Darra Goldstein: “Fire and Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking” | Talks at Google
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Darra Goldstein: “Fire and Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking” | Talks at Google

ANNIE: I’m excited
to have with us today Darra Goldstein,
the Adsit Professor of Russian at Williams
College and the founding editor of the James
Beard award winning food journal, “Gastronomica.” Darra is a prolific
writer and consultant on culinary and cultural topics. She has done everything,
from organizing a historical
exhibition of tablewear at the Cooper Hewitt
Smithsonian Design Museum to serving as a national
spokesperson for Stolichnaya Vodka when it first came
to the United States. Best of all, Darra
is also my aunt. [LAUGHTER] She is the author of five
well-known cookbooks, and is here today to discuss her
latest, “Fire and Ice– Classic Nordic Cooking,” just
released by Ten Speed Press. I’m pleased to welcome Darra
Goldstein to Google today. [APPLAUSE] DARRA GOLDSTEIN: Thank
you so much, Annie. And Annie’s husband
Jacob is here, my nephew. So this is a really
meaningful place for me to be. Because I feel very– I
mean I know all of you always feel connected,
but I feel connected in a very personal way. So thank you for having me. I want to talk to you–
I don’t know how many of you have traveled
throughout Scandinavia or are familiar with it. But it’s a place it’s been
very close to my heart for a long time. Way back in college I
was studying Russian and I wanted to go
to the Soviet Union– obviously– to become a
better Russian speaker. But that was back in
the Cold War days, long before you were born. But I guess we’re back
into the new Cold War now, so I shouldn’t
make it so historical. But it was impossible
for me to get a visa. So I thought, where
can I possibly go where I could perhaps
go in as a tourist and still experience
Soviet life? So I decided to go to
Helsinki because it is a cold, dark,
northerly place, and I could easily
get across the border to what was then Leningrad. And I studied at the
University of Helsinki and it just opened my eyes to
so many things– and importantly for this book, to
so many flavors. Fast forward eight years. I was newly married,
once again wanting to go to the Soviet Union. I mean, something might
have been wrong with me. But it was a place that
was very compelling. I was studying right up
the road here at Stanford. And my husband and I
had given up everything and decided to get married so
that we could go to the Soviet Union together. And we gave up our teaching
assistantships, our apartment, and applied for the visas. That was 1980. And the Soviets
invaded Afghanistan, the US pulled out
of the Olympics, and my visa with the last
name of Goldstein was revoked. And his last name is
Crawford– he got a visa, but he’s not a Russianist. So once again we’re in this
position of what do we do. So I thought, has to be another
cold, dark place not too far from Soviet Union. So we went to Stockholm and
spent the year in Stockholm. And again, that was
just eye opening. It was really wonderful. And I realized that I was in
love with the Nordic countries. So if you look at
this map, you can see that it stretches
really from Denmark up to– it’s cut off at
the top because I’m presenting to everyone. So you can’t really
see the full length. But it’s about 2,000
kilometers from south to north. The climate here is fairly
mild in northerly terms. And down here in Sweden,
this area– Smaland– is considered the
Tuscany of Sweden, because the temperature is
so temperate, shall we say. But the part that intrigues me
is up here at the far north, up above the Arctic Circle. And here– that’s
cut off a bit– is the Barents Sea,
which is shared by both Russia and Norway. Norway goes all the way up. And if you look at
these countries, you can see that what
really defines them all is very long coastlines. When I was thinking about
this book, and so many years of having traveled
to this region, I thought of what
interests me most. And it’s this idea of a northern
dimension, a northern way of thinking that really
has nothing to do with political boundaries. It has to do with how
people have survived over the centuries
in what is largely a very inhospitable climate. So I wanted to look at
the whole sweep of foods and the way of thinking. Now one of the
interesting things about studying
this region is you find all sorts of quirky
things that have happened. For instance, up here you can’t
quite see the border of Norway with Russia is right there. But in the 1960s the
Soviet scientists decided that they wanted to
put the Kamchatka crab– which is like a huge king crab. I mean if its claws are
extended it’s really much taller than I am, actually,
if you were to put it on end. And they decided to put
it into the Barents Sea, because it is from the
Far East, because they wanted to start farming it. And that very smart
crab in the 1960s wanted to escape
