We at ScandiKitchen have a passion for our smorgasbord, great coffee, crispbread and all things Scandinavian. Singing Eurovision songs and brewing coffee – it is a passion always in fashion.
We are currently looking for more superheroes to join our team and give our customers the best experience in our lovely café. So we just wanted to introduce ourselves a bit:
We have been up and running since 2007 – yeah that’s right, almost 10 years of us dancing around in our café on Great Titchfield Street in London to offer you the best of Scandinavia. So when working for us you can expect to have a lot of fun and things like this:
You will get excellent training in Scandinavian random facts
Eat a lot of meatballs
Crispbread is holy
Meet our awesome customers
Be part of our team – we are one big family
On a more serious note: we will offer you a great experience in a fast paced environment, opportunity to evolve in our growing company, customer service experience and to take part in shaping our organisation.
We are proud to come from the lands of the Vikings. Here are some great facts about our forefathers that we’ve collected this week.
Lots of us watched the excellent BBC documentary this week called The Vikings Uncovered with Dan Snow and Sarah Parcak – highly recommend if you get the chance to see it.
Viking is something you do, not something you are. The word Viking comes from the people from the Vik, (vik means bay). People who would sail off to other places were ‘going viking’. The word Viking wasn’t used in English until 19th Century – before this, we were just known as ‘Norsemen’ or ‘Danes’.
The Vikings came from Sweden, Norway and Denmark. It was not known as one or several nations to the Vikings themselves – this definition came later. Lots of tribes and settlements that often fought each other when not busy travelling.
The first Vikings in the UK landed at Lindisfarme in 793. The stories from this visit are not particularly friendly and doesn’t portray the Norse men in a very favourable light. After this, the Vikings settled over much of England, Scotland and Ireland. There may have been some disagreements with locals at times, but we found a way around it.
No Vikings ever wore a helmet with horns. Ever.
North America was first visited by Leif Eriksson in around year 1000. They called it Vinland. Leif was the son of Erik the Red (Eiríkr hinn rauði) who was an all round pretty nasty guy having been banished from Scandinavia to Iceland for being too violent. Erik the Red was likely very ginger, hence his name.
Ginger Viking was then in exile from Iceland for 3 years due to ‘a few murders’ and spent this time exploring Greenland. This resulted in the first big marketing ploy in history: Erik marketed Greenland as ‘green and fruitful’, encouraging people to join him in settling there. Once they got there, they were not pleased, but they made the best of it, whilst Erik went back to Iceland.
The Vikings settlements and journeys stretched from New Foundland all the way to the Middle East. We picked up spices in Constantinople, travelled through Kiev… Even made it to Jerusalem.
The Viking Age is commonly considered to have ended with the death of Harald Hardrada at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066.
Viking women could divorce their husbands quite easily – for reasons including ‘displaying too much chest hair’. After a divorce, men were required to pay maintenance. Women could also inherit property.
The word Beserk is a noun used to describe a Norse warrior who fought with uncontrolled ferocity – known as a Beserker. It comes form the Norse word ‘Beserkr’, from berr (bare i.e. without amour) and serkr (coat) .
A long boat could travel up to 200km a day. The Vikings also had slower passenger and cargo ships called knörr (nothing to do with stock cubes).
A Viking long boat could take around 30,000 hours to build and wood from around 15 fully grown trees. They were usually built from oak – and 4000 nails.
Vikings used a liquid to start fires. They’d boil touchwood from fungus in urine for several days and then pound it into something similar to felt. The sodium nitrate would mean the felt would smother rather than burn, so they could bring fire along with them.
The traditional Northern English greeting “‘Ey up” is Viking – it comes from ‘se opp’ (look up).
Icelandic genetics today show a lot of British trace – suggesting that the Vikings picked up British and Irish people along their way there. The Vikings were active slave traders – slaves were known as Thralls and sold on markets across the world.
The word Bluetooth comes from Harald Bluetooth, who was really good at making people get on with each other and ‘connect’. The symbol we use for Bluetooth today is actually runes for his initials.
