The Things You Leave Behind

Going abroad for an extended period of time presents one with many challenges. You’re thrown outside your comfort zone, forced to adapt to new cultures and customs. You walk around the majority of the time not understanding a word anybody’s saying—it can be isolating and lonely. The tiniest little task can turn into an all-day (even multi-day) adventure as you try and figure out how things work.

But the biggest challenge of all? Packing.

If I had a 20 kroner coin for every time over the past couple days I’ve heard someone say something along the lines of “How am I going to pack this all? There’s no way it will fit!,” I’d be able to pay the fee to check an extra bag and not have to worry about it. But, since I don’t get paid for that and I have my travel pride to keep up, I was determined to make it home in only the number of bags alloted to me.

In order to do this, I had to be selective about what I really wanted to bring back with me and what things I could afford to part with. Leftover studio materials? I left them for next semester’s poor, unfortunate souls. The novels that I brought with me and didn’t particularly like? I found myself running around town looking for a used book store to buy them before finally going to the public library and all but begging them to take them. “We can’t pay you anything,” said the librarian, looking at me skeptically. That’s fine, as long as I don’t have to pay overweight fees, I though as I happily handed the stack over to her. Little by little, I whittled down my belongings until they just barely fit in all my bags.

Now that the suitcases are all zipped up and my room here is empty, it’s time to leave behind some bigger things that definitely can’t fit in my bags—everything I loved about Copenhagen. Once a good friend of mine explained to me that he doesn’t take photos with the goal of making them look incredible or so that he can show other people; He takes photos so that he can remember things. So this week I took my camera out and tried to capture all the things I will miss about Copenhagen. Although I didn’t get pictures of everything—and this list is in no way all-inclusive—I wanted wrap up this trip by sharing some of the little things I’ve neglected to talk about.

The little things that I want to remember.

Taking the train

Okay, admittedly the train and I had a love-hate relationship. I loved having a public transportation system that covered so much area, was well-run, and very reliable (ehm, DC metro…). I sometimes loved the fact that, no matter what, twice a day I had to sit down and slow down for 3o minutes. I just hated having such a long commute. But in the end I have fond memories of waiting at the Glostrup station for my happy green B train with the plush blue seats to take me into the city.

Street musicians

Especially the accordion players I commonly heard on my walk to school (I know, how European is that?). Their repertoire all seemed to consist of the same three songs, but it was still nice.

Torvehallerne

I can’t believe I haven’t talked about this place yet, since it’s one of my favorite haunts in the city. This giant covered food market opened up about a month into my time here. I would regularly go, people watch, seek out the free samples, and just enjoy watching the urban life and food culture of Copenhagen. Totally my jam, right?

One of two glass market buildings at Torvehallerne

The vendors inside the buildings were permanent, but what happened between the building changed all the time. My favorite was when they had a tent with fire-pits inside.

In one of the market stalls they have this sort of test kitchen where they prepare things for people to try. One day there was this HUGE fish they were giving raw samples of (it was delicious). On the right was my free sample today—a chocolate tart with buckthorn berries, tarragon, and a hazelnut praline topping. Pretty snazzy.

Street art

Seriously, seeing street art all around the city has been one of my favorite things. From the graffiti that covered everything in sight on my train ride to school, to the varied art I documented, to the little tag below that I saw many times throughout the semester (that for some reason always made me smile): I will greatly miss seeing decorations like that all over the place.

Taken during the first week and on the last day.

Street names that end in “gade” and “stræd”

Kids all bundled up

Parents here like to dress their kids in these one-piece snow suits starting around November, snow or not. It’s always so funny to see their little blue-eyed faces sticking out of these puffy masses when it’s really not that cold out.

Danish meat-food

It was hard getting used to eating so much meat, and I’m admittedly excited to get back to the states and have a vegetarian cleanse of sorts, but it was worth it to get to try such delicious dishes as the buttery frikadeller (Danish meat balls) and crunchy pieces of stegt flæsk (basically really thick bacon), pictured below.

