Food & Identity introduced me to Danish culture in more ways than I could ever imagine. As I have mentioned in an earlier blog, my class Food & Identity illustrates the theory that identity presents itself through food. Not only in the dish itself but also in the preparation, presentation, and even the table setting. Relating anthropology and sociology to food has never crossed my mind, but I have absolutely loved getting to learn about it.
Every day in class we set aside 20 minutes taking turns presenting and teaching our class about a Danish snack. The snacks can be anything, but we can’t repeat what someone else in our class has already done. Some examples so far have been Cinnamon Rolls, Carlsberg Beer, Licorice, Flødeboller, and more. This little part of our class allows us to learn more about Danish culture and how to appreciate it. I’ve loved seeing these snacks in local grocery stores, bakeries, and restaurants and knowing the history behind them all.
We have also been able to participate in Field Studies during the summer sessions. Our class has made these short, day-long trips around Denmark so fun. On our first Field Study, we learned about Smørrebrød, the famous Danish open-faced sandwich. We met at Hahnemanns Køkken and had a private session taught by Trine Hahnemann, the owner of the bakery and an established food writer. Here, Trina taught us the history behind Smørrebrød and the traditional way to make them. Some of the most traditional open-faced sandwiches are made with rye bread, butter, herring, tomatoes, red onions, capers, and creme fraiche. In our class, we also learned how to properly eat Smørrebrød. Traditionally, families drink the meal with beer, and no one at the table can get up before everyone is finished and there has been a significant amount of time after to fully enjoy the meal. Learning about this specific way of eating helped me appreciate these different cultures and makes me want to learn about more cultures.
Our second Field Study was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We were able to take a tour of the famous Noma. Owned by the famous Rene Redzepi, Noma was awarded the #1 restaurant in the world many years in a row. The restaurant continuously receives such high remarks for its creation of the New Nordic cuisine. At Noma, we learned about their commitment to sustainability, their seasonally-defined menus, and we got to go inside the restaurant and see the kitchen and their unique and distinguished architecture and design. After visiting the alluring Noma, our class discussed how Noma changed how the rest of the world views Denmark. Before, other countries never really viewed Denmark as a foodie country, but Noma’s identity reshaped those beliefs and changed the world with its food.
Food & Identity has given me a new perspective on how I look at our ever-changing world, and how food can impact that so largely. We learned food as an art form. We know how impactful art can be, and to know that food can do the same feels enlightening. Learning about how food impacts identity allows me to examine other cultures in a new lens. I have loved seeing how Denmark’s identity is shown through food and how other cultures have influenced the country, and how their food identity has influenced other countries as well. Our professor, an established journalist who has written for newspapers such as the New York Times, also brings a unique perspective because she is not Danish but has lived in Denmark for many years. I have loved getting to know her and my classmates who have made the course so interesting.
I have also enjoyed hearing about the different foods our classmates have brought in with my Danish roommates and learning about their favorite Danish foods and their favorite restaurants of the food we learn about. From an American perspective, the unique food of Denmark is so radiant throughout Copenhagen and is such an important and amazing aspect of their culture. Growing up with my Danish grandmother, she has taught my family so many of these cultural meals and desserts, and to be able to see these in Denmark has been such an amazing experience. I see many small things my family has mentioned to me about Denmark in my day-to-day life and it is such an amazing feeling that I am connected to this culture in a small way.