When thinking of Scandinavian cooking, what comes to mind? Is it the taste of unripe fruit, conifers, and buttermilk? Or how about the dish presentation equipped with rocks, shells, leaves, and pods artfully placed on the plate to look as if you happened to stumble on some wild cuisine out in the forest?
Classic Scandinavian cooking style has always had a deep relationship with the land itself. Dishes are cooked with local ingredients found in-season, putting major restrictions on the types of foods a chef has to work with. Traditional Nordic dishes are also put together almost in homage to Nature itself. These age old traditions have preserved beautifully ancient techniques and practices, but the preservation comes with a price.
From October to April, freshly grown ingredients are MIA. So the challenge for Scandinavian cooking has been not only dealing with the scarcity of ingredients, but also making food in a traditional manner appealing to countries that have much longer growing and harvesting seasons.
The New York Times featured an article today that looks into the recent movement towards traditional Scandinavian cooking. Chefs are going to events like Rene Redzepi's MAD FoodCamp or Cook It Raw, a gathering of chefs that go out into the wild to rummage for ingredients in the permafrost and cook by campfire. This sort of experience prioritizes cooking back to its essence, its origins outside of technological dependence. The article also mentioned my friend, Chef Mathias Dahlgren, who is also bringing back the Scandinavian classics to restaurants.
In this Scandinavian takeover, the point isn't using the same ingredients people use in the European North. It has everything to do with cooking methodology and getting back to natural ways of making complex, earthy flavors and designs. All in all, it's like culinary Zen.
I want to congratulate Mathias and Rene for cooking with their roots and bringing traditional Nordic food to the forefront. Continue on your great work and I can't wait to see to what new heights Scandinavian food reaches.
Photo: Sarah Ackerman