There’s a buzzword floating around that you may or may not have heard yet, and it has everything to do with Denmark. The word is Hygge.
I enjoy coming across words that do not directly translate into English. It means I’m delving into new territory, and my nuance-searching antennas light up with glee as I probe and observe and try to understand this gray area. If this sounds like you too, listen to a podcast episode by NPR’s Invisibilia. It’s about an anthropologist who discovers a new emotion in a remote part of the Philippines. Check it out here, and click on the “Emotions Part Two” episode.
Hygge can be translated, very simply, as “getting cozy.” Others have elaborated that definition, such as “taking pleasure in the presence of gentle, soothing things,” (Helen Bishop, British journalist), or “the practical way of creating sanctuary in the middle of very real life,” (Louisa Thomson Brits, author.) These are just a couple ideas from the New Yorker article I found about hygge (and where my information is from). And it’s no mistake that the word slightly resembles the word “hug.” Deriving from a Norwegian word “hugga,” which means “to comfort,” it is related to the English word “hug.”
With this in mind, it is easy to decipher that the national dish is related to this Danish philosophy. A meal of pork belly, seasoned with freshly ground salt and pepper, fingerling potatoes, and an enticing parsley sauce to eat it all up with, the meal looks simple, yet bold.
We were lucky enough to have guests over for this meal: Spencer’s dad, Glenn, and sister, Kristen were visiting us to see Spencer perform in a much-anticipated piano recital. As I cooked in the kitchen, assembling the dish, I fretted that I had not made enough food. (I put together a plate of lettuce for each person to compensate.) After the meal was finished, we all agreed the dish looked small, yet we were all satisfied at the end of the meal. The ingredients speak for themselves, and at the heart of the dish is the hygge philosophy. It’s a comforting meal that is simple, but well made. It provides what you need, and nothing more.
Though the dish has been around for some time, it was officially (and easily) voted as the national dish of Denmark in 2014, and for that, I tip my hat to you, Danes. May we all enjoy the simple pleasures in life to our fullest capacity.
- pork belly in slices
- wheat flour
- chopped parsley
Glenn: “I thought it was excellent – the sauce was good, and the pork belly was superb.”
Kristen: “The pork had a nice crisp, and the colors of the potatoes really brought out the dish. The dish was regal.”
Spencer: “It was regal and superb.”
Teresa: “Pork belly was difficult to cut with dull knife – but everything turned out well. Delicious!”
- The capital of Denmark is Copenhagen
- The official language of Denmark is Danish
- Denmark has a high standard of living, and earns top marks in categories like education, health care, low corruption, high income equality, and protection of civil liberties. It also has one of the highest personal income tax rates in the world
- Like hygge, the “Law of Jante” is another way to define and understand Danish (or more broadly, Scandinavian) culture, particularly their value of social equality. Written by author Aksel Sandemose in 1933, the Law of Jante describes the facet of the culture that negatively views personal success and achievement. It includes ten rules, all referring to this central theme: “You are not to think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than us”
- Denmark has two overseas territories: Greenland & the Faroe Islands