I first tried fresh lake trout gravlax topped with pickled red onions back home in the Northwest Territories where fresh water fish is abundant and an invitation to eat happens daily. Trout has a similar texture and fattiness to that of salmon and I find it is stronger tasting than an equally popular whitefish. Northern or Nordic foods are often simple ingredients with a punch of flavor often created with respect towards food traditions, and focuses on origin, animal welfare, and local producers.
If you are not familiar with Nordic cuisine, you are about to be introduced to the vibrant culture here in Central Alberta. The Nordic food culture in Central Alberta is thriving and bursting with inspiration.
Nordic foods are comforting to our northern darker cold climate with pea soup, stew, rose-hip soup, pork roast, slow roasted wild game or Danish style open faced sandwiches with pickled or salted fish as just a few examples. The breakfasts alone are showstoppers made with grains or a simple gravlax on rye and let’s talk about the incredible waffles they make on cast iron pans. Often the waffle mixture includes butter, vanilla and cardamom scents wafting through your house, pure winter bliss. Nordic flavors are dominated by such purity and simplicity when making meals with dill, horseradish, smoked meat, mustards, and vinegars. Gravlax, lox and smoked salmon are three completely different techniques and flavors but try them, make them.
The attitude of Northern or Nordic cooking is all about easy to prepare meals, being nutrient rich, displaying overwhelming flavor and not being overly expensive. It is much more about gathering around the table nourishing your loved ones with simple food and relaxed company. Experiment with your food choices and search out the local opportunities right here in Red Deer.
If you are looking for fresh salmon to make the lox or gravlax, try Red Deer’s Fisherman’s Pride. My suggestion for a gravlax recipe is to find one with gin, dill, juniper berry, horseradish, and sea salt. If you are a hunter then this style of cuisine is calling your name, but if you want wild meat and are not a hunter, Messinger Meats on Gatez Avenue offers locally sourced ground elk for a perfect Nordic meatball recipe. And that Norwegian waffle obsession I have, well it started with a traditional recipe made to be both delicious, and healthy – all neatly packaged in Torill’s Table waffle mix found at Nutters and Sunworks in Red Deer or The Gift Loft in Innisfail. The adventure in seeking out traditional foods with a twist or retail outlets in your own area is equally exciting as foreign adventures.
One incredible Nordic gem found here in Central Alberta: the Danish Canadian National Museum located just south of Spruce View, west of Innisfail.
If you enjoy Viking lore or Game of Thrones, their ‘Viking Days’ will be something you will want to schedule in you summer calendar. Let me tell you, it is a festival in all its glory. Out on an island, the view of and in the traditional boat house is one of the most beautiful sights to see. However, if you cannot wait for the festival, they have the Saga Café serving up a few traditional treats such as Smorrebrod Danish hot dogs, or just a simple fresh cucumber salad.
Red Deer and area offer a vibrant community with cultures bridging flavors and traditions for us to share. The Nordic culture will be one you will want to experience whether it is through a cookbook, a festival, a café or stopping in at a local retailer and recreating a meal to share with your family and friends.
Sharlyn Carter lives in Red Deer preparing for her second West Coast Trail hike or cooking up a feast. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter as Market Gypsy.