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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Food for thought by John von Daler

                When I first came to Denmark, I learned a lot of things from the Danes about how to live well. Their simple, democratic way of living appealed to me and I enrolled in the Danish school of life with enthusiasm.

                They were not about to let me learn their secrets without me telling them some of mine, though. They loved hearing about food that I knew about, strange fruits and vegetables, spices, herbs that their culture had not imported and therefore did not know. They also liked me to show them new combinations of tried and true staples. But not all of them were equally interested. Some wanted Denmark to stay just as it was without my interference.
                I remember walking into a store where they sold open-face sandwiches for lunch. I asked for a Danish classic: sliced hard-boiled eggs topped with sliced tomatoes on dark, rye, buttered bread. The woman in a neat, white uniform at the counter replied that unfortunately they were out of hard-boiled eggs. Then I said the fatal words, Oh that's all right, just make me a sandwich with cheese and tomatoes.
                She had been turning away from the counter, I guess in the clear understanding that I must neccessarily be on the way out of her store. Then I had thrown my suggestion at her like a dagger in the back.
                She staggered around to confront me with a face completely drained of blood.
                Tomato and Cheese? Cheese and tomato? Never! - and then she looked as proud as Horatio at the bridge - That sandwich has never and will never be made in this store!
                Actually, I had some other very good combinations of food up my sleeve, but I was suddenly confronted with a heroine who would fight me to the death to defend this small corner of unspoiled Danish culture. I had to excuse myself and leave. On my way out I did take a quick look back to see if I should call an ambulance.
                Others were much more open. My parents-in-law seemed pleasantly surprised when I told them that I had found an avocado at the green grocers. They had never heard of them.
                Neither had the green grocer. I found a dark green avocado that was perfectly ripe and soft and showed it to him, and after feeling it, he said that it must be going bad and sold it to me for half price. My parents-in-law bought a hard one, cut it first in half and then into small pieces that they covered with sugar and ate. They reported back to me that Americans really had some wierd eating habits. I reminded myself that learning from each other takes time, patience and a very, very open mind. I had probably already misused a few of their  "avocados" on my way into Danish culture.


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