When Terroir founder, Arlene Stein, first stepped foot in Norway in 2015 it was off the back of her recent success on Terroir Newfoundland: One Fish project. Her team, along with a host of international partners, (including Destination St. John’s, RANL and the CTA), successfully helped to push the government to overturn key legislation which had prevented local restaurants from purchasing directly from fishermen.
“With deep connection to the land and the sea, Norwegians have historically been very clever about the way they created food systems.“
At the invitation of arctic fisherman, Roderick Sloan, Arlene embarked on a journey to northern Norway to discover how the food culture of this arctic region had been shaped around coastal communities living between the fjords and the spartan land, accessible mostly by boat. In her travels through Svalbard, Tromsø, Steigen, Bodø, Bergen, Undredal and Oslo, she discovered a rich food culture built around a variety of circular food economies, all full of resourcefulness and creativity, synced with the natural environment.
With a deep connection to the land and the sea, Norwegians have historically been very clever about the way they create food systems. Before the discovery of oil, the country was poor and reliant on sustenance fishing and farming - mostly dairy. Within that construct there was still plenty of room for innovation, creativity and the ability to ensure everything that could be eaten, making preservation techniques a very important factor.
The quintessential metaphor for Norway’s food culture is the tradition of Brunost (brown cheese). The product is made by boiling down whey created in traditional cheese making (itself a byproduct) into a dense, caramel-like substance with loads of umami. Made in local villages such as Undredal, it was a way for communities to maximize on the output of their goat herds throughout summer and winter. It has since become a staple of the Norwegian diet, eaten almost daily in thin slices on a piece of rye bread. It’s a true symbol of the Norwegian ability to unite creativity and resourcefulness with the demands of limited supply.
“A meditation on the importance of terroir as well as looking at how food leaders can bring the principle to life”
Arlene also discovered a post-industrialist nationwide shift away from these traditional economies towards more "exotic" food products. After the discovery of oil in the 1970's, the once poor country became wealthy almost overnight and that permeated through the country's food culture, onto supermarket shelves. In a notable rejection of the "old" and celebration of the "new", traditional foods were replaced by previously unknown foreign foods such as Old El Paso tacos and Grandiosa frozen pizzas. Today, there is a movement to rediscover the older recipes and ingredients and celebrate them in a modern context.
“Food represents the culture of a region and its people…It tells a story of who we are, and demarcates our "sense of place". “
Through this short film, Norwegian Gastronomy: A Sense of Place, Arlene has united some of Norway's best restaurants, chefs, food experts and innovators in a meditation on the importance of terroir as well as looking at how food leaders can bring the principle to life and make it relevant for a new generation of chefs and diners. Food represents the culture of a region and its people - it tells us a story of the environment, the history, the economics, and the politics day in, day out. It tells a story of who we are, and demarcates our "sense of place".
One of the first things Arlene heard when arriving in Norway was "we have no food culture." "Not true" she said. "Anyone who eats has a food culture, and this is a film which brings Norway's traditional foodways to life, flushed through with modern relevance and told by some of the country’s top food leaders.”