“short-travelled food” is increasing in popularity, and proximity to ingredients is becoming ever more important. At picturesque Kjerringøy, just north of Bodø, Oddbjørn and Astrid Olsen have taken production one step further.
“We define it as non-travelled food,” say the couple who have spent the past six years producing and developing traditional fare based on ecology and sustainable development. They have picked up inspiration and ideas
from the old fisherman-farmer culture which characterised the coast of northern Norway for centuries. Fertile soil, teeming animal and bird life, and an ocean full of fish and shellfish formed the basis on which the menu was developed.
No matter how hard the coastal population were stricken by destitution and economic depression over the centuries, they always had fish and potatoes. They never starved. The breadbasket was always right outside their door. This is indeed why the first Norwegians came here, over 10,000 years ago. Here they found reindeer, elk, whales, fish and
shellfish, as the glaciers slowly receded revealing the coastal alpine landscape.
Later, the Lofoten ...
fishery was established as the mainstay of both regional and national development, in close collaboration with cargo vessel traffic to the Hanseatic city of Bergen. It was the natural resources that formed the basis of much of modern Norway’s development.
And it is generations of knowledge and tradition that Oddbjørn and Astrid are now drawing on, when they in 2013 are making sure that customers and guests are given an insight into how delicious food can be, when everything is made from scratch.
“Møsbrømlefse, for instance,” says Astrid, as she whisks rhythmically in a pan containing what will be the lefse filling – a mixture of whey and brown cheese. “Møsbrømlefse are mentioned by the poet and clergyman,
Petter Dass. At the same time, the north Norwegian lefse is nothing less than a close relative of the Mexican tortilla. In that respect, you might say that food also allows for fraternisation across national borders.”
Oddbjørn and Astrid ...
run their own farm in addition to a café, bakery, cheese factory and brewery.
“It’s basically a question of craftsmanship,” they both agree. They have laid down innumerable hours in their search for recipes and techniques designed to ensure efficient and flavoursome production. In a way, they have also salvaged knowledge and traditions that were in the throes of dying out.
When Astrid takes her bread out of the stone oven, it is not merely an aromatic delicacy she puts aside to cool down, we are also witnessing an aspect of cultural heritage that will soon be ready to serve with dairy butter and matured red cheese.
“You practically have to talk to the cheese, and keep an eye on it,” says Oddbjørn as he admits us to the Holy of Holies: two rooms crammed with maturing cheeses. There are no computer-controlled temperature regulators here, and every cheese needs to be closely watched over in order to ensure that they develop at the right pace. He is in here
every day, turning the cheeses over.
"These are living cheeses", ...
he says, meaning that when you take them out of the fridge and cut yourself a bit, a process is begun. Which again means limited shelf life.
Oddbjørn and Astrid began on a small scale, but now they are experiencing an increasing demand for the food they produce. Celebrity chefs come up from Oslo for the sole purpose of buying these home-made, highly distinctive cheeses.
“Our goal is to work together with nature. In tandem with the Earth, working in tune with Creation. At a time when more and more people are developing food allergies and intolerances, pure foods are good medicine. Artificial additives are banned here,” say Oddbjørn and Astrid. It’s a matter of linking the local to the global, which again means
that when they serve coffee to their guests, it is produced ecologically and is part of the Fair Trade system.
“We feel a strong affinity with farmers and food producers in other parts of the world. We are always trying to create a counterweight against ready-made food and fast solutions that are no good for your body or the global eco-system,” say Oddbjørn and Astrid.
And they are ...
not alone. An increasing number of businesses in Northern Norway are becoming aware of the value of local ingredients. They cultivate herbs, harvest berries, hunt game and employ to an increasing extent old, time-honoured techniques when creating new and
modern recipes. This is why Oddbjørn and Astrid have begun brewing their own beer. “It’s a natural part of a festive culinary occasion.”
Read more about Bodø and Salten on www.visitbodo.com.