Pastries with seeds

The ones on the left—frøsnappers—are my favorites.

Open flame

I love how much they’re into fire here. But seriously, on my walk home from school (at 4 pm when it was dark) I would usually pass tons of huge outdoor candles by restaurants, and almost every night my host mom would like candles around the house. It was so nice. So…hygge.

Finding places like this in the middle of a city

All of the bikes

As much as I’m sick of having to navigate around huge, tangled messes of parked bikes, it’s going to be weird to go back to the states and not see people biking all the time.

p.s. This might be the most Danish picture I’ve ever taken.

All of the potatoes

The other night I had a holiday dinner with my host family that included three different styles of potato on the side. I had to laugh. It’s another thing that I’m excited to have a break from, but I enjoyed our time together.

Danish modesty

Okay, so it’s not actually modesty. It’s an advertising law here that you can’t say something is the best unless it’s somehow proven that it is, in fact, the best. But every time I see a “probably the best” sign, it makes me chuckle.

Because We Need a Little Christmas

Hello all! Sorry for the lag in posting–I’ve been bogged down with finals and projects as the end of my semester rapidly approaches. Despite the work (or maybe because of it) I’ve managed to enjoy a little Copenhagen Christmas cheer during the past month. The Christmas season here kicks off in early November on a day called J-Day, which is when the breweries release their Christmas beers. Unfortunately, I missed J-Day because of my travels but certainly noticed the addition of many new “juleøls” when I got back. I also noticed a slew of Christmas markets popping up across the city and lights strung on all the shopping streets. It was nice, but it didn’t really feel like Christmas.

Until I went to Tivloi.

Tivoli is the famous amusement park of Copenhagen. I’ve heard rumors that Disney World was inspired by Tivoli. Think like a Six Flags if it were more quaint and classy and placed smack dab in the middle of a city instead of out in the middle of nowhere. It is usually only open during the summer, but it opens specially (and goes all out) for Halloween and Christmas. I hadn’t been yet and was so excited when a friend invited me out one night. Walking around Tivoli all lit up and bustling with happy people made me really get excited for the season.

The entryway to Tivoli

Tivoli hotel all lit up

For some reason the danes are really big on their heart decorations around Christmas...

The next day, I was full of Christmas spirit and so decided to go see the Christmas tree lighting in the town hall square. I’ll let you see for yourself, but let’s just say this was not what I was expecting:

Later in the week, I went to meet a Danish friend for what she described as a jazz concert. Really, it was a Christmas service/concert at a church near her school. The Danes aren’t really a religious folk (I heard that nobody ever goes to church) and Christmas here doesn’t actually have any religious ties, but there were plenty of people who showed up to the church on a Thursday night to hear the student choir sing. I’m sure the free gløg (like mulled wine) and æbleskiver (like spherical pancakes eaten with powdered sugar and jam) after the show didn’t hurt either!

Seeing the cozy Christmas traditions around here has been nice, but for me the holidays are family time, so I’m really excited to get back to the states and celebrate with my own family. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on what mood I’m in) that return is really coming up–exactly one week from today I will be on my journey back to the US of A. It’s crazy thinking that my time here is almost done… The rest of this week is basically going to be trying squeeze in all the last things on my Copenhagen bucket list, so when I find some time I should have some good stuff to share!

Until then, happy holidays!

The Happiest Breakfast in the World

This article was originally published in AmWord, a student magazine at American University. If you’re on campus, make sure to pick up a copy to read this in print and check out other great articles!

Breakfast has never been my favorite meal of the day. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of breakfast foods. It’s just that the actual act of eating breakfast always seems to turn into a rushed affair involving some sort of processed junk, shoveling down a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats or grabbing a granola bar on my way out the door.  Breakfast in the States has just lost the respect it deserves. If people even bother to eat it, they regard it as an annoying yet necessary act; an afterthought.

