A Canadian discovers brown cheese

Canadian journalist Marc Macdonald recently arrived in Norway. We have asked him to share with us his first impressions of Norwegian cuisine.
The cheese on my bread was brown and sweet. It was goat cheese and very unlike the orange variety favoured by my Canadian taste buds.

I bit into the bread, savouring the sweet taste of the cheese, wondering at the same time how Norwegians make cheese taste sweet.  

Brown cheese is one of the many new items introducing itself to my diet. As a Canadian, I am used to peanut butter and jam, not Norwegian treats like fish cakes and buns with egg cream filling.

But my palate is adjusting and even reveling in the food of my new home, Bergen.

Luckily, embracing Norwegian cuisine won’t be too difficult. Only two weeks living in Norway and my beloved peanut butter is a distant memory, happily replaced with cheese and bacon spread.

For dinner, beef will be replaced with seafood and at breakfast, spicy Danish salami – not jam – will accompany my bread.

But accepting some aspects of my new diet will be difficult. For example, the Norwegian meal schedule, with four main meals a day, is different from in Canada, where people have three.

Eating waffles for desert instead of breakfast is another difference. Sorely missed is maple syrup – a uniquely Canadian treat – which is replaced as a waffle topping in Norway by jam.

Norwegian pizza is also different. Mysteriously absent from a Norwegian frozen pizza is the thick layer of grease found on Canadian frozen pizzas. Plus most Norwegian pizzas also feature ground beef, which rarely makes its way onto a canuck pizza.

Thankfully, much of the last six months of my life have been spent adjusting to foreign cuisine. My girlfriend, Bergen native Cristina and I have been travelling the world, visiting 18 countries in four continents.

We ran the gauntlet of world cuisine, consuming raw eel in Japan, bamboo in China and dried worms in Namibia.

There were many times on our trip when we yearned for western food. We longed to pick through piles of fresh fruit and select choice meats at our favourite grocery stores.

We imagined ourselves enjoying the fare at Bergen restaurants. One place was left off my list of establishments where I could eat healthy, nutritious food: the hospital.

Fare in Canadian hospitals is famous for its bland and unappetizing qualities. During a visit to a Canadian hospital, a patient might consume Jello and beef broth, washed down with sugar-filled juice.

Canada is a well-off country, and since this was the best grub they could rustle up, I concluded hospital food must be the same across the West.

But I was wrong. Imagine my surprise when, upon finding myself in Bergen’s hospital, I found myself enjoying the food served there: Fresh bread and cheese, tasty rice porridge and good coffee. I was in culinary heaven, in a hospital.

If Norway’s fine cuisine is any indication of things to come, adjusting to life here won’t be so bad.

For Norway Post - Marc Macdonald

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