Wednesday, October 07, 2009

A burger is a burger, but a smørrebrød is an adventure

I have seen only one Danish restaurant since I arrived in Copenhagen on Monday morning.

There are Indian restaurants, Middle Eastern restaurants, Turkish restaurants, Greek restaurants, Thai restaurants, Mexican restaurants, joints that sell pizza and kabobs, and Italian cafes, but you don’t see much down home Danish cooking.

So far, the only ethnic place I’ve eaten in was a Thai restaurant in an alley off Vesterbrogade, after which I was afraid to breathe near the sprinklers in my hotel room. The peppers were hot enough for me to light the way back to the hotel just by opening my mouth.

But with the dearth of Danish Restaurants, I have still eaten true Danish food several times now. The Danes are nothing if not hospitable.

I spent much of this morning listening to an in-depth discussion of insulation, during a meal of what can only be described as gourmet smørrebrød.

For those of you who haven’t looked it up yet or haven’t been to Denmark, smørrebrød (pronounced something like “shmoorbrool”) can be almost anything

I first took it to mean the same as the Americanized word Smorgasbord, which is a corruption of the Swedish meaning “belly up to the trough and eat everything you see.” The translation for smørrebrød, however, is something like “all-you-can-eat-of-everything-the-cook-couldn’t-find-enough-of-for-a-full-meal-but-could-put-together-to-make-a-full-meal-on-one-slice-of-rye-bread.”

And it’s cold.

Today, smørrebrød included a couple of pieces of smoked salmon with dill, some sort of ham, spiced sausage called rullepølse made from rolled up meats sliced thin enough to read through, cooked onions, a mushroom, some pieces of roasted tomato, a piece of cheese, a piece of rare steak, a spoonful of caramelized nuts, a slice of cinnamon apple and several things I could not identify, but tried anyway. The idea is to put as much of that as possible on a piece of bread.

Yesterday it was sliced roast turkey, cucumbers, tomatoes, orange slices, lemon, lime, parsley, beets, a liver paté, some boiled shrimp, boiled eggs, yogurt, beef, some thinly sliced cured pork, and several other things that I couldn’t identify.

These were food combinations I would never have thought of. The surprising thing is, it’s really good. It has also opened up entirely new possibilities for me when I get home.

“I don’t need to go the store, honey, we can have smørrebrød.”

As long as we have bread, I’m on solid ground with that argument.
Read a more serious account of Denmark and ways to fight climate change at Going green in Denmark, my blog on

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