Cod is the fish to be had in Norway, and locals eat it in numerous ways, from dried chips to fresh-caught fillets. The most interesting of the variations dates back to the Viking Age, when sailors would dry out the whole fish on giant racks (shown above) and rehydrate it months, sometimes years later. This tradition is extremely interesting, not only with its history but in how it continues today, and it deserves to be understood by all travelers who step foot in Norway. We'll give you the full run down next week in a separate feature.
Northern Lights Beer
This Pilsner from Mack's Brewery pays homage to the Polar Lights. Mack's location in Tromso has it proudly claiming to be the "northern most brewery in the world," and since such a statement is just about impossible to confirm, we'll go ahead and give them the benefit of the doubt until someone else comes along with evidence to the contrary.
This distilled liquor dates back to the 15th century and is flavored with a variety of spices, including combinations of caraway, cumin, fruit peels, and fennel, depending on the recipe. It is loaded with booze -- about 40-45% alcohol -- and makes a great after-dinner sipper. The name comes from the Latin aqua vitae, or "water of life." It is produced in almost every Scandinavian country with slightly different recipes. Skoal!
There's no doubt going to be some controversy over this one thanks to the irresponsible whale hunting that happens in many parts of the world (cough, Japan), but Norwegians have been eating and using whale as a means of survival for centuries. Strict laws help maintain healthy populations and ensure a compassionate approach. Norwegian whale hunters, for example, must train and qualify as experts that are able to kill with one shot in order to obtain a license. The meat classifies as red meat, not fish, and is closer to a steak than it is a fillet of fish. Because it does not preserve as well as other meats, it is not easily available all year round and one should look for it in restaurants during the late-winter and summer seasons.
Like the whale, the Norwegians have great respect for the reindeer, which has always been a staple of their survival in terms of food and clothing. Come in on a cold night and try a hot serving of reindeer stew, sure to remind you of beef stew served in America.
[Photos: Will McGough/karkenshu/Scandi Kitchen/Radviamonnert Grytestek]