You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together~Anthony Bourdain.
I had the privilege of dining with a Danish family at their home when I visited Denmark a few weeks ago.
Inga, who I met previously at an official function was more that thrilled to invite me and my friends to her place for dinner.
More than a decade and a half ago her family did their first African safari in Tanzania and she confirmed Kenya is still in her bucket list, hence her exuberance when she learnt that we were Kenyans. She mentioned her youngest daughter volunteered a while back in Migori and had even summitted Mt.Kenya.
We agreed that she picks us up from the hotel at 6:00 pm that Friday. Being my last day,there was lots to do and before I knew it was 5:47 pm! I guess the longer days of summer got me thinking I still had time.
Some part of me secretly hoped that she’d get stuck in traffic on her way to the hotel, but then I recalled that’s an alien term in this part of the world; Ringsted.
Danes keep time.
I freshened up real fast and just as I was about to put on some lipstick the phone rang! The receptionist; a pleasant lady with a light Danish accent informed me that my guest was waiting. The time on my phone read 6:00 pm. Wow! Well, that was impressive. If you are Kenyan,you know what I mean…story for another day.
They keep right
A sleek red Audi A3 was our ride to Inga’s.
In Denmark,road users keep right. Complete opposite of how we do it back home. You should have seen how I cringed every time she took a turn or entered a roundabout!I guess it is one thing to know they keep right and a completely different thing to experience it all together. There is a common Danish joke that says ‘In Denmark we drive on the right side but you guys drive on the wrong side.’ lol
Inga’s home overlooked a wheat plantation in the chilled suburbs of Ringsted which is a five minute drive from the hotel. The entrance into the home is paved with cabro blocks,that ends at the garage right at the front door.The house is typically Scandinavian; timeless exterior, simple, spacious, large windows, woody details and lots of neutral colors.
Danish men cook very well and help in the house
In a Kenyan set up, generally,the woman of the house cooks, welcomes the guests,entertains them and basically does all house chores. In Denmark, roles are shared. I was pleasantly surprised when we got to Inga and Stephen’s place, we got a warm reception from Stephen; Inga’s husband who stayed behind to continue with dinner preparations!(Someone get me a Danish husband.)
The dining experience
The dining table was set outside, under a wooden pergola overlooking the garden at the back porch. It was covered with a stylish white cotton table cloth that had intricate weaves and patterns. Wine glasses, plates and cutlery were neatly arranged at the front of each chair with jugs of water,salt and pepper grinders at the extreme end. It was impossible to ignore the cute pink rose at center of the rustic table.
The experience was very similar to an informal dinner at a restaurant, only that ours had the magical a homely touch.
Boiled asparagus served with shrimp creamy garlic sauce.
Steak (Medium rare), vegetable stew, carrots (soaked in vinegar and sugar), boiled jacket potatoes and french beans. This, I must say was the first proper Danish meal I ate since my arrival, delectable. The semi sweet wine from France washed down the meal real good.
I have had a not so good relationship with strawberries in past. You know the dark red bitter strawberries? yep!those ones. The strawberries that we were served that night were huge,brilliant red in colour,heart-shaped,had this characteristic aroma, and a juicy pulp that tasted better than the ones that grew at home.
These were served with cream and sugar. Pure Bliss.
Dinner tasted so good in the Nordics on that warm summer evening.
The Lake at Haralsted.
After dinner, we thought we would start making our way back to the hotel but that was not to happen yet. Our hosts had planned a short trip to a lake a few miles away.
The small lake was located at a place called Haralsted. It was calm, had lots of fish and just perfect for an evening walk. It also had this long picture perfect pier that stretched all the way into the lake.
Coffee and chocolate
From the lake, we were sure that the next drop off was going to be at the hotel,considering it was right on the way, but alas! Nothing! I must say we were in for a full experience. We drove back to the house. At this point,curiosity was killing me.
When we got there, coffee awaited us. Coffee pairs so well with chocolate.
Coffee is a way of life in Denmark. Whether served with milk, black, strong or whichever way you please,coffee features dominantly in the Danes menu.
It is during coffee that people catch up.In our case,Inga and Stephen used this moment to tell us about Denmark,their politics,policies, important traditions, the neighborhood,their family and past travels in different parts of the world and more profoundly the memorable vacation in Africa through a family album from more than twenty years ago!
I learnt more about Denmark straight from the horses mouth. I guess Anthony Bourdain was right after all.