Why I eat Greenlandic Food

In autumn I started a little unofficial ‘Portrait of a Greenlander’ series to highlight Anne Nivíka Grødem, the Greenlandic Foodlover. Now we’re cooperating in a new way. Here in February, I’m so proud to be a weekly guest blogger on her website, www.greenlandicfoodlover.com. Everything on the website relates in some way to food and health and Greenland – whether it’s delicious new recipes to try out or tips for keeping healthy skin in winter.

My posts on Greenlandic Foodlover are written in Danish, but I’m reproducing them here in English.

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ON APPRECIATING ANOTHER CULTURE

By: Sarah Woodall

When I came up here for the first time, I knew nothing about the Greenlandic food environment, and I knew nothing about the rules for importing and exporting food, for example. I had no idea how much vegetables cost, and I had absolutely never heard of seal- and whale-hunting.

Yes, I was completely new and unknowledgeable, but it also meant I had no preconceptions or prejudices against Greenland or the Greenlandic people. Everything I know about Greenland now, I learned here. With respect to food, I was totally open to eat anything that was served. One must try everything at least once, is what I learned as a child, and such a saying goes a long way here in the Arctic.

In the beginning, I ate Greenlandic food to show my respect and appreciation for the country’s culture. I thought to myself, When I am in your land, it should be me who adapts myself to your ways. Not the other way around.

I can remember the very first time I tried fried whale meat at a birthday lunch. Everyone at the table looked at me and waited to see my reaction (which was that I thought it tasted very good). And I can remember a time my friend came home with fresh raw seal liver. I ate that without a second thought, although maybe with just a small hesitation before the first bite. They were all completely taken aback that I could imagine trying such a thing!

P1000638 Whale on the barbie! Fantastic summer day on the terrace with short sleeves, sunglasses, and Greenlandic specialties! And with two (live) whales in the bay, too.

Now I eat Greenlandic food because I want to. It’s not every day, but, for example, I do buy whale meat and mattak (whale skin & fat), and I ask for Greenlandic food whenever there’s a choice. I have experienced overall that Greenlanders are surprised by my openness, my willingness, and even my desire to eat the Greenlandic specialties. One of my best friends always says that it is truly amazing I like the taste of ‘Arctic blood’. It makes me proud.

Top left: Boiled seal meat for suaasat soup. Top right: South Greenlandic lamb leg. Bottom: Mattak (whale skin & fat), served with aromat seasoning and strips of dark rye bread.

IMG_5051 An interesting find at the grocery store! Greenlandic Trio Pack of 1) ground Minke whale meat 2) ground muskox meat and 3) fish mashed with cream, vegetables, etc.

I think it is important as a foreigner to be open for the different food cultures you meet. It is also just as important for the culture one comes into to feel that it is valuable itself. The simple fact that a foreigner is open to take on new food habits and adopt them as their own is certainly a success, isn’t it?

I don’t mean that the value of a culture should be decided by the outside world. On the contrary! But when a foreigner wishes to immerse herself in the Greenlandic lifestyle and food culture, it’s a proof that such a lifestyle is unique and very special.

Therefore I eat Greenlandic food. Because it supports the Greenlandic culture, because I can, and because I want to.

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Portrait of a Greenlander: The Greenlandic Food Lover, Anne Nivíka Grødem

Billede af Anne Nivíka Grødem Photo by: Ivìnguak Stork Høegh, via Greenlandic Food Lover Facebook page

A creative and beautiful soul

Anne Nivíka Grødem is an inspiring and creative soul through and through. She is an illustrator under the pen name by Nivíka, creating the sweetest drawings of Greenlandic motifs and animals, one of which hangs above my very own desk. She is an author, creating a trilingual activity book (in Greenlandic, Danish, and English) called Arctic Circus to help develop children’s inner creative spirit, connection with language, appreciation for diversity, and desire to learn. And she is a home chef of professional caliber, manning her @greenlandic_foodlover Instagram account for years and most recently developing it into a full suite of Greenlandic Food Lover resources – a print recipe book, Facebook page, and blog.

