A little taste of Scandinavia

When we visit a city, town or village we are surrounded by cafes, restaurants and interesting places to eat and drink. Often eating out during the day is seen as a moment that has to be fitted in to recharge and refresh, but how often do we take a moment to really embrace the experience and savour both the food and company we are sharing? No matter how big or small the moment being shared, embracing them the Scandinavian way could make for a whole new experience.

The people of Scandinavia all have very unique concepts that are embedded in their daily lives, concepts that have many years of history and tradition that add more meaning to living and enhance wellbeing. Each country has its own unique elements that make up these philosophies, but what they all have, is a focus on slowing down the pace of life and embracing the smaller, simpler pleasures. Many of the ideas are focused around food and simplicity something that the Scandinavian’s do very well, there isn’t always a direct translation for the words that they use to describe their concepts but what definitely translates is a feeling, mood or atmosphere that is created from embracing these elements.

Wherever you go in the world each and every country has cuisine that is totally unique, just like the British classics of fish and chips wrapped in paper, to afternoon teas full of tasty jam and cream scones delicately displayed and accompanied by fresh hot tea. Scandinavia is no different, it has plenty of classics waiting to be explored and devoured and accompanying these is a big dose of time out to really enjoy them and savour every taste and texture.

So what are Scandinavia’s classics and what are these concepts that make enjoying them even more special?

Let’s begin with Fika. Fika is a Swedish word often translated to describe a coffee and cake break but it goes way beyond stopping for a quick coffee. With 100 years of tradition, Fika is a national institution and a word you will hear regularly while travelling through the country. Fika is an immensely important part of the working day and often workplaces Fika at least twice a day. Already you can see the importance this country places on taking time out and slowing down.

Fika doesn’t happen alone that would be just grabbing a coffee and cake, Fika is about sharing the moment with others and really savouring the tastes and aromas of the refreshments, it is about reflecting and refocusing in the presence of others. With coffee being the most popular beverage in Scandinavia it is easy to see why coffee and sweet treats are so very important when embracing this concept. Classic Vaniljhjärta (vanilla hearts) are little shortbread hearts dusted with icing sugar, inside is a filling of custard bursting with creamy soft vanilla flavours that melt in the mouth. Another popular is Gräddbulle (cream bun) that has a wafer thin base topped with a smooth mouse that is then coated in chocolate. The most recognised is the plain chocolate sprinkled with coconut but you will see many other flavour combinations and chocolates.

While in Sweden you really would be missing out if you didn’t embrace a Fika break. It is such a meaningful way to spend time with loved ones but also embrace meeting new people as you travel, what a lovely way to share stories and taste the delights of Sweden.

In Denmark, they have a word known as Hygge and this roughly translated means getting cosy and embracing a relaxed, comfortable environment with a focus on wellbeing. This concept is commonly embraced in the homes of Danish families but it is something that can easily be achieved out and about.

Again the focus is around food and the aspects in life that are simple but bring great pleasure. While exploring Scandinavia we can learn from this and embrace stepping away from the hustle and bustle of busy environments and finding a space that allows you to feel relaxed and comfortable, this may be in a café environment or maybe a blanket on the grass in a park. No matter what time of year you are visiting, Hygge can happen all year round and remember it is a feeling that envelopes you and this is different for everyone. The perfect hygge moments, of course, involve tasty treats and by far the most popular of the Danish treats is the kanelsnegle (cinnamon roll). Best served warm this deliciously sweet roll filled with cinnamon is a buttery soft bread that bestows upon you a cosy feeling instantly.

Sometimes a little more than coffee and cake is required to get us fully recharged and an absolute classic lunchtime meal in Denmark is Smørrebrød (open sandwich) which is made up of buttered slices of dark rye bread topped with a range of toppings. What makes this sandwich a whole lot different to the one you may be used to grabbing while on the go at home is this sandwich is a mini work of art. Dense tasty rye bread forms the base for a rainbow of toppings including the classics pickled herrings, fresh cuts of meat, eggs, smoked salmon, mackerels in tomato sauce and an array of pickled vegetables and salads. A Smørrebrød, when served, is so delicately prepared it looks not only like a work of art but also too good to cut into.

Wherever you go in Scandinavia you will instantly see that even the most basic food ideas are done with just that little bit extra, it really is about creating an experience far beyond taste and filling you up, it is about energising not only your body but also your mind. This article tempts the taste buds but only skims the surface of all that there is to taste in Scandinavia, so while travelling enjoy the experiences and don’t be afraid to embrace life and try something new.