One of the many joys of spending three weeks in a little flat on a fjord in Norway is getting to grocery shop. Usually on business trips I face an endless parade of restaurants or indifferent room service. Here I have the fun of the miniature grocery store just a few blocks away.
Imagine an efficient little store about a fifth the size of typical American supermarket (typical as in Safeway, not Super Target or Fred Meyer). In it you can buy Naan, and flour tortillas, and of course instant fish soup.
There is every pre-made convenience food imaginable and a few I never imagined, since I had no idea there are so many ways to combine fish and mayonnaise. And then, in the back of this modern wonder, is a breadshelf with whole loaves of bread and an automatic bread slicer should you prefer to slice it before you bring it home.
I found the whole shelf of pickled herring.
It was with some restraint (my father will understand what I mean here) that I came home with only three kinds of cheese.
Part of the fun is that I shop without any translation aids, come home, make dinner and then sit down with my little Norwegian phrase book to figure out what I’m eating during dinner. E.g. today’s sausage turned out to be made of Mutton and Pork. I’d passed over the obviously named Reinsdyr sausage for the more enigmatic Sognemorr. Not bad, the Sognemorr.
The intercultural experience of the evening, though, was the Gamalost fra Vik which I picked up in the cheese section. When I opened the attractively wrapped half-cylinder, I found a light brown dense cake. It tastes both mild and strong and has a texture that is what foam rubber would be like if left in the desert for 100 years. I was not encouraged when I looked it up in my phrase book to find this definition:
“old fashioned” pungent “cheese” made with skimmed milk.
Yes it was “cheese”, not cheese. This concerns me. The only other things I’ve been able to puzzle out from the wrapper are that it is 50% protein and 1% fat – the wrapper is very proud of those two facts and proclaims them prominently. Finally, the wrapper says:
Gamalost er ein hard muggost med roter heilt tilbake til vikintida
Which I loosely translate as “Gamalost is a hard nugget with odor baked until suitable for long voyages on Viking ships.”
I had a very tasty dinner tonight. Jury’s out on the fantastically nutritious and durable Gamalost, but it’s still in the fridge.