from the Soviet Union and crossed the
waters into Norway, where it found very
rich, fertile feeding grounds in the
Barents Sea and became a real ecological problem that
they’re still contending with. Conversely, in
Finland this area– you can see Finland
has many, many lakes, and here’s the
border with Russia, somewhat artificial
border I might add– but there’s a very
wonderful fish called the vendance, which
is a little bit like a smelt, called [FINNISH] in Finnish. And that fish in Finnish they
refer to as the wise old man of the lake. Because even though it’s very
close to Lake Ladoga and there are connections, it never
crosses the border into Russia. It stays in Finland. Anyway, so this
gives you a sense of the topography of the place. So I was thinking about
what to call this book. And I decided I wanted
to do “Fire and Ice,” because to me those are
really the two poles of what the Nordic countries are about. And my publishers at Ten
Speed– who are just up the road and across the Bay in
Emeryville– loved the title, but thought, well, is that going
to compete too much with “Song of Ice and Fire”– you
know, “Game of Thrones”? You have to have
something you can Google, and it’ll come right
up, and everyone’s going to be finding
“Game of Thrones.” But they luckily were very in
the end amenable to this topic and came up with this quite
beautiful cover, I think. If you hold it up
to the light, you’ll see that it is very shimmery
and iridescent, which to me captures that quality of light
that you find in the far north and the iridescence of ice. So when I talk about these
two poles of fire and ice, the dish that comes
most to mind is a dish from the Sami, who
are also known as Laplanders. They live in the far
north of Norway, Sweden and also Finland. And historically
they were nomads. And like many people
in modern life, they’re much more settled. But they’re still allowed
to herd their reindeer. And in the winter
time they would take chunks of the
reindeer meat– because reindeer was
a very important means of economic life,
but also nourishment for them– and they would
take the reindeer meat, bury it in the snow, and then
take a very sharp hunting knife and shave it off in
quite thin slivers. And you can see the
snow all around here. And then they
would light a fire. And these crystalline pieces
of shaved reindeer that still had the ice on them
would go into a skillet and then it would steam,
because the water would evaporate as it was cooking. I tried so hard to get reindeer
as I was testing this book, because this is one of my
absolute favorite dishes in the world. I couldn’t find a
source of reindeer. We happen to have
a lot of venison, so my version is with venison. But it’s something you can–
if you have a strong husband, I would say, who has a
hunting knife– it’s very easy to do at home. But this fire and ice
theme continues also in the beverages that are found
in the northern countries. The one on the left is glog,
which you find particularly in Sweden and also in Denmark. And basically it’s
a mulled wine. And if you think about this
climate and how dark it gets. So when I was living
in Finland, the sun would sort of come
up around 10:00 in the morning at the
darkest part of the year and sort of set at 3 o’clock. So you had five hours. But it was only
quasi-daylight, you know. It wasn’t this California sun
that is bright and a blue sky. Everything was sort of gray. And so one of the things
that the Scandinavians do is to bring light
into their lives and have things like
this golden mulled wine with all kinds of spices
I’ll talk about in a minute. The ice counterpart to that
is aquavit, or schnapps, which is basically a distilled
alcohol generally made from grain. But it’s usually flavored
with dill– aquavit generally with caraway is
the most classic flavor I made some with tiny new
birch leaves that I had picked that give it a very bitter taste
that the Scandinavians tend to love. Or around Christmas
time I really like to use cardamom and ginger
for these warming flavors. So here you see
there’s rosemary, which surprisingly grows quite
well in the very long summers. But you can flavor
it with everything. And I won’t go into
my Stoli girl spiel about all the different
flavors you can make, but it’s a lot of
fun to experiment. But it’s served ice cold. This is a photograph from a
village called Longyearbyen in the Svalbard archipelago,
which is up about halfway between the northern tip of
Norway and the North Pole. So it is really far north. And I love this photograph
because for me it captures this whole idea
of the fire and the ice. When it’s dark but when
there’s ice on the ground, there’s a kind of glow. And in the homes
there are candles, there’s this beautiful light. And it’s a way of bringing
warmth into your environment when the external environment
is not so friendly. There’s a beautiful word
in Danish called [DANISH]. And it doesn’t really
translate into English, but it’s something like comfort. And it’s not the kind
