Norway has reinvented its kitchens to become a major food destination. These mouth-watering postal stamps were revealed at Maaemo, with its three Michelin stars.
“Maaemo is not only Norway's best restaurant, it is one of the best in the world. They have a unique take on the Norwegian cuisine,” says food writer Andreas Viestad.
We are at Maaemo in Oslo – a sleek, obviously Nordic space with only eight tables, and a view to the city’s new “Barcode” skyline. This February, the restaurant was awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide, the ultimate recognition in the culinary world.
It was here that the Norwegian postal service, Posten, today presented their two new postage stamps. All Nordic countries are releasing postage stamps on the same theme. That theme is the new Nordic kitchen, a trend that in just 20 years has revolutionized the Nordic countries’ relationship to food.
“It began in 2004 in Copenhagen, with the manifesto for a new Nordic kitchen, and then it spread out from there,” says Viestad, who was Posten's main consultant on the project.
Just a couple of decades ago, Norway's best restaurants would serve food from France or Italy. But then, at last, we set aside all inferiority complexes, and began to embrace the possibilities from the Norwegian coast and fjords, the valleys, plateaus and mountains.
“As an outsider I can say that Norway truly has some of world’s best produce,” says Bandar Abdul-Jauwad from Maaemo. He reveals that they’ll go up in the woods at Ekeberg every day to pick herbs and berries.
Long story short: Norway’s about to be put on the map as a major food destination. On the map – and on a few hundred thousand letters and postcards.
Two different stamps were shown today. One is from Maaemo, the other from Hurtigruten – Norway’s most popular and traditional passenger liner, running along the huge coastline.
The other Nordic countries are releasing stamps on the same theme.
“Last year, we bought 72 million stamps in Norway, and there are over 30,000 collectors. Meanwhile, we release just 25 new stamps or so each year, so very few themes are even considered,” says the CEO at Posten, Dag Mejdell.
To him, postal stamps are about so much more than just paying postage.
“They express who we are and what we stand for. In many ways, we try to make them like small business cards for Norway,” says Mejdell to Visit Norway.
The dish depicted on Maaemo’s postage stamp is called “Forest and sea”. It consists of crayfish served on smoking pine branches.
The one from Hurtigruten shows a beetroot “byggotto” (the Norwegian version of risotto, made from barley), with cod, kale and birch salt.
If you’ve travelled with Hurtigruten in the past, you might be surprised how much they’ve changed lately. Just three years ago, you might be served German beer, Portuguese fish … or frozen pizza. At the time, the company suffered a huge deficit.
Now they’ve turned the company around. Their Coastal Kitchen concept, especially, has been a huge success.
“Now the food is one of the main reasons that people choose to travel with us. We serve food that is honest and unpretentious,” says the CEO of Hurtigruten, Daniel Skjeldam.
Instead of loading the ship before departure, they now pick up fresh produce from a large number of small, local suppliers along the way – almost in every port between Bergen and Kirkenes.
“Local fishermen are out on the day and catch the food that we serve the guests that same evening. We have served cod with butter and potatoes just 30 minutes after the fish were in the ocean,” he says.
They also pick up meats, herbs, fruits and vegetables, and a great deal of other ingredients.
“Maaemo is a huge inspiration for us. We beat them at one point, though: the view,” says Skjeldam. “One day you can dine outside of Svolvær in Lofoten, and for your next dinner you see Lyngsalpene mountain range glide past outside the windows”.
As Andreas Viestad puts it:
“The Norwegian nature is neither prettier nor uglier than before, but being able to sit at the table and have a meal that reflects what you see outside is helping to make it a complete experience. In Maaemo and Hurtigruten, then, we have two important, albeit different spearheads within the new Nordic cuisine.”