If revisiting Taiwan required a conscious effort to overcome nostalgia and habit-induced travel bias, then my first foray into Scandinavia required levelheaded quelling of the massive expectations resulting from personal obsessions and displaced cultural hype.
I’d somehow developed early-onset Scandimania years ago, which is to say that I was a hipster predecessor to those sipping lingonberry beer from mason jars and toting their Kanken backpacks around London (also guilty). I’m not sure what did it—the beautifully minimal and maximally functional design products, the idea of fjord-swimming under the midnight sun, the effortlessly incorporated sustainability and fascinatingly effective socialist model, the lovely letters ø and å, or maybe just the flavour combination of rye and smoked salmon… by the time I’d watched all the documentaries I could access online, I ordered 3 used previous-edition Scandinavia travel guides for $5 and read them cover to cover.
I’ve never been the hesitant type when it comes to travel, but for some reason I hadn’t been able to make the move and book a ticket. I’d read about every “off-the-beaten-track” attraction, Norwegian hiking trail, and how to recite local breakfast items in Danish, but actually going there meant affirming or invalidating all the expectations I’d built up in my mind; perhaps I didn’t want the risk of reality poking holes in my perfect little Nordic fantasy.
Growing up as a Taiwanese American and even now living in London, I’ve been subject to innumerable incidences of racist favouritism. It may initially seem preferable to the belligerent sort, but I’ve found it to be much more dangerous and detrimental to the development of both cultural equality and personal identity…so when my naïve Scandimania turned me into a hypocritical fangirl relentlessly batting her eyelashes at anyone revealing their Nordic descent—the more pure-blooded, the more vigorous my batting—I knew it was time to invest in a plane ticket and dispel any unjustified preconceptions.
You can therefore imagine the mixed feelings of wary apprehension and utter excitement when my dear classmate and friend so graciously offered to show us around her homeland this summer. As was the case in Greece and Thailand last year, I was met with an unimaginable degree of hospitality and generosity from humble and huge-hearted strangers, the loving families of my friends. In Sweden, it extinguished any apprehension and instead built up my appreciation of Scandinavian culture on more robust and deep-rooted dimensions.
And here it is—the first of a 3-part photo documentation of Denmark and Sweden, complete with a crispbread recipe to munch on. This recipe is highly adaptable to personal snacking preferences; in my post-Sweden berry foraging frenzy (hint: part 2 of 3), I scavenged some deceptively named “Oregon Grapes” from a bush in South London and dehydrated them with some sugar for an extra topping.
Knäckebröd (Nordic Crispbread)
- 250ml (1 cup) warm water
- 5g dry active yeast
- 1 t sea salt
- 200g rye flour
- 100g whole spelt flour
- egg white (optional)
- sunflower seeds
- pumpkin seeds
- golden linseed/flaxseeds
- sesame seeds
- dried Oregon Grapes (or other berry)
Stir yeast into the warm water. Mix both flours with the salt in a large bowl, then stream in the water and combine with hands until a smooth dough begins to form.
Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let the dough rise in a warm, moist environment for about an hour.
Preheat oven to 175ºC / 350ºF and line two baking trays with parchment paper.
Divide dough into two chunks and roll into thin sheets to lay atop the baking trays. Prick the sheets with a fork, brush with egg white, and sprinkle with seeds and berries. If not using egg white, press the seeds down lightly.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and crisp. If the centre is still softer than the edges after cooling, break into smaller pieces (setting aside the done, crisp edges), and put pliable pieces back into the oven until dried out. When fully cooled (it will become more brittle), crack to eat or store in an airtight container.