In Anne’s own words (translated from Danish to English):

“I am a foodie, and I love to experiment with recipes and to get inspired by food I eat and see. This blog is an expression of what I eat regularly, which is an easy and accessible starting point! I’m not religious or fanatic – but I am driven by visually outstanding beauty. I love when food appeals to all the senses!”

A vegetarian recipe book for the country with no vegetables

Anne is running wild with her Greenlandic Food Lover passion this year. In September she released a recipe book, Naatitanik Qerisunik Nerisassiornermut Najoqqutassiaq / Grønne Opskrifter med Frosne Grøntsager (Vegetarian Recipes with Frozen Vegetables, in English) to give Greenlanders a tool for how to be creative within the frames available in Greenland.

The Greenlandic diet never really had vegetables written into the game plan – only land and sea mammals, fish, and the tiniest bit of foraged foliage. Today, local agriculture is confined to a very short growing season in South Greenland, and imported goods come from the most expensive countries in the world. Needless to say, Greenland’s vegetable game remains a challenge. The price of fresh lettuces and cucumbers can soar to 6-7 USD or more, leaving frozen foods as the only economically reasonable possibility for many. For more discussion on food in Greenland, see here.

Thus, in classic Greenlandic pioneering spirit, Anne embraces this ‘limitation’ and makes it a strength. Use her recipes to spiff up ordinary green beans and your guests will swear the veggies came right from your own greenhouse.

Greenlandic Food Lover_Advertisement Photo credit: Greenlandic Food Lover Facebook page

Ambassador for healthy & happy lifestyle

Anne strives not only to educate Greenlanders about easy ways to add variety, nutrition, and flavor to their diets through recipes but also to inspire them to adopt the same style of relationship she has with food – a holistic one.

She knows that health goes further than eating food with high nutritional value; it includes an all-around balance in every corner of one’s life. Taking the clean lifestyle initiative to new heights, Anne focuses on health, happiness, and inspiration via the kitchen.

Here are a few of her cardinal rules for food:

  • It must be easy.
  • It must be healthy.
  • It must be available locally, either from Greenland’s own resources or the town’s grocery store.

Greenlandic deliciousness 

So what will Anne have us eat?

Italian meatballs over vegetable ribbons, Crowberry coconut popsicles, Green juice of cabbage & cucumber & avocado & mint & spinach, Date bars, Ginger-lemon shooters, Homemade almond milk and almond flour, and so much more!

Photo credits: Left – Emilie Binzer, Top Right & Bottom Right – Anne Nivíka Grødem

Is your mouth watering yet? Get more Greenlandic food inspiration at www.greenlandicfoodlover.gl.

PHOTO GALLERY: Faroe Islands Gastronomy

Last week I had the incredible opportunity to take a business trip to the Faroe Islands! It is 1/3 of the North Atlantic Tourism Association, so together with Greenland and Iceland, we three countries are always looking for partnership opportunities to improve tourism in the entire North Atlantic region.

I did go driving in the country one day, but when I was in the capital city of Tórshavn, my main activities were sightseeing and dining! The Faroe Islands are a fantastic destination for the gastronome! They have a kitchen full of fresh fish and local meat, and everyone is keen to tell you a story behind the ingredients on your plate!

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The first night, I ate at Áarstova near the harbor in Tórshavn. No photos of the food here, unfortunately, but my colleagues and I dined on vibrant whipped fermented fish crostini, the most delicate and divine piece of cod I ever tasted, heartwarming cod and langoustine soup, and the pièce de résistance, whole leg of lamb with root vegetables! Of course, the meal could not be complete without a cup of tea and a slice of rhubarb pie!

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The second night I ate dinner at Kafe Kaspar, the cafe at harbor hotel, Hotel Hafnia. I ate a cozy plate of Faroese specialties and tapas!

