Saturday, February 5, 2011

Food for Thought


It's a blustery day here in Dane Land. 6:11 p.m. and already dark out, but I do have some bright news.

I'm happy to report another decorative addition to my room: an abstract hand-painting on canvas, taken from another common room here at Skjoldhoj Kollegiet. WOO!

But this post gets even tastier!

I think it was the second blog I wrote after arriving in Denmark that highlighted my first dining experience in this foreign land. The danish cuisine that my dad and I feasted on for the 2 days he was here was really something else. In reality, however, I really don't see myself cooking something as exotic as ox bone marrow or horseradish-glazed duck on a regular basis.

So! What does a foreign student in Aarhus do when she's hungry?

Well, first thing's first, ya gotta make the journey to buy some good eats.

Sadly, Denmark is unaware of No Frills and FreshCo. The equivalent to these cheaper grocery chains here is called "Netto." (It's actually amazing. You can buy like, 583 kg of carrots for about 2 canadian dollars.)

But for the many brand-powered shoppers who may prefer to buy groceries in a store where flourescent yellow lighting isn't the main light source, "Foetex" is kind of like Canada's Metro (a little more pricey, but a little more quality). Meanwhile, "Bilka" is very much like our Wal-Mart (pretty much a modern day convenience store, filled with everything from avocadoes to monkey wrenches to pleather shoes that try to look fashionable while hanging messily on white hooks in bulk.)

My first grocery excursion was the day my dad left, and since I really had no idea where any of these stores were located, I stopped at Foetex, the first one I saw on Bus route 15...

...and then I realized I don't speak Danish.

The meat aisle featured things like"oksekød," "kylling," and "malt svinekød," while the milk section has about 20 differnet kinds of cartons with alien-looking brand names. I had NO idea which little container was "butter" and I probably spent a good 5 minutes trying to decipher between spaghetti sauce and salsa. Was that pink package oatmeal or cereal? How much are these cucumbers, since there are 3 different signs above them?

I remember that first grocery trip being really overwhelming. That first day being completely on my own, I was craving familiarity. I just wanted to buy some Triscuits, but I could only find Wasa crackers. I searched the shevles for regular marble fromage, but I eventually gave up since there were literally 49 different brands, names, sizes and shapes of the stuff that I could not have said "cheese" if a person had asked me to at that moment.

I left Foetex with a cart full of pasta, however. Penne looks the same even on this side of the Atlantic!

But today marks the second week I've lived in Europe!!! And with more time to adjust to living in here, and as I keep making trips to Bilka (the grocery store closest to my house), I'm getting more adventurous and way less overhwhelmed by the bombardment of Danish texts.

When I look at this situation objectively, I'm actually really thankful for a chance to BE the foreigner! Imagine how it must feel for non-English speaking people to come to Toronto, walk into a grocery store, and only be able to tell what a food product is based on what it looks like!? English is indeed a universal language, so how often will I get to experience shopping without it?

It's actually funny going grocery shopping with my fellow international students:

"Is this soy sauce?"
"I don't know! Let's buy it and find out!"

"Does this look like chicken?"
"Hmmm, maybe this one more so."
"Ok, let's go with that one!"

That's another thing I love about my Denmark experience so far. Just about every night for the past week, I've made dinner with my friends, and their friends, from all over the world! We buy the ingredients together, we cook it together, we eat together, and we clean up together, all while sharing stories about where we're from and where we want to be in the future and how we miss our cats. (Yes Snowflake, I'm talking about you.)

Maybe this is rather stereotypical, but it seems to me that people from places outside of North America delight in the process of making a meal. Unlike back at home where everyone is drained by routine and caught up in busy schedules, people here actually have a desire to take the time to make something delicious! And not just a desire to make this deliciousness, but a desire to share it! There is a joy here that comes from taking time to communally enjoy good talks accompanied with good tastes. We've had about 3 pot lucks since I've been here!!

...haha, re-reading that sentence makes dinner hour in Aarhus sound like a romanticized world that you read about in cheap paperbacks. But it's true!!

Maybe it IS because it's only the first few weeks here and we're excited to hang out with each other, or maybe we only have this kind of time to set aside for dinner because school is just getting started...Hm. That does make sense. But really, I think that regardless of how busy the weeks get, there will be many more stirfrys, spring rolls, and homemade apple crisp complete with raspberries and chocolate chunks in the future :)

OH YES, dinnertime is sweet.

(Apologies go out to my pal Kraft Dinner. Looks like you'll be staying in your box for a few more weeks.)

1 comment:

  1. I love this blog post! I've really enjoyed how we've all been eating together, too :) I might just be eating non-perishables if it was any other way, haha. I do miss Tricuits as well, though :( I eat them about every night at home.