Monday, April 4, 2011

Brown Cheese

What I'm about to tell you is Norwegian blasphemy. It's also slightly embarrassing. I have no idea what made me remember this tiny piece of a trip from 2009, but I have never forgotten how NOT to eat brown cheese. That's the end of the story, but I suppose I should start from the beginning....

It was summertime. My first summer in Norway, and it was gorgeous. I had never seen any place so green before! Stian and I were taking a trip to Stavanger so I could check out an international preschool. He booked the hotel and told me it was a "patient hotel" within a hospital. I wasn't sure what that meant, but hey, we had a place to sleep.

As I recall, we got there late in the evening. The cafeteria was empty, and there weren't many people around. We hauled our luggage up to our room, and got ready for our hike the next day. Fast forward - the hike was amazing! We went to a place called the Pulpit Rock, or Preikestolen in Norwegian, which was amazing. On the left, that's a picture of me with my feet dangling over the 600m cliff. The picture at the top with the "From Freeways To Fjords" title, is the view from where I was sitting in this picture. Beautiful, huh?

Okay, rewind! Before our hike, we needed nourishment so we headed to the cafeteria to find a beautiful Norwegian buffet-style breakfast set up. There was a variety of bread, deli meat, cheese, spreads (mayo, caviar, jam, etc.), hardboiled eggs, soft boiled eggs, porridge, and yogurt. Plus all the coffee, tea, and juice and fruit you could dream of. There was probably more, but that's the general idea. So we both made some plates and took them to our table. Once we sat down and took in the people around us, we realized what a "patient hotel" meant. There were couples EVERYWHERE. There were exhausted looking women. It was then I noticed what was next to each table: a basket on wheels that each carried a newborn baby. Then I looked up and all I saw were new moms on the move, getting on and off the elevator, pushing their new bundles of joy all over the place.

Oh. So in Norway, you have a baby, and you get moved into a hotel room so that the family can stay together, but are still close by in case there are any problems or you need assistance with breastfeeding, etc. Brilliant.

Back to my breakfast. I grabbed a piece of bread, put on some butter, a piece of ham, and some brown cheese (brunost). As I brought it up to my mouth, Stian looked at me in amazement and said "you CANNOT eat it like that!" I was confused. I thought what did I do wrong?? Bread, butter, meat, and cheese - this is the typical smørbrød (an open-faced sandwich eaten at any time of day). So I asked and he said "you can't put brown cheese on meat!! It must go with jam!" That's true, I guess, the only other time I had brunost was at his parents house and you put strawberry jam on top. I didn't realize there were rules for it though. Oh well. I took a bite anyway.

I'll be honest. It was terrible. You really can't put brown cheese on ham. Brown cheese a bit of an acquired taste - you have to learn to like the way it sticks to the back of your teeth I guess - but you will definitely never learn to like it if you eat it with ham because it's an awful combination. Strawberry jam is the way to go!
If you're a Norwegian reading this, I apologize for the cultural crime I committed! If you're not Norwegian and you're reading this, you will be wise to never create this combination for yourself, especially in the presence of Norwegian.


  1. every new post makes me want to visit norway more and more! and hotel to stay at after youve had a baby? so clever!! i love cheese & i really want to try this brown cheese. but the real way.

  2. mary. save your money for airfare to come visit me! once you arrive you'll have a place to sleep, food to eat, and your own personal tour guide! :)

  3. Hehe my family is staying at that hotel in June when they come to visit me!

    And i am not a fan of brown cheese. Stian's parents eat it with a chocolate spread, so if i ever do eat it i put excessive amounts of chocolate to try and drown out the brown cheese taste hehehe :D

  4. This is too funny! I remember my first time tasting brown cheese last summer (though I had some assistance in how to eat it "properly")... and I am hooked for life. Don't even want to know how much I've eaten! Just gotta love the way it sticks to the back of your teeth ;) My mother-in-law makes homemade raspberry jam every summer and we put this on top of the brown cheese with bread -- simply amazing and I think it's actually better than with strawberry jam!

  5. don't you just love all the homemade jams in norway?! so far i've had strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, and plum...and they're ALL amazing!