The Vikings were really clean people, especially compared to, say, the English at the time. The Vikings had baths on Saturdays (the word Lørdag, Saturday, comes from the Norse word Laug = ‘bath’’. In England, the Vikings had a reputation for excessive cleanliness.
Viking Men ‘preferred’ being blonde – some dark-haired men would bleach their hair (and sometimes beards) blonde using lye. (This also helped keep lice away – a total bonus).
Vikings worshipped the Norse god of skiing and also loved skiing for fun. God of Skiing’s name was Ullr and was often depicted wearing skis and holding a bow and arrow.
The medical name for a hangover, veisalgia, is an amalgam of the Greek ‘algia’ referring to pain and the Old Norse ‘kveis’, meaning the ‘unease one feels after a period of debauchery’.
The Vikings had issues with the English sh-sound. Places like Shipton became Skipton. Most sk words in english are Viking in origin. We still have issues with the sh-sound today – many Swedes often mix up ch and sh sounds when speaking English (Shicken instead of chicken, shallenge, shild for child etc).
Vikings used an outdoor ‘loo’ and wiped their bums with moss and sheep’s wool [How do we know these things? Really? – ed]
William the Conqueror was the grandson of Viking king Rollo – the Norsemen were just a few generations from the Normans.
Thank you also to Dr. Tina Paphitis PhD, our resident archaeologist who is leaving us this week to return to University of London. If you happen to have any fun projects for Tina that will mean her digging sites involving Viking stuff and folklore in any place on the planet, do contact us and we’ll let her know.
Disclaimer: While we will always try to be as correct as possible, no responsibility for facts in this article can be taken. We’re a cafe with a nice blog, not fact keepers of all things Vikings. So double check before you use any of these in any official capacity what-so-ever. Just to be sure.
Danes celebrate Midsummer differently to the Swedes. So, if you fancy doing it a bit different this year, follow this mini-guide
Pick the right date
Midsummer in Denmark is mostly known as Sankt Hans Aften, and is celebrated on 23rd June. We don’t move the date around like the Swedes do. In some parts of the British Isles St John’s Eve is observed at the same time. They’re essentially the same event.
Collect a lot of sticks
In a similar way to our British and Irish cousins, Danish midsummer is all about bonfires. Ideally on a beach or in a town square. Big, huge bonfires. Start collecting twigs now; you’ll need a lot.
Get back into witch burnings
Top off your bonfire with a few straw witches dressed in old lady clothes. Legend says that on the longest night of the year, you burn a few witches and send them off to Brocken mountain in Germany to dance with the Devil. Some stuff the witches with firecrackers, which is not a good idea and quite possibly against the law here. Yes, it’s a bit like Guy Fawkes except it’s not about blowing up parliaments.
Have a summery dinner with friends and family
Every Scandi tradition revolves around food. Because the bonfire is not lit until 10pm, you have plenty of time for a Danish midsummer buffet in the garden. In the rain. It is likely to be raining at some point. Don’t forget umbrellas.
Find an excuse to go skinny dipping
This is where we deviate from the Brits. If you happen to celebrate by the beach, you’ll need minimal encouragement to get your kit off for a swim. In town squares, wait and see what everybody else fancies doing. But do accept that sometimes the skinny dipping doesn’t happen.
The Danes believe they invented snobrød, which are pieces of bread dough rolled around a wooden stick and cooked on the bonfire. If you’ve ever seen campfire twisted bread, you’ll have a good idea of what snobrød is, because it is the same thing.
Eat your snobrød
It’s unlikely that the snobrød will actually ever bake properly, unless you twist and turn it for about two hours over the last embers of the bonfire – and who wants to do that? If you can get the half-baked dough off the stick, fill the hole with strawberry jam. It doesn’t taste any nicer, but it sure doesn’t make it any worse. Eating unbaked dough will leave you with a stomach ache – all part of the experience.
