Scandinavia--Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland--is blessed with five distinct, yet related, cultures.

Learn about the stories behind the legends, about the countries, and most of all about the people.


"We sailed our ships to any shore that offered the best hope of booty; we feared no fellow on earth..."
Saga of Arrow-Odd

What is Gjetost?
A town in Sweden.
Brown goat cheese.
The word for "hello" in

Roasted fish.
The word for ghost in

Correct answer?
OSLO - Norway

Clustered around the head of the 68-mile-long Oslofjord, Oslo is probably the most spacious city in the world. Its 175-square-mile metropolitan area consists of over 75 percent forests and five percent water. Its fine deep harbor, Pipervika, stretches into the heart of the city and from it leave ferries to Denmark and Germany.

Read more

Feature: Stavanger
Featured City: Oslo
Food: The Great NordicDiet
          Swedish Semla
          Norwegian Cuisine
          Canned Sardines
History: The Round Tower
Arts:   Vigeland Park, Oslo
          Georg Jensen
People: Henrik Ibsen    
News: Happiest Countries          

Find out how to contribute to this site

Traditional Norwegian Cuisine
by Bob Brooke

Cuisine is a cornerstone of every culture, and in Norway, traditional food draws heavily on the raw materials available throughout the country—its mountains, wilderness and waters. Unlike the country's continental counterparts, Norwegian fare has a stronger focus on fish and game. According to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the Norwegian population is among the healthiest in the world, and diet plays a big role in it.

Before 1905, Norway had a rather poor standard of living. The wealth Norway enjoys today only arrived a little over 100 years ago. Most Norwegians ate porridge three to five times a day two to three centuries ago. The country had marginal agriculture and couldn’t raise enough crops to feed everyone. Cooks had only a small selection of ingredients to work with. But things began to improve in 1983. And by 1993, Norwegian chefs won top honors at a food competition in Lyon, France.

Ingredients used in the traditional Norwegian kitchen come from the region. With a higher standard of living, Norwegians don’t mind paying more for quality ingredients. Aromas come from berries and apples, which are better because of Norway’s warm days. Cooks use wild mushrooms to add special flavor to their dishes.

Norwegians use seasonings to add savory flavors, including dill and caraway seed, which grows wild in Norway. Old Norwegian cooking used shredded horseradish root, especially with salmon, thyme, and oregano (imported by monks in the Middle Ages), which grows wild around Oslo. Traditional Norwegian food lacks excitement. The older generation likes this, but the younger generation likes contrasting flavors.

Dairy Products
State controlled, independent dairy producers produce a myriad of dairy products, one of which, Jarlsberg cheese, they export. Gjetost is a brown goat cheese with an amber color and creamy texture. Cheesemakers add carmelized sugar and cream to it to give it it’s distinctive color and flavor. Another traditional cheese is smelly Gammelost, or old cheese. Made from skim milk, aged for three months, it matures from outside to inside. Caraway seed is the main ingredient of Pultost, or pot cheese.

Since rye grows easily in Norway, it’s no wonder that it’s the most popular bread. It normally comes in two varieties—Knekkebrod, or grain-pattern rye, and Flatbrod, or thin rye that’s hard and dry and cracks easily. But there are also hearty wheat and whole grain varieties. Traditional Norwegian breads are coarse and hard. Thin hard breads, used in smorbrod, are made of whole grain or potato.

Seafood is the heart and soul of Norwegian cuisine. Norwegians love their fish and consume seafood an average of three to four times a week.. Norwegian cooks poach, smoke, grill, fry, salt and dry, and cure a wide variety of seafood, including cod, lobster, and monkfish. Popular Norwegian meals include Røkt laks (smoked salmon), fiskesuppe (fish soup), sild (pickled herring) and gravlaks (also gravlax or gravlochs), made with salmon filets marinated in a dill/cognac mixture and served with sweet mustard sauce.

Game in Norway ranges from goose to duck to reindeer. Often, Norwegian cooks grill or roast game and served it with traditional Norwegian side dishes, such as raspeballer, or minced fish, fresh or salted, added to potato dough.


Norwegian breakfasts
Norwegian breakfasts tend to revolve around the sea, with meals including smoked salmon, fish in various sauces and marinades, such as sardines in mustard sauce or tomato sauce, or pickled herring, smoked whitefish served with hard-boiled eggs or carviar, called kaviar in Norwegian. Dig in to lefse, which is the soft, Norwegian flatbread made of flour and milk or cream. Norwegians like to eat it with Jarlsberg cheese, butter, fruit jam or any of Norway’s tasty smoked fishes.

Come midday, make a sandwich of brown goat's cheese (geitost) or slices of salmon on lefse. Every child and most adults tuck their lunch fare into a bag , or matpakke, which literally means packed food, before going to school or work. Open-faced sandwiches are a tradition in Scandinavia. Popular options in Norway include a buttered slice of toast, typically whole-grain rye, topped with meatballs, herring, fish filets or liver pate. Surprisingly, hot dog lunches are also a favorite. A typical Norwegian eats 100 a year, almost one every three days.

Dinner, the only hot meal of the day, is usually simple, consisting of hot meat, boiled potatoes and vegetables. Most Norwegians eat dinner at 5 P.M.

Delicious Desserts
After a hearty Norwegian meal, diners indulge in a sweet milk dish called gomme or rømmegrøt, which is a sour cream porridge. Layer cake stuffed with whipped cream and jam or apple cakes are also popular. For the 17th of May, Norwegians serve rhubarb, often made into a compote with layers of egg cream. But one of the most popular desserts is apple crumble—a puree of apples and caramelized bread crumbs, layered with cream. With hot tea or coffee, Norwegians often serve almond macaroon rings or iron-shaped cookies rolled into cones in classic Norwegian fashion.

The average Norwegian consumes 40 gallons or 160 quarts of milk per year. Markets carry milk from two dairy companies, Tine melk and Q melk. But 4.5 percent Norwegian beer and "blande," a cheap drink made from water and soured whey are also popular. Norway also imports wine which can be pricey.

Aqavit is Norway's famous exported liquor made from potatoes. Distillers flavor it with caraway seed or star anise, using bags of spices. After the warm alcohol vapors pass through the bags, they age it in wood barrels. The darker variety, called aquavit, must pass across the equator. Norwegians serve another variety, golden Linie Aquavit, at room temperature to enhance its spicey aroma. This one must pass twice across the equator. Cold-pressed, clear Aquavit isn’t aged but is served slightly chilled with herring, cold meat, and fatty dishes, much like vodka is in Sweden. Norwegians serve the best dark Aquavit, which ages for several years, after dinner.


< Back to A Taste of Scandinavia

Every year about 95 000 people die in Sweden and, according to the law, everyone must be buried. There must be room for everyone in the cemeteries, therefore the future needs of space have to be predicted. Because of this funerals must be part of the planning process.

Read more about Swedish burials

News from Norway
from Aftenposten
News from Denmark
News from Sweden
from the SR International 
News from Finland
from Finnish News Agency STT
News from Iceland
from The Iceland Review
All news is in English


In the early Middle Ages, driven by famine at home and the promise of wealth to be had in other lands, the Vikings set out from Scandinavia to conquer parts of England, Ireland, France, Russia, and even Turkey. Bolstered by their successes, the Vikings pushed westward, eventually crossing the North Atlantic and founding settlements in Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland in Canada.
Read more         Go to the Book Shop >

To read more articles by Bob Brooke, visit his Web site.

Site contents Copyrighted ©2002-2016, by Bob Brooke Communications.
Site design and development by
BBC Web Services.