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A guided tour of Danish cuisine

Pickled herrings, fried onions and koldskål. These were just a few of the Danish delicacies offered to new international students at the Danish Food Night at Studenterhus Aarhus.

Wasting money on strange food products that you don’t like is definitely not much fun!This is exactly why Studenterhus Aarhus started its first International Tuesday with an introduction to Danish cuisine. Ordinary Danish cuisine. Fotos: Lise Balsby
The Danish Food Night was the first of a series of International Tuesdays at Studenterhus Aarhus – evenings designed for international students in particular, although Danish students are welcome too.

“What are you supposed to do with it?” Marie-Danielle Smith from Canada stares inquiringly at the rusk biscuit she has just been given to go with a small portion of koldskål in a shot glass. And it’s true: foreign cuisine CAN be a little confusing at first.
Most people have probably walked around supermarkets when they’re abroad and been surprised by some of the things they find in the refrigerated cabinets and on the shelves. But experimenting with foreign cuisine can be both enjoyable and exotic, unless you’re a student on a tight budget. Wasting money on strange food products that you don’t like is definitely not much fun!
This is exactly why Studenterhus Aarhus started its first International Tuesday with an introduction to Danish cuisine. Ordinary Danish cuisine, mind you – not the kind of fancy new Nordic cuisine that uses ingredients such as wild garlic, sea buckthorn and live ants, as served at the modern mecca of Danish gastronomy, a restaurant in Copenhagen called “noma”. No – the students were introduced to everyday products such as liver pâté, fried onions, rye bread, remoulade, rolled sausage meat, salami, and the kind of pickled herrings covered in curry mayonnaise that the Danes love so much.
“Rye bread is perfect for students. It’s nothing like the kind of bread you’re familiar with – baguettes, for instance. Rye bread is full of fibre. It’s food for your brain. And we use rye bread for our classic open sandwiches as well,” explained the executive manager of Studenterhus Aarhus, Anne Thorø Nielsen.
“Try spreading liver pâté on your rye bread. Yes, it does contain liver – but you can’t taste it. And most Danes seem to think that it tastes great even though it looks pretty awful! If you like to experiment a bit, why not try our pickled herrings? Herrings are good for you, like all fish, and if you don’t like the taste you can always smother them in curry mayonnaise like the Danes,” she said.

Danish herrings take a bit of getting used to

Some kind of introduction to Danish cuisine was probably a good idea. Because although Danish and Nordic cuisine is currently gaining popularity outside Scandinavia, fuelled by noma’s success, many of the students knew very little about Danish food.
21-year-old Nailah Morgan from California said that most of the food on display was new to her. She knew that Denmark had better dairy products than the US, and she had heard of Danish bread. She also thought Danish food was healthier than American food because Danes tended to eat less processed food. But she hesitated before sampling the pickled herrings and liver pâté. And she wasn’t the only one who thought the herrings took a bit of getting used to!

Crash course in koldskål

Tessa Kwant from the Netherlands, who is on international placement at Studenterhus Aarhus, walked around offering all the international students a tray of koldskål and rusk biscuits.
She explained that it tasted like thin yogurt but contained buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. And that the Danes ate it either as a dessert or as a snack – but mostly in the summer months. You just crumble the rusk biscuits into it, she explained to the surprised students, most of whom actually thought it tasted pretty good.
Tessa Kwant helped to organise the event. She has lived in Denmark for four years now, but there are still some things that surprise her. She has learned that Danes have quite a lot of culinary traditions and particular meals that they eat at particular times of the year. Roast pork at Christmas, duck on Martinmas Eve, and koldskål in the summer. But she will never get used to liver – as far as she’s concerned, you have to actually BE a Dane to like it.


International Tuesdays

The Danish Food Night was the first of a series of International Tuesdays at Studenterhus Aarhus – evenings designed for international students in particular, although Danish students are welcome too.

For more information please go to studenterhusaaarhus.dk/welcome