International student looks at food traditions

Allers-IDUN-gjærbakst-2014

Øystein Fjeldberg, Staff Writer

Two years ago I left Norway, my home, to study in the United States. I was excited to begin a new adventure at Wingate University, but even though I enjoyed the experience, there were things that I missed from back home. It is a little funny, but my family wasn’t what I missed the most my first time overseas. It was the food.

I had grown up eating spelt and whole grain breads for almost every meal, and now I barely eat it anymore. The meals served for dinner were different as well; I was used to having chicken once in a while, but not this often! I noticed quickly that fish was not nearly as popular here as back home.

One year ago I started making Norwegian dishes in my campus apartment. I have made bread consisting of five different kinds of flour, risengrynsgrøt (a kind of porridge similar to rice pudding), skoleboller (buns with a custard-filled center) and my family´s recipe for cinnamon chocolate cake. Americans that have tried my food usually like it, but now I wonder what other countries have to offer.

During the last week, I have talked to some international students at my university about their food traditions. When I asked a Russian girl about it, a soup made from beer was the first thing that came to her mind. The soup is called Okroshka and has a sweet taste, being made from salami, green onions and radishes.

Another Russian dish I tried last New Year’s Eve, was the Oliv’e. It is a delicious salad made from diced pieces of potatoes, meat, and vegetables, all of which is usually topped with a little bit of sour cream. Kefir is a popular drink which is often used as an ingredient in Russian dishes; sometimes the beer in Okroshka is substituted for kefir.

Next I learned about a Macedonia cuisine where vegetables and spices play a big role. When buying groceries, the local farmer’s market is the place to go. There people can get what they need to make dishes like tavče gravče and pastrmajlija, both of which are traditional Macedonian dishes.

The tavče gravče dish is made with fresh white pinto beans along with pieces of tomatoes, and was recommended by the Macedonian I talked to. He also talked about pastrmajlija, a bread pie covered with sliced meat cubes.

I friend of mine from Turkmenistan once made a dish called plov that I was lucky enough to try. Plov is a pilaf made from lamb and rice; it is a dish I can endorse. She told me about a Turkmen dinner called dograma, which is made in a unique way.

Flatbreads (similar to naan) are baked in a clay oven, and meat from a mutten’s head and limbs is boiled tender. The bread is torn into small pieces, which are then mixed with the shredded meat and slices of onions. All of it is then covered in broth. The meal is served for weddings, holidays, and other special occasions.

Germany is a place for more familiar kinds of food. Germans enjoy «heavy» food with a lot of carbs, such as potatoes and meat from pork or cow. Sausages such as the famous bratwurst, which is dark grey and heavy in texture, is popular dinner choice. Many restaurants in Germany are family businesses that serve traditional German food.

Sweden has food traditions that are very similar to those found in my home country. Swedes have a diet heavily based on whole grain bread, just like Norway. Køtbullar (meat balls) with brunsås («brown sauce»), lingonberry jam and whole boiled potatoes is the signature dish of Sweden, and is a tasty everyday dinner for the ordinary Swedish family.

Belgium is world famous for its chocolate, although Sweden has strong chocolate traditions as well spanning almost hundred years back, which are represented by the popular Maribou chocolates. The Maribou chocolate company was founded by the Norwegian businessman Johan Throste Holst in 1916, who back then was the owner of the Norwegian chocolate company Freia (which has equally strong traditions in Norway). Both the Freia and Maribou chocolates are sold as big plates weighing about 7 ounces.

And now that we are back where we started, I think this is a good place to end. I hope I inspired you to explore food from other countries, just as I became inspired researching for this story. Cheers!

Edited By Jenna Turner, Brea Childs, Danny Stueber

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