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International Cooking with Friends

By Siri Thorsen

As an aspiring, but not very talented or patient, cook and “foodie” (as basic girls on Instagram would say), I have gone to many lengths in order to expand my culinary horizon and skill set. I was vegan for 6 months. I watched all of Chef´s Table and Cooked on Netflix. And I bought an unnecessarily expensive mole skin notebook where I gather all my friends’ recipes in their own handwriting.

This made me better, got me a few steps further up the imaginary ladder to Mysterious Grown-Up Land, but there was still one fundamental problem. All of my efforts were neatly and safely happening in a Norwegian culinary context.

What is the Norwegian culinary context, you say? Well, these are our unspoken rules:

• Firstly: we are proud of our history as a poor and simple nation, or maybe just too lazy to reinvent our traditional cuisine when we discovered “our” oil. Either way – potatoes, fish/fish oil and salt should be in your digestive system at all times.

• Secondly: A dish does not have to have great amounts of colourThirdly: We eat for practical reasons – no need to make a big social event around it (that’s what we use alcohol for)

• And last, but perhaps most important: Dinner is only dinner if three main types of food are present on the same plate:Meat/FishPotatoes/Rice/PastaVegetable

Norwegian delicacy??

Therefore, to say that my eyes were sparkling with excitement the first time I witnessed my Italian class mates passionately arguing over how to make pasta carbonara is a grave understatement. With this master program I stumbled through a door and into what me and my Norwegian friends and family would call “exotic food culture”. Suddenly, I felt like Julia Roberts in the movie Eat, Pray, Love – a unenlightened and nodding white girl, slowly learning to love and appreciate each tomato that I ate.

Fully aware of this idiotic romanticization, I still giggle (sometimes only inside) every time I am offered an Indian snack or a taste of an Azerbaijani dish. The times I am eating dinner with the South-Europeans I always suppress my need to announce what I am doing on social media. “If only my friends back home could see me now!” I think, while I sit around a round candlelit table tasting four different types of olive oil before discussing which one is the best.

Before this master began, I got an high from making my own taco wraps and felt proud every time I introduced mangos as an ingrediens in Friday taco (Fredagstaco – big deal) to my friends. One time, (the only time), I made spring rolls from scratch, and posted an ironic (but obviously bragging) picture of it on Instagram, as evidence of how cultured I was.

I can’t really explain why I am bursting of pride every time I take part in this “exotic food culture”. When traveling, I have off course eaten amazing and very “un-Norwegian” food, but the though of recreating them in my own, cold Oslo apartment seemed so far fetched that it was never even considered. Perhaps what I needed was to be exposed to this strange way of living on a daily basis. Nevertheless – I hope it lasts, because I’m planning on coming home as a new and refined human being. If you look for me at a party, I’ll be the one saying: “This Manchego is ok, but it’s nothing like the one I ate in Barthelona“.


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