Sausages! You need sausages. Throw them onto the fire, scramble around looking for them with a stick, poke them until you’re sure they’re on fire, remove from bonfire. Eat. Burn tongue. Enjoy. Make your kids do the same to help them develop fond memories of Danish Midsummer on the beach.
Vi elsker vort land
We Love Our Country is a song also known as ‘Midsommervisen’ – the midsummer song. It’s an old hymn about midsummer and how much we love our country. Nobody ever knows the second verse. However, everyone knows the modern version by Shu-bi-dua, an old Danish pop group. We all prefer this version. Someone will play other songs by Shu-bi-dua. We may all join in with their classic song (There Is A) Dogshit In My Garden, because this is how Danes roll. We all giggle.
The guy with the guitar
If you see the guy with the guitar, either run or stay close, depending on how you feel. He will almost certainly have a beard and look a bit like Thor (if Thor was born in 1971). He usually sings with his eyes closed. His name is Bent. Or Kaj. Or Flemming. He will encourage everybody to hold hands.
You’re on the beach, man. Drink beer. If you go to the beach with someone’s parents, they will bring a box (yes, a box) of wine and plastic glasses half full of sand. Stick to Tuborg. You’ve been warned.
Lots of little things makes someone really, really Danish… Here’s a few of our quirks.
Wear a lot of black.
For some reason, we still do this. Black trousers, tops, jackets.
Eat open sandwiches.
In the morning, topped with cheese and jam. Yes, jam. It’s a thing, this cheese and jam.
Lunch breaks: 11:00 am. This is how we like it. Please, non Danes, stop arranging meetings in the middle of our lunch, will you?
Get annoyed: Are you Dutch?
No. Danish. It’s not even next to each other. What’s wrong with you?
Throw the word “hygge” randomly into sentences, then pretend to try really hard to find an English translation. Yet again.
Never use the word please, with the excuse that “but we don’t HAVE a word for please in Danish” (we really don’t, you know…)
Test ANY non-Dane on whether they like salty liquorice – and laugh when they don’t (as you watch them squirm).
Have an awkward sense of humour and laugh at Nordic jokes such as “Do you know how to save a Swede from drowning? No? Good!” HarHarHarHar…
See also: making fun of everything Swedish. And Norwegian. And Icelandic. And German. #hilarious
You don’t eat Swedish meatballs. Because they are SWEDISH. In Denmark, we eat DANISH meatballs. Don’t confuse the two. Danish meatballs are bigger and better and probably pays more tax and can balance on one leg whilst humming ‘Der Er Et Yndigt Land’.
Get excited when you see THIS. A bowl of some white soup with biscuits. If you’re Danish, you know this means: Summer. Cold, sweet buttermilk soup with delicious biscuits (Koldskål med kammerjunkere).
Have a flagpole in your garden and raise the Danish flag at every opportunity (Sundays, public holidays, birthdays, announcing you’re popping to the shops…). Add smaller Danish flags on sticks to your cakes, Christmas tree, window, walls. The more the more Danish you are.
If someone asks you how you are, be sure to really explain to them how you are really feeling.
Top most food groups with a dollop of remoulade. Especially chips, beef, fish and hotdogs. And salami. And meatballs.
As one of only a few languages, we sometimes speak on an in-breath, usually saying ‘yes’ (‘ja’).
Try it, it’s weird.
Always have one white sock over one trouser leg (or roll one trouser leg up, if not wanting to wear white socks over your all-black outfit). You never know when you might be going cycling. This way, you can be ready in a flash.
This is a word. It has many different meanings, depending on how you pronounce it:
Nå – short pronunciation = surprise
Nå-nå (two short pronounciations after eachother) = is that so?
Nåaaaaaaaa – Ohhh, so THAT’s how it is….
Learn the many more different ways of pronouncing ‘NÅ’ and you can pass for a Dane just using one word.
Do you know other ways that makes someone more Danish? We’d love to hear them…
Chances are, you probably are wearing a pair of underpants right now. Comfortable, much?
One of our good, good friends is supporting a really great cause in West London called The Shelter Project. Here, they run a shelter for the homeless gentlemen – which is especially needed during these cold winter months.
