting aftertaste. 

Using a knife on cheese 

And finally, another mistake that will soon distinguish you as an outsider, a foreigner and a social outcast. If you learn anything from this list, it should be that you will definitely not use a knife to cut cheese, and secondly, you should invest in learning how to use a Norwegian cheese slicer properly. 

The ostehøvel, the Norwegian name for the cheese slicer, is used to cut thin uniform slices of the more soft and mild cheeses commonly preferred in Norway. It's a handy little tool you'll find in practically every home in Norway. 

Using a regular knife is considered brutish and unsophisticated, especially if you are going to try and layer the butchered slithers of cheese on the aforementioned sandwiches that are subject to such intense scrutiny if the locals don't like what you've assembled. 


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