In Denmark, things are different. My first breakfast here involved a variety of rolls (called boller, pronounced ball-uh) picked up from the baker down the street that morning, along with a spread of butter, jams, sliced meats, cheeses, and the infamous leverpostej (a kind of a Danish liver paté). Oh, and then plenty of fresh pastries for breakfast-dessert (no, they are not called Danishes here).

Even on a regular morning, I’ve noticed that everyone in my host family will at least sit down for five or ten minutes to eat breakfast. Some school mornings I’m even lucky enough to wake up to the smells of fresh bread wafting from the kitchen. There are few things that can get me up faster than the thought of eating a warm roll straight from the oven with melted butter dripping off the sides…

But there’s no need to feel breakfast-envy; these Danish overnight rolls are easy for anyone to make. I get fresh bread in the morning and you can too!

Photo cred: Margo Greenawald (thanks, sis)

Overnight Boller

Although these breakfast rolls take a little bit of advanced planning, they require almost no hands-on preparation time. Just make sure you start them the night before you want to eat them and leave enough time before class to actually bake them (so, you should put them in the oven before you get in your morning shower). For the full Danish experience, make sure to pick up some jam, cheese, and possibly even salami or other deli meat. And, of course, plenty of butter.

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1 ½ cups cold water, divided
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole-wheat flour
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, put ½ tbsp vinegar in a measuring cup and then add regular milk to the ½ cup line)

In a microwave safe bowl, warm ½ cup of the water in the microwave for 20 seconds. Add the sugar and the yeast, and stir to dissolve. Wet a paper towel with warm water, and place over the yeast mixture. Put the bowl in a warm place and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine flours, oats and salt in a bowl. In a measuring cup, combine remaining cup of water and buttermilk.

After 10 minutes, check to make sure the yeast mixture is bubbling. If not, it means your yeast has not worked and you should try step 1 again with a new yeast package.

Once the yeast mixture is ready, put it in a large bowl and add about ½ cup of the flour mixture. Stir to combine and then add some of the buttermilk mixture. Continue alternating wet and dry mixtures, stirring to combine after each addition, until all ingredients are in. You should have a sticky dough.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a dish towel, and place in the refrigerator overnight. Line a pan with parchment paper and place on the counter so it’s ready for the morning.

When you wake up, preheat the oven to 375 °F. Plop large spoonfuls of batter onto the prepared pan (don’t worry about shaping the rolls). Set in a warm place to rise for 10 minutes, and then put in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

Tip: To add a little variety to your boller, you could sprinkle the tops of some with sunflower, poppy, or sesame seeds before baking. Get creative!

On the Fly Brownies

This article was originally published in AmWord, a student magazine at American University. If you’re on campus, make sure to pick up a copy to read this in print and check out other great articles!

Hello hungry readers! I’m excited to be writing to you this semester from Copenhagen, Denmark! Throughout the semester I hope to be picking up some Scandinavian cooking techniques (and sharing them with you!), but this month I am writing a thoroughly American recipe: the brownie.

After living with them for a week, my host family had already heard me talk a lot about how much I love to cook and bake. However, they had yet to actually taste anything, so I decided it was time to show them what I could do. After scrounging around their kitchen for ingredients, I found almost everything I needed to make brownies–at least enough that I could wing it. Little did I know exactly how much winging I would be doing…

Almost immediately, I realized that their butter was in a tub, not in sticks like I was used to. I pulled from my baking knowledge, guessed about a stick of butter and put it in the pot to start melting. I had to guess on the amount of chocolate, too, since I was substituting the little chocolate wafers that they eat on toast in the morning. I figured as long as it looked chocolaty enough, it would turn out okay.