of comfort if you get under your comforter
in bed all by yourself, it’s the kind of comfort
where there’s camaraderie, and you have some glog, and
you’re drinking together and sharing things. And actually the old Norse
root of [DANISH] and hug are the same. So you can see where
that comes from. So I don’t know if you
find this kind of landscape as beautiful as I do, but
this Svalbard archipelago is actually a very important
place because it is home to the Global Seed Bank, which
is also known as the doomsday vault. And it was conceived in
2006, finally finished in 2008. And the seeds from
all over the world are deposited there as
a guard for biodiversity in case there are crop failures,
or– as is happening now in Syria– a
terrible war raging. And when the seed
bank in Syria had to move from Aleppo
to Beirut, they had to leave a lot of
their seeds behind. So they had deposited seeds
in this doomsday vault. And each country is only
allowed to get its own seeds– so it you can’t take
other people’s seeds and start planting them. But they were able
to retrieve some. This building was built,
again, to capture that light. It has stainless steel,
mirrored surfaces, these wonderful reflections. And if you can also think
of the Northern Lights, you get a bit of a sense of
that in that greenishness there. It’s really gorgeous. The seeds are kept at
minus 18 degrees Celsius. And they believe that
they’ll remain viable for a good 200 years. So now to move more
specifically to food. Probably the two most common
Swedish loan words in English are dynamite–
which was introduced by Alfred Nobel,
and of course Nobel is a very familiar name
to us, particularly this time of year–
and smorgasbord. So this is a very classic
Swedish smorgasbord. And where does it come from? Well, in the past,
particularly I’m talking around the
16th century, it was called a
brannvinsbord, which is really more like a schnapps
or aquavit table, that focused mainly on the alcohol. And gradually more and
more food was introduced until by the 19th century, and
then particularly in the 1960s there was a very famous
restaurateur in Stockholm who institutionalized
this smorgasbord as we tend to know it today. The name itself
is a compound noun that comes from three
different words– smor, which means butter, gas,
which means goose, and bord, which means table. The smorgas was actually a term
that came from churning butter. I don’t know if any if you have
ever churned butter by hand. You’ve probably
inadvertently made butter if you’ve whipped
cream for too long, and suddenly you have butter. But you’re churning and churning
and these clumps of butter start forming on the surface. And they looked a bit
like dancing geese. So those became
this smorgas, which became itself a metonym,
a metonymy for sandwich. And then the sandwich table
became the smorgasbord. Now in Sweden what
you do with that is you have five
different, they call them, tours– you take
five different tours, it’s five different helpings. And first, always first, is
his majesty, the herring. And the first round
of filling your plate is always many
different kinds of herring in all different forms–
pickled, creamed, smoked, chalked, all beautiful things. Then comes the servings
of different kinds of fish and shellfish. Because remember,
as I mentioned, there’s a lot of coastline, so
fish is a very important part of the diet. Next come the cold
meat and salads. And then the hot dishes. So you might think
Swedish meatballs, or stuffed cabbage leaves,
or all kinds of veal dishes. And then the final
one, of course, has to be this sweet one. And with all of them
you have schnapps, because that’s a very important
part of the experience. So we have this beautiful
institution of smorgasbord, which is a very Swedish thing. And it came into
the United States in 1939 at the New York World’s
Fair in the Swedish pavilion and became all the rage. Unfortunately, it has devolved
into the all-you-can-eat buffet. There’s this great map
of the United States that I like to show
my students that shows all of the states and
their distinctive foods. And Utah– oh, no, sorry,
sorry, Utah– Nevada, you know where Las Vegas
is, has a chafing dish from the all-you-can-eat
buffets there. But its translation is even
stranger in Japanese culture. The word smorgasbord
doesn’t lend itself easily to pronunciation in Japanese. So what happened in 1958 at
the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo is that the owner saw the 1958
film “The Vikings” with Kirk Douglas– it was narrated
by Orson Welles– and was totally enthralled
with these Vikings. And so he decided
to call the buffet that they were presenting
Viking, [JAPANESE] and that has become the
word for buffet in Japanese. This is a modern ad for–
I can’t read the Japanese, I don’t know if
anyone in the room can– but it’s for
the Japanese buffet. But let’s get back to the food. So thinking again about
this very cold climate, the only grains that
