“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” Heard that before? Well, the grass may be greener on the other side, but you’ll probably step in some poo, too. No place is perfect. This post is the first in a series where I’ll be talking about my life in Copenhagen, Denmark.
If you’re just joining me here on Sulten Skat, I got married in 2015 and moved from the U.S. to Denmark to be with my husband, a U.S. fighter pilot, currently on diplomatic assignment here. During this time, I’ve had the opportunity to experience and observe some differences between Denmark and the U.S. The longer I’m away from the U.S., the more pronounced the differences are to me!
Living overseas is an opportunity for which I’m very grateful. It’s not something I ever thought I’d be doing. I love living in Copenhagen, Denmark—what a wonderful place. At the same time, there are also things I miss about the U.S. But as I mentioned – No one place is perfect. So I ask myself….
What do I like about Denmark? (It’s a long list!) What do I now appreciate about the U.S. that I might not have realized prior to moving out of the country? What do I notice during trips to the U.S. that I did not observe while living there? Will I miss Denmark when we leave?
For me, the differences are interesting to consider. They remind me of what I value and appreciate. And THIS is a reminder to be grateful. Differences can also help determine or confirm what I don’t like—and there’s nothing wrong with that. You can’t like everything! THIS can require adaptation (aka: forced growth, and fine-tuning as a human!). Equally as important, recognizing differences for the first time can allow me to see what’s actually possible. Sometimes one can get so stuck in the same routine or the same way of living. Living in a new country changed that in a hurry!
Since Sulten Skat is a food blog, my first couple of posts in this series will be about food! Let’s start in the grocery store….
I’m in a grocery store at least 5 days a week. Sometimes, I’m in several grocery stores in one day. Somehow, I’m able to recall product placement, price, how many of what’s left on the shelf, what store has the best of what, meat expiration dates, etc. It’s probably not a transferable skill (Vegas??), but it certainly comes in handy for me when grocery shopping. I tell my husband that I probably would’ve done well as a contestant on the “Price is Right”.
Come on down!
From what I can tell, I think the Danes do the food thing wonderfully well. It’s a pleasure both eating and shopping here. Here’s why.
Food is fresh! When you buy berries in Denmark they’re READY to be eaten. When I arrive at the food store in the morning, the palettes of food are sitting in the middle of the produce section being unloaded. I’ll take berries right off the palette and will put them into my little cart, knowing we’ll need to eat those berries within 24 hours. Even then, a few of them will spoil. The good news is that the berries are bursting with flavor and eating them in 24 hours is easy.
I bought these raspberries a couple of weeks ago and we ate them in one day, which is not difficult since the package is small. That’s some nice looking fruit!
Shopping for produce in the states was much different, in my experience. I’d have to decide on a Tuesday if I wanted to eat an avocado on Saturday since it’d take that long to ripen. Berries were not usually ready to be eaten unless it was the “season” for that berry, in which case I’d still have to wait a day for them to be nicely ripened. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a difference.
Buying berries and being able to eat them right away is nice. Plus, I enjoy grocery shopping. Although, it’s a bit time consuming going to the store 5 times a week. I could probably get away with food shopping 4 times a week if we had a bigger fridge. But then I wouldn’t be getting the full European experience and I wouldn’t get to carry our groceries down these beautiful streets where I get to look at historical Scandinavian architecture…
pastel row houses…
and pretty churches. I like to pause here and be grateful, even if just for a moment.
Food is very seasonal here. It’s seems more so this way in Denmark than in the U.S. When I lived in the states, I could find most things all year. Of course things are also seasonal in the U.S, but there’s lots of variety year-round. You can find almost anything in the U.S. at any time of year. Here in Copenhagen, there are certain foods that I can’t find year-round. Sometimes, you have to go without parsnips, butternut squash, celeriac, or even zucchini. It’s just the way it goes. I’m on board with that. You eat what’s in season, and I think that’s nature’s way. It’s good to rotate the foods you eat and give your body something new. My body was eager for parsnips in late August and they arrived in early September and are making appearances in our recent medleys of roasted vegetables and crock-pot creations.
A significant amount of food in the Danish food stores is organic. I have a hard time even finding non-organic foods like carrots, spinach, peanut butter, frozen fruit, bananas, rice cakes, fresh herbs, figs, or dates—just to name a few. You can find non-organic foods like apples, oats, eggs, and coffee. But you will also find these in organic form as well! The percent of organic food in the stores is significantly greater in Denmark than in the U.S. from what I’m seeing here.
Here’s the herb section in another store that has cheaper prices. It’s the equivalent of “Walmart” or a “Target” in the U.S. If you wanted to buy laundry detergent, dishes, an iron, school supplies, a Halloween costume, and food—this would be where you’d go. Even in a more general-type store such as this one, you can find organic herbs in plant form! They also offer a few non-organic herbs—but just those small bags of herbs on the top. The standing plants are organic!
The supermarket I shop at the majority of the time carries 2 brands of peanut butter. Both are organic. I’ve found that most of the peanut butter for sale in Denmark is organic. You can find some non-organic peanut butter if you really hunt for it.
When I lived in the states, my shopping strategy was to shop at Trader Joes first, where I would try to find the organic items I needed. If I couldn’t find them, I’d stop at Whole Foods to buy the additional items still left on my list that absolutely needed to be organic. I would also visit the mainstream supermarkets for organic items, but there was never a guarantee they’d carry it or have it. Shopping for organic food here is much easier and it seems to be much more widely available than in the U.S.
The BEST Chicken
If you’ve been reading my blog, then you know how much I love the chicken here in Denmark. It’s so delicious that I served it for dinner at my husband’s birthday gathering last month. Danish chicken is totally birthday party worthy!
It’s been my experience that chicken in the U.S. shrinks in size by about 15-20% when you cook it and is usually a bit on the rubbery side. Now, when we visit the U.S. and buy chicken, we really notice the difference. It’s not nearly as tasty and nowhere near as tender. The chicken I buy here isn’t even organic and it’s extremely tender and tasty. I don’t know what is being done to the chicken in the U.S. All I know is that I will miss the Danish chicken. You can see the Danish chicken up close in these posts. : fig stuffed chicken, curry coconut chicken, sweet potato basil puree.
I appreciate and enjoy the fact that Denmark’s food offerings are incredibly fresh, seasonal, offered organically in large part, and include the most amazing chicken I’ve ever eaten. Along with this comes the “poo” as I mentioned earlier… the fact that the freshness, small quantities, and a small refrigerator require me to shop almost daily. Even with this fact and that some items are only available seasonally, I’ve learned to try and embrace what is. So….I shop my butt off and enjoy the walk. Then I fit as much as possible in our fridge!
In my next “Life in Denmark: A Series” post, I’ll show you what’s on the shelves in the Danish supermarkets and how this compares to what’s sold in the U.S. I’ll also talk a little bit about prices, what kind of food I saw in the convenience store last week, and how there is LESS sugar in everything here!