Jeanette Bronée founded Path for Life in 2004 in hopes of bringing awareness to the healing power of learning how our choices affect us. She established the nine-step online Path for Life Self-Nourishment Program based on her integrative, mind-body approach to nourishment, which she developed over the course of a decade by helping clients transform their relationships with food. In addition to her private coaching practice, Bronée is a writer, recipe developer and motivational speaker with a specialty in emotional eating. Her new book “Eat to Feel Full (and Nourish Yourself for Good)” is a perfect read for those who want to begin learning about self-nourishment.
Being Danish, I am often asked about my heritage foods. My grandfather was a butcher, so when I grew up, our diet was mainly based on meat and potatoes. Fish, however, is an inherent source of food for the Nordic people. Herring and mackerel are typical foods, as well as smoked salmon and “Gravlaks” (a Nordic dish consisting of raw salmon, cured in salt, sugar, dill and mustard sauce) served with rye bread.
In large parts of the Nordic countries, locally grown vegetables are hard to come by when it is cold and snow covered, so we have a tradition of preserving foods by pickling, marinating and smoking them. In the winter, our meals were mostly hearty stews with roots, meat and potatoes with pickled vegetables on the side. We had lighter fare with fish once the spring arrived with longer days, more sun, and fresh leafy greens and vegetables.
Growing up by the ocean, my family and I would often be inside in front of the fire during the winter; however, in the summer, it was all about being outdoors. Spending the days outside, showering outside, cooking outside, and eating outside was how I grew up. While the Nordic cuisine has been introduced to new ways of cooking more plant based foods and healthy choices, it still maintains the sense of what it means to eat Nordic: food for the outdoorsy people.
In our living environments, we let the light in with large windows and clean open spaces, while still creating a sense of “hygge,” which means comfort and coziness. Because our days are rather short in the winter, we need all the light we can get.
In the summer, we want to feel as if we are outside even when we are indoors, which to me is the essence of the Scandinavian “feel.” In my cooking, I aim to get the same sense of nourishment from my meals – something that is not only physically and visually nourishing, but also gives the “felt sense” of being in tune with nature.
In the new Nordic cuisine, our heritage ingredients are being used in new ways, and even though the fare is based on sustainable and solid meals, nourishment takes on new flavors when integrated with more fresh vegetables, which we now have access to all year round.
What I take with me from my Nordic heritage is the need for food to be truly nourishing and to feed us the way a farmer would eat, sustainably. Instead of being about convenience and speed, it is about cooking and slowing down to sit with a meal and enjoy it. The quality of the ingredients is what brings a meal to life and how we enhance the experience of nourishment.
One of my favorite grains from back home is rye because it is so rich and dense. The Nordic cuisine is “big on rye.” Rye bread, the dark black bread I grew up on, was often served with marinated herring, sliced fresh-boiled new potatoes (what we know as fingerlings) with a little sea salt and chives (yum!), or sliced fresh tomatoes in season.
Today, one of my favorite ways to use rye is to make cooked grain dishes. Grains are great for salad-type meals with the roots of winter or the greens of spring (or both, as seen in the recipe here), making them easy and fast as well as nutritious and sustainable meals.
Another food I remember from growing up is green peas – fresh in the summer and frozen during the winter – or dried green split peas. Soup was often an appetizer, but in a way so was dessert, or rather fruit-porridge was dessert.
Photography by Torkil Stavdal
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