It is great when people donate clothes – they can wash and recycle and use this and there are a lot of people on the streets who needs warm clothes in the cold months. One thing, however, is that people – for quite obvious reasons – don’t tend to donate [worn] underpants.
This means that The Shelter Project has a shortage of underpants. The most important garment, we’d quite agree.
So, we want to help The Shelter Project get hold of men’s underpants. Can you help? Did you get some underpants in your Secret Santa that didn’t quite fit your style? Are you passing by Primark or H&M and fancy donating a pair of men’s underpants or two?
Ever pair of underpants count. They don’t have to be fancy, they just have to be new and unworn.
You can drop your pants (see what we did there?) by POST to The Shelter Project (c/o Helle Kaiser-Nielsen 11 Geraldine Road, London W4 3PA) – or at ScandiKitchen Cafe on Great Titchfield Street and we’ll pass on the pants. Please make sure you wrap and label your pants before dropping them off at the cafe.
What a great excuse to say to your colleagues: “I’m just nipping out for a coffee and to drop off my underpants”. Not many chances in life to use that sentence.
Kransekage / Kransekake literally means ‘ring cake’. It’s a traditional Norwegian and Danish celebration cake (Weddings, Christenings, New Year’s Eve and National Days… ) made from baked marzipan, shaped into rings and then stacked as high as
required. It’s very rich so not much is needed (it’s usually served at the Coffee course – a bit as a petit four).
As you can imagine, a real kransekage is made from pure almond paste (nothing like the cheap stuff used for normal cake decorating). It’s a hard cake to make, taking many hours of shaping, baking and decorating.
We don’t make these at Scandikitchen – but we get asked about these cakes a lot and we recommend our good friend Karen from Karen’s Kitchen.
This week, we’re all about the beautiful island of Bornholm. Our Rebekka is part-Bornholmer and is currently holidaying on the sunny island with her family.
Gudhjem is a lovely village on the Northern side of the island. Population 782, getting to Gudhjem means flying to
Copenhagen, then getting yourself on the bus to Ystad then the ferry overnight to the island. Once there, you need to get across Bornholm to the Northern side.
Gudhjem is a quaint fishing village. Head to the harbour and enjoy the famous open sandwich ‘Sol over Gudhjem’ which means Sun over Gudhjem. Dark rye bread with freshly smoked herring, raw onion, radish and a raw egg.
Bornholm is Danish, even if it is closer to Poland and Sweden.
Why? At the peace agreement of Roskilde in 1658, Sweden got given Bornholm. The Bornholm people were not happy so they revolted in 1660, killed the Commander and went back to the Danish King and asked him to take them back (It probably had
something to do with the price of beer in Sweden. Maybe).
In other news: someone found a poo on Bornholm dating back 140 million years and the local nature guide’s surname is Mr Sillehoved, which means Mr Herringhead.
Bornholm is well worth the long trip to get there.
A while back Bronte was asked to recommend a super secret local spot in Denmark that you’d only know about if you were a local. She remembered this amazing place where she is from called Reersø (population 511).
It’s a teeny penunsular (attached only slightly to the main island of Zealand – and in fact it used to be an island back in the day). Famous for centuries for its fishing and local fish dishes (in particular, smoked mackerel and eel), this little secret spot is hard to find but possibly as Danish as you’ll ever get. It’s a really old village full of wonderful Danish farming and fishing heritage.
To get to Reersø you need to take a plane to Copenhagen, then a train to Slagelse. From there bus 432 (it doesn’t go very often and it takes quite a while: be patient).
We recommend trying the local ‘Reersø Kro’ which is a 300 year old pub: they serve amazing local fish and seafood. Stay at the campsite or at the Inn. Great beaches, lovely sailing opportunities, wind surfing, lots of fishing and hunting (if you’re into that). There are no bars, no nightlife, no shops except a little grocery market. Just the smell of the sea and cats with no tails (yes, this is a place full of Manx Cats – thought to be introduced here centuries ago from an Isle of Man ship wreck).