Norwegian food culture truly comes to life as the leaves are falling. The food festival Matstreif in Oslo presents the culinary highlights of the season.
Published: 29 August 2018
Every season has its own flavours and smells.
While the months of spring and summer are perfectly suited for light, refreshing meals, a richer and more powerful cuisine – often made with patience – typically dominates the Norwegian diet as the days grow shorter.
On September 7 and 8, Norway’s biggest food festival takes place in the centre of Oslo.
At Matstreif, more than 200 local producers from all over the country display their most delicious food, from different meat products, cheese and cured meats to vegetables, baked goods and beer. The festival area is bustling with activities for the whole family as well.
The timing of the festival – right around harvest – is no coincidence, according to Matstreif’s project manager Bernt Ellingsen.
– Autumn is traditionally the great food season, when the winter supply of food was to be prepared. The season still lays the foundation for a lot of the food we enjoy the rest of the year. Matstreif offers the opportunity to taste, be inspired and bring favorites and new treats home, Ellingsen says to Visit Norway.
This year’s record dry Norwegian summer may have affected some of the, according to Ellingsen.
– But the selection of local food is still growing, in line with the ever increasing consumer interest in local and regional food and drink culture.
In the Western city of Stavanger, chef Sven Erik Renaa runs and owns Re-Naa – one of six Norwegian restaurants with stars in the prestigious Michelin Guide.
The award-winning culinary artist has his own autumnal traditions and favorite commodities.
– A lot of things come to mind – first and foremost various kinds of mushrooms early in the season, and obviously lobster from October on. The weather change in September usually makes for great root vegetables. The colours of nature are inspiring to me as well.
The menu at Re-Naa reflects the current season at all times. This autumn is no exception, Renaa says.
– Deer and game meat are significant commodities to us from September on. And the great apples, pears and berries of the season tend to characterize our desserts.
A lot of the Norwegian food traditions are deeply rooted in the nation’s history of hunting, farming and fishing. Lobster season lasts from October to Christmas, while cod and crab from Northern Norway are among the treasures hauled from the sea in the same period.
The hunting season provides the country’s dinner tables with meat from reindeer, moose, deer, venison and grouse – all delicacies with a distinct taste of the wild.
Another very important commodity is lamb – not only the main ingredient for the Norwegian national dish fårikål, but to many people the very essence of various slow-cooking autumn dishes.
Sven Erik at Re-Naa points out the differences between cooking in the different seasons.
– The way we cook changes slightly during the autumn. When it starts to get chilly outside, we need more power in our food, adding slightly more fat in it. It becomes a bit richer and more complex, basically.
Autumn is also harvesting time, and many Norwegians spend their spare time outdoors, gathering fruits, berries, mushrooms and mussels while enjoying nature and getting exercise.
Drying, pickling, fermenting and freezing are only a few ways of conserving the catch, while the season’s apples typically reach perfection as jam or pies.
– I try to get out there as often as I can, but we purchase a lot for the restaurant, of course. There’s a local retiree providing us with a lot of mushrooms, for instance, and we buy everything he delivers. After all, this is part of his livelihood, and we want to support that.
This, says Bernt Ellingsen, is precisely the sort of enthusiasts you’ll run into at Matstreif.
– Matstreif is an opportunity to meet and greet the producers personally. They’re proud and skilled craftspersons who are eager to meet the festival crowd with their prime produce.
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