Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Celebrating Terre Madre Day with Slow Food Copenhagen

During a very snowy weekend in Copenhagen, I attended the Slow Food Copenhagen-North Zealand gathering to celebrate Terra Madre Day in honor of local food. The event was nearby in the Nørrebro neighborhood, which under normal circumstances is an easy bike ride away. However, I quickly learned the lesson that Google Maps's travel time estimates do not take into account city snowstorms and the snow-covered bike paths that result.  Thus, my 16 minute bike ride turned into a 45 minute bike ride. While I thought of turning back several times and worried they may have cancelled the event due to the storm, I kept going. It was the kind of day where I'm certain that 90% of people were sitting inside curled up with a good book, drinking hot chocolate.  The rather empty streets and cycling paths were indicators I might be crazy for venturing out, but I'm very glad I did.
Upon my arrival, I parked my bike and dusted off the layer of fresh snow that had collected on me (see example above.)  Traveling 3 miles on my bike had never felt like such a personal victory!  From the very start, I recieved warm greetings from the members of Slow Food Copenhagen-North Zealand and felt so welcomed at the event. 
Outside, members gathered to cook up some soup over an open fire, in good spirits despite the bad weather.
Inside the event, I experienced a cozy gathering where people came together to care about food, share their passion for recipes, and celebrate food traditions. 
My first stop was the Lykkeberg herring table, where a company representative, Cornelia Kaas generously offered a history lesson on the tradition of salting and pickling herring. Kaas explained that while many households in Denmark used to salt and pickle their own herring, now it is more common to purchase herring that has already been pickled and the tradition is getting lost. She also told me about how Lykkeberg employs people who put special care and attention into how the herring is placed inside their jars, so that the fish is displayed in a particularly artful way. I was able to try some different herring samples, and fell in love with the 'havfrue kryddersild,' which had a melt in your mouth quality.  While I have tried herring once or twice, I'll admit I have shied away from it a bit in the past. But living abroad means embracing new food adventures, and after my snowstorm bike ride, I was ready for anything. Plus, listening to Kaas explain the tradition of herring gave me a whole new appreciation for it.  (By the time I attended my first traditional Danish Christmas lunch on December 25, I was truly enjoying herring just as much as the Danes were.)

Attendees brought hidden treasures from their home kitchens to share or swap, and this crowd did not disappoint. Slow Food member Karen Hansen designed illustrations to showcase the homemade items, adding even more charm to this cozy event (I see food-oriented graphic novels and cookbooks in her future!)  
Everyone had something to offer-- and it's likely that they carefully transported it using their bikes, in the snow!  (I didn't take a transportation poll, but in Copenhagen it's a safe guess.) Pictured below is a jar of rødkål made by Slow Food member Jannie, which is a pickled red cabbage side dish very traditionally served during the Christmas season in Denmark. The mixture is quick pickled with apple cider vinegar, and quite delicious!
 She also made a veggie gratin, also called a 'carrot pudding' based on a Finnish recipe, along with her lingonberry ketchup recipe.

 Another portion of the event featured a sweets competition, where members could have their kitchen creations tasted by expert judge, local pastry chef Nikolaos Strangas from Copenhagen's Cakeaway. Below, you can see the proud competitors of the sweets contest!
Below, some lovely mini pecan pie tarts, made by fellow American food blogger Kim who now calls Denmark her home. 
This family was kind enough to share a jar of their homemade rumtopf with me-- a mixture of hand-picked berries gathered during the summer season and preserved with 80 proof rum! 
 The mixture was saved for the holidays, to share with visiting friends from the States-- as they suggested, we drizzled it over vanilla ice cream!
And the treats kept on coming! Katrine Klinken, the president of Slow Food Copenhagen generously gifted me a Danish pigeon apple, a special Nordic apple in season at the moment. By the end of the day, I was quite overwhelmed by the kindness and hospitality of Slow Food Copenhagen members, and my taste buds were equally overwhelmed. I hope I can someday return the favor with some Southern California hospitality, and I can guarantee that no one will need to battle a snowstorm to reach any of our culinary destinations.  If you ever want a guide through the Santa Monica Farmer's Market, a tour of the best Mexican food in the golden state, or a taste of our coziest coffee shops or bakeries, I hope you'll let me know.  Thank you so much Slow Food Copenhagen!
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