thrived there were barley, and spelt– to some
degree– and oats. And then a little bit later
on rye came in from Russia. But wheat really was not
grown because the climate was too cold. And it didn’t enter too
much into the cuisine until the late 19th century
when it was already being milled and it was affordable
in the form of flour. And that’s when there
was this explosion of wonderful baked goods
that we can talk about if you have questions at the end. But most of the
breads are still based primarily on rye, but also
to some degree barley flour and also oats. So they’re very, very wholesome,
very hardy, whole grain. They also eat all of
these things as porridge. Finland in particular has the
most extraordinarily diverse array of breads that I’ve
encountered anywhere. There’s still probably
something like 100 that are being
commercially produced. And if you draw a line
down the middle of Finland, basically you encounter
the two traditions. To the east, which
is towards Russia, you find these breads like
this one– big sourdough loaves that have been
baked in masonry ovens. They’re very thick,
and savory, and chewy. In the western part is
Finland, unbelievably, they bake their breads only
once or twice a year. They didn’t have as much fuel
and so wood was very expensive for the ovens. And what they did was make
these thinner loaves– they were much flatter. And they had holes in the
center, as you see here. And they would put them on
poles that would be hung up in the rafters of the house. And it would dry and
become a kind of hardtack. Sometimes it became
so hard that then you had to shave it again with
that handy hunting knife, or soak it, or put it in soup. So the people mostly like
the standard yeasted loaf that we know today. But there’s also an
amazing tradition throughout all of
the Nordic countries for the flatbreads,
the crispbreads which are really crackers. And one of my favorite
recipes in the book, which I think is just
awesome because I’ve never really encountered a
recipe like it before, is you take some
preservative-free rye bread or multigrain bread and you soak
it overnight in beer or ale. And then in the morning
you squeeze it out– so you just have this paste. Add a tiny bit of soft
butter and spread it really thin on some parchment paper. Bake it, and you have this
extraordinarily healthy cracker. And you can change the
flavor all the time, depending which bread you use. We tend to think of the
far north as just barren. I don’t know if any of you know
Gary Paul Nabhan’s writings, but he’s written
a beautiful book about the desert, which we also
think of as a barren place. But the Native Americans
who lived there knew how to eat from the desert. And the people who
lived in the far north knew how to eat from the
land and from the sea. And one of the incredible riches
from the north is mushrooms. We tend to think of foraging
as a very chic activity. And we go out and
we collect mushrooms and we feel good about
ourselves– as we should. And we commune with nature. But there it’s something
that is built into the genes. It is something that is
absolutely necessary. So here we have
some black trumpets. The most favorite mushroom I
would say is the chantrelle. And they’re just golden. I mean it’s like finding
gold in the words. And they’re so very beautiful. And people go out
and they won’t really tell where their
mushroom spots are because they want to be able to
return to them over and over. The other thing that the
northern words provide are things that we don’t
really use so much– juniper berries– which
grow, I mean juniper grows in northern California. Fir trees and spruce trees grow. And everything, again
this whole conversation we have about eating
locally, eating seasonally, it really is the way of life for
people in the Nordic countries, because it’s how they survived. So in the spring you
can go out and get these very beautiful
young shoots of the fir or the spruce trees. You don’t want them to mature
too much because then they’ll get really too strong. But they have this
beautiful resonous– If you think about retsina,
the Greek wine, if any of you like that sort of piney
flavor, that’s what you get. And you can mix it with butter. You can infuse oil with it. If you’re making gravlax,
which I’ll get to shortly, you can add it up with
the dill to layer it and it adds this
wonderful flavor. How many of you know
juniper berries intimately? OK, good. So you dry these berries
and they add– I don’t know, to me it’s just the
taste of the wild. You again can pound them
in a mortar and pestle or you can use the food
processor is OK too. But I really like to get that
aroma coming up from the pestle right there and not
have it enclosed. You can add that to butter,
put it on some rye bread, and it’s just amazing. Add it to stews. There’s a wonderful
recipe for an apple soup that your guests will have no
idea what you’re serving them. They won’t be able
to detect what it is, but it’s basically pureed
