Denmark's Fresh, Simple Cuisine

By Joyce Hendley, M.S., "Northern Light," May/June 2008

Discover this country's flavorful, minimalist cuisine.

According to Claus Meyer, the Danish host of PBS's New Scandinavian Cooking series, the geography and intense sunlight of Denmark contribute to what he has dubbed "Nordic Terroir," using a term usually applied to wine to describe the unique taste of place that climate, soil and sea contribute to foods produced here. "Nowhere else on earth do we find a temperate climate so far from the equator," he explains. During the summer's long days, plants get plenty of light but the cooler temperatures cause them to grow more slowly, he notes, allowing more time for a variety of flavors to arise. Apples and strawberries, he says, "develop an entirely different kind of freshness and aromatic intensity than do similar fruits grown further south."

Take potatoes, for example. "In June our potatoes are crisp like hazelnuts, juicy and tender," sighs Meyer. His idea of a heavenly meal? Those potatoes, "with a little butter, fresh dill and salt from Læsø" (an island in northern Denmark). And Meyer's not alone in his dedication to these potatoes. In Copenhagen, the arrival of the first crop of new potatoes each spring makes national headlines. Top chefs bid outrageous prices—the equivalent of hundreds of dollars per kilo—for the right to serve the first sack of prized specimens, and just about any Dane will pay top dollar for freshly dug pedigreed spuds from the island of Samsø to the west or from Sweden's nearby Bjäre region.

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