Eating Habits and Dietary Patterns

The descendants of the Vikings continue to eat many of the foods of their ancestors, and they often prepare them in the same way. Preserved food are very common and include dried, smoked, salted, or pickled fish; dried fruits and jams; and fermented milk. Fresh fruits and vegetables are only available for a few months a year and are dried and stored for the fall and winter months. Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries abound in the summer. Potatoes are an important staple of the diet and are served in a variety of prevalence: describing the number of cases in a population at any one time cardiovascular: related to the heart and circulatory system coronary heart disease: disease of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels surrounding the heart stroke: loss of blood supply to part of the brain, due to a blocked or burst artery in the brain hypertension: high blood pressure cholesterol: multi-ringed molecule found in animal cell membranes; a type of lipid cancer: uncontrolled cell growth obesity: the condition of being overweight, according to established norms based on sex, age, and height tularemia: bacterial infection by Francisella tularensis, causing fever, skin lesions, and other symptoms diet: the total daily food intake, or the types of foods eaten

A Dutch man eats raw herring, which is a delicacy in the Netherlands. Seafood is an important part of the Scandinavian diet, but it is not always eaten raw. Popular preparations include smoking, drying, pickling, and salting. [AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced by permission.]

staples: essential foods in the diet fat: type of food molecule rich in carbon and hydrogen, with high energy content ways, including as pancakes. Other staples include fish, seafood, mutton, cheese, cabbage, apples, onions, berries, nuts, and bread. Bread is often made with rye, and both leaven and unleavened varieties are common.

Scandinavians eat simple, hearty meals. They generally eat three meals a day, plus a coffee break. Breakfast is light and usually includes bread or oatmeal porridge, fruit, eggs, cheese, herring, or potatoes. Fruit soup is a popular breakfast item in the winter and is topped with cream and served with bread and cheese.

Smorgasbords (bread and butter buffet tables) are popular at lunch in Scandinavia. In Denmark, open-faced sandwiches are made from the buffet table and eaten with a knife and fork. Buttered bread is topped with items such as sausage, herring, smoked salmon, boiled potatoes, cheese, and tomatoes. Such sandwiches are also served as a late-afternoon or bedtime snack. In Sweden, the buffet table offers a large variety of both hot and cold dishes. The Swedes eat herring first, followed by other fish dishes. Meats, salads, and hot dishes then follow (in that order), and dessert is eaten last. Dinner usually has several courses, including appetizer, soup, entrée, vegetables, and dessert. Pea soups served with pancakes are popular dinner items in the winter.

Desserts are rich but not overly sweet. Popular desserts include pancakes with preserves, fruit pies, and pastries. Danes are internationally known for their pastries, and Swedes are known for their butter cookies. Beverages served with meal include milk, coffee, tea, beer, schnapps, dry sherry, sweet Madeira, port, or aquavit (water of life). Aquavit (also called akavit, aquavite and akvavit) is an alcoholic beverage made from a grain or potato mash that is double-distilled. The second distillation features the addition of various flavorings such as caraway (most common), cumin, cardamom, lemon peel, aniseed, or fennel. Aquavit is generally not aged, and it is usually drunk straight and chilled, from a small chilled glass. It is a popular drink at smor-gasbords.

Dairy products (from cows, goats, and reindeer) are heavily consumed. In addition to drinking milk, Scandanavians also have a high intake of sour cream, buttermilk, and cheese. Cheese is generally served at every meal. Cheese from this region of the world is popular internationally and includes Danish Blue and Havarti from Denmark, Herrgardsost and Svecia from Sweden, and Gammelost and Gjeitost (brown goats cheese) from Norway.

Fish is a major staple in the diet, and Scandinavia is the largest supplier of fish in Europe. The region is one of the largest exporters of dried salt cod in the world. Sweden is famous for its crayfish, Denmark for its oysters, and Norway for its lobsters and prawns. Smoked and cured fish (e.g., herring, mackerel, cod, salmon, and eel) are produced commercially for both the domestic market and for exporting. Cured cod is traditionally prepared for Christmas in Norway and Sweden and served with pork fat and bacon.

Historically, meat was in limited supply, so it was often combined with other ingredients. The famous Swedish meatballs and the Danish fricadeller (patties made of ground beef, lamb, and pork) came out of this tradition. Today, the Scandinavians are hearty meat eaters. Pork is the favorite meat in Denmark, a country that has as many pigs as people. Scandinavians also hunt wild birds, elk, deer, and bear, just as their Viking ancestors did. Even a few

Long winters and short summers limit the fruits and vegetables available to Scandinavians. Their diet tends to be high in fat and salt, and includes such exotic fare as reindeer milk, whale steak, and lutefisk. [Photograph by Ted Spiegel. Corbis. Reproduced by permission.]

of the more esoteric tastes of the Vikings live on. Norwegians love whale steak and claim that it tastes as good as beef. Smoked horseflesh is also popular with the Swedes—they call it "hamburger" and buy it thinly sliced.

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