While the butter and chocolate were melting, I went to measure the flour. That’s when it hit me; they don’t use cup measures in Europe! I was too embarrassed to ask my host mom if she had anything equivalent or a kitchen scale or something, so I grabbed a teacup out of the cabinet and just guessed. I added a little of this and a little of that until the batter looked about right, then popped it in the oven and prayed to the kitchen gods that brownies would emerge.

Thankfully, it worked and the brownies were a hit! I’ve since discovered sticks of butter, a kitchen scale and even a measuring cup in my host family’s kitchen, but it’s nice to know I can whip something up on the fly.

On the Fly Brownies

(Adapted from Desserts by the Yard)

If I can make these with hardly any of the necessary tools, you can ditch the boxed brownies and go homemade! I promise, you’ll never go back. This is also a great base recipe to get creative with variations: go crazy adding mix-ins, spices, or whatever your heart desires!

  • ¾ cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, chopped
  • 1 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 7 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350°. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with Pam.

Melt the butter, unsweetened chocolate, and bittersweet chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl at 50% power for about 2 minutes or in a pot on the stove over medium heat. Stir until mixture is smooth. Allow to cool until tepid.

Add the eggs and sugar to the cooled butter mixture and whisk (it is important that the butter has cooled so that the eggs don’t cook!). Then add the flour and salt and mix until combined. (Alternatively, you can blend the eggs and sugar using an electric mixture until they are light and fluffy before combining them with the butter mixture. Doing this will make the brownies a little better, but may not always be worth the extra effort or cleanup.)

Scrape the batter into the pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until they are slightly firm when touched and a crust has formed on top.

Allow to cool in the pan (or don’t) and enjoy!

Photo credit: Cristiano Betta

Walk This Way: From Street to Gallery

Shepard Fairey on the streets

Shepard Fairey is an American graphic designer turned street artist who is perhaps most well known for the iconic “HOPE” posters used in Obama’s 2008 campaign. I’ve been familiar with his work for a while, so I was excited to see that he had made an appearance in Copenhagen!

I later discovered that his work in the city was sort of commissioned by a gallery called V1 in the old meatpacking district, which has been revitalized into a hip area with galleries and restaurants. Some of the work was greeted with much controversy.

Shepard Fairey in the gallery

I was fortunate enough to get to see the gallery exhibit before it closed. It was interesting to see Fairey playing with some of his usual images and themes in a more traditional setting and with different materials.

While I really enjoyed the gallery and think it shows Fairey’s growth as an artist, it does raise an interesting question about street artists who step off the street: are they selling out, or just being smart and trying to make a living off their work?

Some people weren't too happy about Shepard Fairey's controversial commissioned work on a former youth center.

Check out all the posts in the street art series Walk This Way!

Flødeboller Revolution

Okay, imagine this: a treat kind of like a bite-sized smore but a little cleaner. kind of like a marshmallow dipped in chocolate but a little less dense, kind of like eating meringue before it hardens up but more complex. Sound good?

Well the good news is, you don’t have to imagine anymore because this thing exists. The bad news–it currently only exists in Denmark (at least, that’s the only place I’ve ever seen it).

I’m talking about flødeboller, my favorite Danish treat. Pronounced fluh-bolluh, this incredibly sweet dessert is composed of a mound meringue placed on top of a marzipan or cookie wafer and then dipped in chocolate. That’s the basic recipe, but there’s a world of variation out there. It’s common to see coconut sprinkled on top. Sometimes they are dipped in white or different colored chocolate. My host mom says she’s had some really fancy flavored ones before. The standard size is about two-bites big, but I’ve seen jumbo flødeboller floating around.

There's a flødeboller on my ice cream!

Normally I’m not into super-sweet marshmallow-like desserts, but this stuff is seriously good. The thin, crunchy chocolate outside gives way to a gooey inside and the wafer adds a nice foundation. You can eat these on their own or, my favorite, put them on top of ice cream!

I see a world of possibility for flødeboller, and I’m thinking it’s about time I bring them to the States. Maybe flødeboller will be the next cupcake…