Doubling Down on Food

Hej! Session 3 in DIS has officially begun. For those reading for the first time, my name is Nabib Ahmed and I’m a rising junior from Harvard University. I was in Copenhagen for Session 2, taking Nordic Culinary Cuisine. Now I’ll be spending another session with DIS in Copenhagen taking Tasting Culture: Nordic and Mediterranean Food, Tradition, and Nutrition.

I decided to continue into Session 3 because I felt I needed more time to explore Europe. In particular, I believe Denmark had so much to offer that the three weeks in Session 2 was not enough, which is why both of my sessions are in Copenhagen. 

My weekend trip to Kronborg Castle
A live performance in the courtyard
The Historic Cannons

My Session 3 class follows in theme from Session 2, and I’ll be exploring gastronomy through anthropology and sociology. My course is unique compared to other Session 3 classes as the first half of the course is based in Copenhagen, Denmark (first two weeks) and the other half is based in Athens, Greece. In addition, we have two weekend long, island study tours to Samsø and Naxøs.

My goal for DIS, across both sessions, is to gain an appreciation for European culture. Food is an excellent, multi-sensory method to engage with people and their traditions. I’m fortunate that my two courses reflect this ideology. Both classes included Field Studies and Study Tours that allowed me to engage with the material beyond lecture. 

A home-prepared lunch at our professor’s home from Session 2
Smørrebrød with Potato, Mayo, and Rye Bread

For example, on our first day of Session 3, we had a cooking lesson at Meyers Madhus. We were guided by a professional chef who walked us through the process of cooking a three course dinner meal at a new Nordic Restaurant. As a class, we made beetroot satay (starter), barley with fried chicken (main dish), and rhubarb sorbet (dessert).

The goal of the activity was to engage with food at all levels, from the raw ingredients to the preparation to plating dishes to finally serving on our tables. I got to experience all the facets of working in a professional kitchen, and I gained perspective on how much work and detail goes into food at a fine dining restaurant. Moreover, I learned about wine/juice pairings, and tried vegan apple juice, vegan Prosecco, and imported French wines. 

The head chef is plating our starter
Using oil as a garnish
Me preparing the chicken
A completed starter
A completed dessert
Our class group photo

On our third day of class, we went the other way in terms of food. Instead of fine dining, we went back in time and ate what Danish people would eat at home in the early 19th century. We bus to the heritage farm museum in Flynderupgård, where I got to try the Sunday lunch that a fisherman would have. Now back then, fisherman were in the lowest position in society, so their diets composed of preserved, salted fish, bread, and butter.

I started off the meal with a warm porridge with butter fat and cinnamon (a dish that was small but very calorie dense), followed by three types of pickled herrings with rye bread, butter, and potatoes. After lunch, the class had a tour of the farm and we broke into separate tasks, doing the farm work typical of a Dane in the 19th century. For me, I got to pick fresh raspberries straight off the bushes and even try some (spoiler: they were the best raspberries I’ve ever tasted)!

Warm porridge with butter fat and cinnamon
A traditional Danish fisherman’s Sunday lunch in the 19th century
Raspberry growing on the bushes

All in all, it has been a fantastic start to Session 3 and I can’t wait to see how it unfold.

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