apples with some apple cider and some juniper berries. It’s really quick and beautiful,
but it has this wild element. But I think what Scandinavia’s
perhaps most renowned for are the berries. And we have all of the berries
that we’re familiar with here, but also some really
distinctive very special ones. On the left you
have cloudberries, which are very fleeting. They ripen in the end of
August and they grow in bogs. And what you’ll see,
if you’re driving on the roads in the northern
part of Finland, Sweden, and Norway– they
don’t really grow in Denmark– is people
in full– they’re like beekeepers, because
they’re covered head-to-toe. But they’re
protecting themselves against the mosquitoes
which are really vicious. But the foragers
want the cloudberries so much that it’s worth it. And they have this
wonderfully musky flavor. And they also have a lot
of vitamin A, vitamin C, surprisingly a lot of iron–
which you don’t usually think of with berries–
and omega 3 and 6 fats. So they’re sort of a super food. And they’re made into jam. And also Finland makes
a really nice liqueur. But on the right you
see sea buckthorn, which grows more to the
south on the coastline. I like to think of the
sea buckthorn as the Linus Pauling of berries because
it has so much vitamin C. And in Russia I know they’re
using it as a cancer drug– the jury’s still out
how effective it is. But it’s very, very tart–
it’s really puckery. And it’s made into a
juice and also into a jam. So the number of
berries in Finland alone that are edible, there
are something like 50. So I think you see
familiar ones here like raspberries, green
and pink gooseberries. There are red currents here. And up at the top, the red
ones are rowan berries. And you can see lingonberries,
bilberries, and blueberries. My favorite is lingonberry. The lingonberry
grows in Canada, it doesn’t grow in
the United States. If you go to IKEA you
can get it in a jar. And it’s still quite wonderful. But the amazing
thing about them is that they have
natural benzoic acid, so much that you don’t have
to cook them to make a jam. You just stir them with
sugar– because you really do need sugar, they’re
very, very tart. And I’m starting to salivate as
I think about their tartness, just that puckeriness. But you just stir them with
the sugar and they don’t spoil. So in the middle of
winter you open up this jar of lingonberries
and you feel like the summer has come again. And it gets you through
that long, dark season. But I want to get
back to the Vikings. So here’s Kirk Douglas
in 1958 in “The Vikings”. And I think the only
reason he doesn’t have a beard is because
he has that cleft chin and he always had
to show that off. He does have that glass eye
that is just totally weird. But you also have the
guys from the current hit series, “The Vikings,”
who are very bearded. And I’m looking around the
room here– I do see one beard. Did you just move
here from Brooklyn? No? OK. [LAUGHTER] So you go to Brooklyn and
everyone is fermenting food, and everyone– oh no, I
see two beards, oh wow. Did you just move here? No? OK. All right. And all the men have
these Viking style beards. The reason I’m bringing
it up is simply because the Vikings did live
in this part of the world. But there is this
company in Iceland that is making all kinds
of products for beards that they advertise
by saying we’re tapping into more than 1,000
years of beard-caring tradition from a culture that grows beards
that had to handle the frost, snow, wind, dirt, and sea
that comes with living in some of the most demanding
places nature has to offer. We do this so you and your
beard can stand strong in the face of nature
and proudly say, show me what you’ve got, I can take it. Now what does this have to do
with a cookbook on Nordic food? Well, if you delve
into their website you find that all
of their products are absolutely
natural, and they’re the foods that are still being
eaten in the Nordic lands today. So juniper berries–
which I mentioned. Bog myrtle, which is
also known as sweet gale. And its leaves are
somewhat resinous. But it was also used to replace
hops and used to make ale. Dill, which is the most
iconic of the herbs in Scandinavian cooking, comes
from the word to comfort. One of my favorite– it’s
all about comfort for me. Yarrow, rosemary,
grapeseed oil– which is none other than
canola oil, which is actually a GMO product. Pine. And then down at the
bottom there’s beeswax. So these Vikings
were very important. We tend to think of them as
predators and plunderers, which I guess they were. We also tend to think of
them as having traveled west towards England, and the
Faroe, and Ireland, and then on to Vinland,
Newfoundland, and Canada. But what most of us
don’t really think about is that they also
went south and east. And you can see that they
went as far as the Black Sea and also the Caspian. And what happened there,
particularly in Constantinople, is they connected with the
