5 most bizarre Norwegian dishes

Posted on 31. Aug, 2014 by in Food, Traditional

An exotic country, Norway has got its share of rare dishes. Native Norwegians may not agree with me, but I think the most bizarre Norwegian dishes are the following:


Lefse. Thanks to kurisorokku on Flickr.

5. Lefser with brunost. A lefse is a Norwegian tortilla, only with hvetemel and potet (potato) instead of maize (corn). Wrap it around some brunost (Norwegian brown cheese), and you have a nice add-on to kaffien (the coffee). Why is this strange? Well, it depends on your smak (taste)! A few times, it tastes just too much of dusty flour and burnt caramel… Jamie Oliver thought brunost was noe søtt kliss (some sweet ”goo”). Many visitors absolutely adore it.


Komle (top right ”corner”). By Jarvin (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

4. Komler. I’ve seen the eyes of Norwegians twinkle as they told me they were about to eat komler or raspeballer, as they’re also known. The English name for such white, spongy, round thingies is ”potato dumplings”. I never understood the charm of chewing hot balls of flour. Somewhere there’s supposed to be a tinge of potatoes.

3. Dravle. As a kid on his first visit to Norway I had a hard time digesting some spoonfuls of this traditional dessert. The Big Norwegian Encyclopedia tells us that dravle is usually made from milk that is being heated till it almost starts boiling, ”under tilsetning av surmelk og evt. halvpisket egg, slik at ostestoffet faller ut i hvite klumper” (during the addition of soured milk and eventually half-whipped eggs, so that the casein/”cheese stuff” emerges as white lumps). – I wasn’t able to find a free photo of dravle, but take a look here.


Lutefisk. By Jonathunder (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Lutefisk. You take a torsk (cod), dry it for some months until it becomes as stiff as parchment skin. Then you put your tørrfisk (dried fish) to soak for some days, steep it in lut (lye – a substance with a pH value similar to soap), before you let it soak in some more water. The result is a very watery delikatesse (delicacy), to say the least…


By PerPlex (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

1. Smalahove. No doubt about this one. As if eating the hove (= hode, head) of a smale (= sau, sheep) wasn’t weird enough, smalahove afficionados in Western Norway even slurp the sheep’s little brain and big, empty eyes.

Norwegian Egozones

Posted on 30. Aug, 2014 by in Geography, Pronunciation


”I hate Norway” written in nynorsk. Thanks to Aslak Raanes on Flickr. (”Must be irony,” as he writes.)

This is going to be the egoistical post. We all need to talk about ourselves now and then, so we need a word for ”I”. This is easy enough in written Norwegian – jeg (let’s stick to bokmål for the time being!) Jeg lærer norsk. (I’m learning Norwegian.)

If you’ve ever heard somebody saying jeg the way it’s written – ”yegh” – then you’ve probably met a Martian or something! The word for ”I” is pronounced in a dozen different ways, depending on the part of Norway you’re from. Even as a foreigner you have to ”choose your region”. Most people go for the Oslo variety, but I know people who’ve moved to other parts of Norway and tried to learn the local dialect instead.

Okay, this is a gross simplification, but if we leave out the niceties, one could say Norway has three major ”ego regions”: The places where people say jeg [yay], the places where they say eg [egh], and the places where you refer to yourself by letting out an æ [a]. Østlandet (Eastern Norway), in particular the Oslo area, are the strongholds of jeg, while Vestlandet (Western Norway) is the traditional eg sphere. Put crudely, the remaining parts of Norway – Sørlandet, Trøndelag and Nordnorge – go for æ.

(If you’ve been following this blog, you should know that there are two official ways to write Norwegian: bokmål – which is being taught here – and nynorsk. In nynorsk, ”I” is always eg. Most nynorsk users live in Western Norway. Hm… The poor æ-sayers, on the other hand, have no official support for their favourite pronoun!)

Alrighty then! You’ve picked your local identity. Now, how do you talk about ”me”? That’s easy – just add an m: jeg > meg [may], eg > meg [megh], æ > [ma]. Jeg har fått meg ny bil./Eg har fått meg ny bil./Æ har fått mæ ny bil. (I’ve gotten myself a new car.)

In real life things are a bit more complicated. For example, some østlendinger (Eastern Norwegians) say je [yeh]. Kjell Magne Bondevik, former Norwegian PM, called himself i [e!], as people in his hometown of Molde usually do.

So, if you’re tired of all the people around you that only say ”I – I – I…”, maybe you should go on an ego trip to Norway!


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A nice children’s song demonstrating æ:

M – Æ så en liten grønn frosk en gang… (M – I saw a small green frog once…)

Try this at home!

Birthdays in Norway

Posted on 31. Jul, 2014 by in Traditions


Photo by Nina Svenne at Flickr. (Creative Commons Licensed.)

Photo by Nina Svenne at Flickr. (Creative Commons Licensed.)

Gratulerer med fødselsdagen! (Happy birthday!) Since July is crowded with birthdays in my family, I thought it would be nice ending the month with some facts about fødselsdagsfeiring (birthday celebration) in Norway.

Mange norske barn har barneselskap. (Many Norwegian children have children’s birthday parties.) The barneselskap is hosted by the child’s parents. Children from the skoleklasse (school class) or barnehage (kindergarten) of the fødselsdagsbarn (”birthday child”) are invited to the consumption of kaker (cakes), brus (lemonade), gelé [shellEH] (jelly), snop (candy)… Gjestene [YESTeneh] (the guests) are expected to bring gaver (gifts) or penger (money).

• Adult nordmenn (Norwegians) continue celebrating their birthdays, but it’s often more low-key later in life. The exceptions are the runde fødselsdager (round birthdays) like 25, 30, 40, 50, 75… These are often pretexts for huge parties.

• Norwegian actually has two words for ’birthday’. The second one is bursdag (or gebursdag), which comes from the German word Geburtstag. In some parts of the country the right thing to say is: Gratulerer med bursdagen! Ask the locals to hear which word they use.

• It quite normal for the guests at a birthday party to sing a fødselsdagssang/bursdagssang for the celebrant. When people are in a hurry, they sometimes go for the English ”Happy Birthday To You”. Otherwise, there is a nice Norwegian song, ”Hurra for deg som fyller ditt år”. The song has special moves that follow the text. The first verse runs like this:


Hurra for deg som fyller ditt år!
Ja, deg vil vi gratulere!
Alle i ring omkring deg vi står,
og se, nå vil vi marsjere,
bukke, nikke, neie, snu oss omkring,
danse for deg med hopp og sprett og spring,
ønske deg av hjertet alle gode ting!
Og si meg så, hva vil du mere?


Hooray for you who’re completing your year,

yes, you we will congratulate.

Everybody is standing around you in a ring,

and see, now we’ll march,

bow, nod, curtsy, turn around,

dance for you with jumps and bounces,

wish form the heart all good things!

And say me then, what more do you want?



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