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In center: røst sūpan (fermented lamb broth) & sild (herring). From the top: rugbrød (dark rye bread), eplir (potatoes), turr grind (dried Pilot whale), royktur laksur (smoked salmon) & ræst kjøt (fermented lamb meat).

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The third day, I ate lunch at Etika, a mod sushi bar. Again, no photos at this location, unfortunately, but we had all the classics!

The fourth and final day, I ate dinner at KOKS, the restaurant at Hotel Føroyar that has recently held its own against Danish giant, Noma, in the contest for Restaurant of the Year 2013 in Denmark!

This was truly the tip top of my dining experiences in the Faroe Islands, and from the pictures below, you can hopefully see why! The food was not only local and fresh and tasty, but each plate was created like an individual piece of artwork! With each course a different plate, different presentation, and new set of cutlery. The food was artwork, but so was the service! My waitress served each dish with such precision and choreography that it made me wish to be a fly on the wall in their training sessions!!

Inside the dining room of KOKS.IMG_6085

I had the best seat in the house – directly across from the kitchen so that I could see the chefs cooking and building each plate!IMG_6086

Amuse-bouche No. 1: Fermented Cod Trio – fried skin, fried meat, and backbone for presentation. Served with parsley creme fraiche. Perfectly crunchy, and I think I liked the skin more than the meat!IMG_6106

Amuse-bouche No. 2: Dried Faroese Shrimp over Parsley Mayo. The photo actually does a pretty good job of magnifying these little guys. In reality, they were no more than a few centimeters long!! Five tiny pops of flavor!IMG_6091

Amuse-bouche No. 3: Smoked salmon over dill cream. The hotel manager’s parents smoked this fish themselves at their personal home! You can absolutely taste the love!IMG_6107

Malted Bread: Same malt as in this Portari beer. Served with brown butter and a chervil creme fraiche. Just what I needed to soak up some of the wine that came paired with each course! And I even opted for half the wine typically served!IMG_6108

Course No. 1: Scallop with celery, celeriac, finished with brûléed cheese and a celery root & brown butter reduction. The presentation with this one was stunning! The dish came with the cheese cold, and to me it looked like a wafer on top, really. Then the chef came over with his mini torch and melted the cheese right at the table!IMG_6089

Okay, wait for it… I am totally stupid and did not charge my iPhone on this night. And I did not have my digital camera with me, either. So a description of the next 6 courses will have to suffice! Sorry!

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Course No. 2: Poached egg sprinkled with fermented fish flakes and pulverized seaweed; served with a side of Faroese potatoes and a butter infused with lamb stomach essence. This one was nice, but others took the cake!

Course No. 3: Steamed langoustine with a citric butter and smoked spruce. Complete with a warm finger towel. This one might have won for presentation points! No cutlery, eat with your fingers – and then cleanse them with your own personal finger towel staying warm in your own personal hot stone. The smoked spruce was so good! It was not to be eaten, just to infuse the air! It was like being at the most gourmet campfire ever!

Course No. 4: European flounder over a cauliflower puree with Faroese mayroot and finished with brown butter.

Course No. 5: Lamb heart tartare with beet root and pulverized spinach. Served on a handblown glass plate. This one was delicious! But talk about purple mouth – forget about the red wine staining your teeth! Lamb heart and beet beat all!

Course No. 6: Faroese lamb loin dry rubbed with thyme and garlic with a side of bulgar wheat & spinach with peppercress. Served with a beautiful knife & sheath with silver inlays of whales, harpoons, and boats.

Course No. 7: Celeriac and caramel ice cream with dried blueberry, crumbled malt cracker, and a salt cream. Eating this dessert was like going back in time and eating the best Fisher’s popcorn in Fenwick Island, Delaware with my grandmother! The dessert was so perfectly balanced of creamy and crunchy, salty and sweet! I could have wished for a second!!