great trade routes, the Silk Road, and all of these spices
coming in from the east. And they brought them
back to Scandinavia. So if you think on the
one hand about the bog myrtle, and the juniper, and
the spruce growing there, you also have these
extraordinary spices that came in fairly early. And the Scandinavians–
particularly the Swedes and the
Danes– adopted them and they became
the basis for baking and also for some savory
foods like the glog– these are glog spices
that you see here. So you have ginger,
you have cardamom– which is the single
most important, along with cinnamon the two
single most important spices used in baking. There’s also nutmeg,
cloves, star anise. And the vanilla came later, the
oranges came somewhat later. But they’re all really,
really important to the aroma of
the Nordic cooking. And at Christmas time
in every Nordic country you have some form
of gingerbread, known as pepperkakor, or
in its various iterations, gingerbread cookies. So we think of
gingerbread men and women, but in Europe they actually
made the gingerbread in the form of animals. And there is a reason for
this anthropomorphism. If you think about living
in cold, dark, scary places that have impenetrable
pine forests. And there are bears,
and elk, and wolves, and all of these creatures that
really are a bit terrifying if they’re not Disneyfied. If you eat those
creatures, symbolically you diminish their power
in a certain way, because you are ingesting them. But you also take on some of
the attributes of strength. So these are modern
gingerbread cookies. So that’s why you see
the Moomintrolls, which are a 20th century phenomenon. Tove Jansson, who’s
a Finnish writer and does stories about
these cute trolls, the kitty cat isn’t
really too terrifying unless you have a
cat like I once did. But the gingerbread is a
very important part of it. So it’s not just
foods from the Earth, it’s also these spices that
came in, including saffron. And one of the most
important foods in Sweden are the Lucia buns, which
are baked every December 13. December 13 used
to be the longest night of the year,
the shortest day of the year, the darkest moment
when all of the evil spirits would come out. And they were named
after Santa Lucia, who gave up her eyes
because she didn’t want to marry this suitor,
and she was martyred. But it’s also related to the
term for light– also related to Lucifer. So you have the dark forces
and the light forces. But when you add
the saffron, you have these luminous buns on
the darkest day of the year. And they’re very delicious. So I talked about the Vikings. And the other people
who were living there were the Sami, whom
I’ve also mentioned, the reindeer herders. And the Europeans who
were living in Scandinavia were intrigued by the Sami
because they were so different. They spoke a different
language, they looked different, they lived differently. And in 1673 a scholar at
Uppsala University in Sweden wrote a book about Lapland–
Laponia– Johannes Schefferus. And you can see that he
talks about the region. And he says on the
origin, superstitions, and sacred magic of this
Sami– or the Laplanders. The reason I wanted
to show you this cover is because of the importance
of this idea of superstition and sacred magic. Well into the 18th century
when you had Linnaeus– Carl Linnaeus– who is the
father of taxonomy and the binomial system
of naming things, well he was aware of all of
the dark magic around him. And one of his missions was
to try to overcome that. He said, without science,
demons of the forest would hide in every
bush, specters would haunt every dark corner. Imps, gnomes, river spirits,
and the others in Lucifer’s gang would live among
us like gray cats. And superstition,
witchcraft, and black magic would swarm around
us like mosquitoes. And of course everyone’s
familiar with mosquitoes there. And so his great
grandmother was actually burned at the stake as a witch. So I think he felt
it very deeply. But he went to the
north of Sweden and found that the
people were so poor that they were pulling the
bark off trees and eating that. And he was very distressed,
not just at the poverty, but because the trees were
important to the economy. And so he advocated
that they eat bog myrtle, nettles, and lichen
in place of the bark of trees. And here you can see the nettle. Nettle is very much like
spinach, rich in vitamin A, and vitamin C. And
here you can see that it has the Linnaean
name Urtica dioica l, the l standing for Linnaeus. And you can gather these. They sting, so you
have to wear gloves. But once you cook them, you
can make beautiful soups. They also dried it and
baked it into bread. So it was very nourishing. The lichen that he advocated,
the reindeer lichen, I think is somewhat less delicious
than nettle, which is a really beautiful herbal food. I had this lichen dish at
Noma, the Noma which is soon to be no more in
Copenhagen. But it’s where all of the new
Nordic revolution began. Rene Redzepi, the chef,
