Mange Tak, Copenhagen
The travel bug in me went on a little rampage last Monday, making me itch to go somewhere. So, I consulted EasyJet and looked at all of my options. 10 minutes later, I impulsively booked a flight to Copenhagen. I admit I went in with high expectations, but Copenhagen still managed to exceeded it.
I've heard a lot of great things about Danish creative culture. But I can't claim to know much about it. I figured why not go learn about it my way -- through food. I believe you can learn about people's culture and their approach to life from how, what and the way they cook. After all, food is the fundamental source of survival. So cooking can show you a lot of each culture's basic instincts.
I wanted to take a Nordic cooking class while I was there and that's how I met Mia, another stranger-quickly-turned-friend. It was Google, who introduced me to Mia as I searched for a cooking course.
"We start the class in the food market" She wrote on her site.
I didn't need to read any further. I immediately emailed her, hoping there would be a class available. Unfortunately, there was not. But something better came along. Mia kindly offered to meet and show me the city's food scenes. And so we met at Torvehallerne food market.
Among many things, Mia is a talented yet very humble food entrepreneur, food consultant, food photographer, cookbook author, founder of CPH Good Food, and a passionate lover of Nordic cooking.
We spent HOURS getting to know each other through food. We talked a lot about her projects. It quickly became clear to me that science is the backbone of Mia's creativity. She's one of the very few people I've encountered who are very good at using both the right and left brain.
As I walked around the city, I saw Mia's philosophy of art meets science everywhere. Case in point, the market where we met is created with both form and function in mind. It's one of the most beautiful markets I've seen. Mia told me it is designed to give you a multi-sensory experience. Walking in the market is like walking in the spa. All the beautiful smells hit your nose making you salivate. The market is also very practical, dividing up into two sides . One is for what I called the hard stuffs -- raw meat, seafood, cheese. The other is for the softie -- pastry, coffee, herbs, flowers, condiments, etc. The reason behind the separation is so that the smell won't compete with one another. In between the two buildings is where the community gets together for food events. I love it.
In Danish design, the furniture and objects I saw also combined style with substance, creativity with practicality. In their design, the beauty came from mixingbasic elements like geometry, shapes, colours, texture and materials together in a minimalistic and elegant way. Everything is so simple, something that requires a lot of talent and thought-process to achieve. It's easy to shout for attention by piling on stuffs, not so by being understated.
The same concept applies to all the dishes I sampled, down to the tableware used to serve the foods. I couldn't find adjectives to rightfully describe Nordic cuisine.
Let's just say my body and mind felt much lighter despite three days of stuffing myself with massive amounts of smørrebrød, local fish, gooseberries, buckthorn berries and all things smoked, pickled and made locally.
At the end of the trip, not only did I learn about Nordic cuisine, but I also understood a little bit more about how the Danes approach creativity. In my very humble opinion, it comes down to this -- creating something BETTER, not the BEST.
The Danes are so creative in using what nature has to offer to produce something entirely new and unique. It's like 1 plus 1 equals 3 (or more). Their combination of resources, talents and efforts equal more than the sum of their parts. It's NOT about creating something with the aim of being called the best in mind. I don't think they care so much about the "No.1" concept anyway. They just want to make things a little better. And that's probably why (among many other reasons), they are the happiest people on earth. That's just my guess.
I am HUGELY inspired by this trip. And thanks to Mia, who gave me three Nordic recipes to try, I get a chance to learn some new techniques like rye bread making. I'm also intrigued by the idea of pickling, so I decide to pickle mackerel myself. Ultimately, this week's cooking gave me a chance to try putting simple elements together both in terms of what I serve and how I serve it. I know you can't taste my food [trust me it's delicious :)], but I hope the simplicity comes through in this week's food pictures.
Mange Tak, Copenhagen!