Putting Nordic food into words

The project group for New Nordic Food are hoping that their booklet Å formidle det nordiske kjøkken (Communicating Nordic Cuisine) will inspire towards a deliberate use of language that promotes what is special about Nordic food.

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Einar Risvik

Senior Scientist
Phone: +47 913 74 880

The project group for New Nordic Food are hoping that their booklet Å formidle det nordiske kjøkken (Communicating Nordic Cuisine) will inspire towards a deliberate use of language that promotes what is special about Nordic food.

“It is our ambition that everyone who is in some way involved in communication about meals and food should describe the food in a way that makes the recipient conscious of what is unique in every single product. This may include, taste, smell, texture, preparation, use, geographical origins, history or ingredients,” says Einar Risvik, research director of Nofima Mat and chairman of New Nordic Food.

A set of Practical Guidelines

Nordic cuisine should be based on values like purity, simplicity and freshness, it should reflect the changing seasons and be an expression of Nordic diversity. Other important values are sustainable and ethical production, regional endorsement and a nearness to people and nature.

These values have been described in the Cuisine Manifesto and the Århus Declaration and the aim of the new inspirational booklet is to act as a set of practical guidelines for those who wish to convert the values of the manifest and declaration into perceived reality in restaurants, catering or their own everyday lives.

“The idea is that the identity of Nordic cuisine is created through developing a pride in what we have and that modern traditional food is based on local main raw ingredients and what is normal for service and preparation,” explains Risvik.

Striking a blow for the tin

Tinned food has a low status in the Nordic countries. Why is cod liver, for example, not in the same category as goose liver or Russian caviar? There is a huge potential here for Nordic cuisine.

The booklet addresses some of the challenges relating to how we communicate the methods for preserving food. Communication about food preservation depends on whether it brings special qualities or flavours to the food and on whether the target group is familiar with these methods. An alternative to difficult words may be to describe what the process has brought to the raw materials in terms of taste, smell and texture. Tinned cod liver, for example, could be described as: “cod liver that has undergone a gentle heat treatment immediately after the fish has been caught and that has subsequently been stored away from light and odours so that it is perceived as completely fresh”.

Well known preserving methods such as baking, drying and pickling can certainly be used to describe what has been done to the raw material. Methods like fermentation, canning, packing in modified atmospheres or sous vide are not so well known and do not necessarily create only positive associations. In such cases, it is not always necessary to use the difficult and unknown terms directly, but to describe how they help to safeguard special properties of the product.

Describe the food’s origins and local traditions

The approaches recommended in the booklet include presenting what is special about the Nordic meal structure and describing the food’s origins. Such knowledge increases expectations about the products and has a positive effect on the taste experience, provided that the sensory properties also meet expectations.

It is therefore important to describe where the raw materials come from when selling local food and specialities. The properties of the raw materials can best be conveyed through the use of both positive and negative sensory properties, descriptions of place and historic or cultural endorsement.

Useful writing tips and tips for creating menus

If a piece of text is to work well, you must be conscious of what you want to achieve when you write. This might involve whether you choose general or specific words, for example. The normal rule is the more specific the words, the more complete, and therefore informative, the content is.

Nordic food is about identity, about creating a perception of belonging through food and menus. The most important aspect of planning and creating a menu is to ask yourself what you want to communicate. The conscious use of Nordic names and expressions will give the food a clearer sense of belonging and identity. The booklet provides some writing tips and also a summary of tools that can be used in menu planning.

“When choosing raw materials and methods, it is important to know the traditions, but it is at least as important to think afresh, to put raw materials into new contexts and to use them in such a way that their quality and flavour comes forward. Nordic food will come into being through combining quality and knowledge in a creative way. And I might add that non-verbal signs, such as the way the food is served, are at least as potent as the linguistic ones,” concludes Risvik.

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