is quite brilliant in what he has done with the
foods that people have been eating forever. They are actually very
traditional foods, but he recreates
them in new ways. And what you have here
is reindeer lichen that has been flash fried for
I think no more than about five seconds, because you don’t
want it to absorb any oil. You just want it to
get a little bit crisp. And then he’s taken mushrooms–
the porcini– dried them, and then powdered it. And then of course
his presentation is always gorgeous, serving
it on a bed of moss. So the Sami would eat
the reindeer lichen that they would
harvest for free. At Noma you pay quite a bit
more for that little dish of reindeer lichen. The other thing that’s very
important in the Nordic countries is dairying. And what I found extraordinary
in doing my research is that 90% percent of
the Swedish population is lactose tolerant. It’s kind of unheard of,
because most humans are actually able to imbibe mother’s milk
but then lactose intolerance grows as we age. And many people
in the population just can’t digest it. But the Swedes do, and
it’s pretty amazing. And so there’s a whole
tradition of dairying. On the upper right you see my
favorite cheese from Sweden– it’s called vasterbotten. And you lucky people
in the Bay Area can go right up to Nordic
House on San Pablo in Berkeley and they sell it. And I urge all of
you to taste it. It’s a very sharp, almost
Parmesan-like cheese and it’s really beautiful. Beneath it you
find it’s sort of– AUDIENCE: Sorry,
you said what place? Nordic– DARRA GOLDSTEIN: Oh,
Nordic House on San Pablo. And they also have
the salted herring. And they, I hope,
will carry my book. Are you working on that, Erin? ERIN: I’m working on it. DARRA GOLDSTEIN: Good, OK. [LAUGHTER] Its polar opposite
is beneath it. It’s called brunost or
gjetost and it’s Norwegian. And it’s made from the
whey of goat’s milk usually that is mixed
with milk or cream and then boiled down until it’s
caramelized and really soft. It’s almost like fudge. And it becomes very sweet. And you take a cheese
plane and you shave it and you put it on a
cracker like that. And it’s the Norwegian
national cheese. And people absolutely love it. I tend to like the
firm cheeses that have a more piquant flavor. But a cheese I
discovered in researching this book– which is now
one of my new favorites– is the other one. And that’s known as bread
cheese or squeaky cheese. It’s called bread cheese because
the curds are formed into loaf, they’re pressed, and then
they’re baked in the oven. And you can see that
little bit of caramelized, that maillard reaction that
causes those nice brown spots. Called squeaky cheese because,
like some other cheeses you’ve had– sometimes
mozzarella when you chew it you get a sort of
squeaking sensation. But the fascinating
thing is that in the far north of Sweden–
well, starting in Finland, Sweden, and Norway–
one way that they eat it is by dropping it into
a cup, pouring coffee over it– as you see here. And you drink the coffee and
it doesn’t taste like cheese, believe me. But I don’t know how well the
globules of fat show up there, but it gives it a kind
of body as milk does. We put milk in coffee, so
why not put cheese in coffee? I mean really what’s
the difference? But then you finish the cup
of coffee and at the bottom is this wonderful cheese that
actually has a slight coffee flavor. And it’s a really
cool thing to do. So in Sweden they
talk about SOS. For us it’s like, help, and
in Sweden it’s also help. It’s help, I need
something to eat. And what do I need? I need the smor, which
is– do you remember? AUDIENCE: Butter. DARRA GOLDSTEIN: Butter, yes. Ost, which is the cheese. And sill, which is the herring. But of course my friends say
it’s not the butter, cheese, and herring, it’s the
other word that starts with s, which is the schnapps. So you can understand
SOS in many ways, but you have to eat quickly, and
preferably with the schnapps. And the schnapps,
which is the aquavit, is so important to
Swedish culture– but also to other cultures–
that way back in 1922 when there was threat
of prohibition there was a campaign against prohibition. So this poster by
Alfred Engstrom is not saying no
to alcohol– which is what you would think looking
at it– it’s saying no to “no to alcohol” because
crayfish need this drink. [LAUGHTER] So what’s that all about? Well, crayfish are an
institution, particularly in Finland and Sweden. And every year– and it used
to be an exact day, it’s just that has changed
now– but the end of July, beginning of August
is crayfish season. And when you eat crayfish
you have to have schnapps. You can have beer
too, but the crayfish would die without the schnapps
to accompany them, basically. And unfortunately
they were overfished, as happens all over the world. And in the early 20th
century they got a fungus. And so many of the
crayfish disappeared. In the 1960s they started
importing crayfish from the United States,
the signal crayfish, and it also became
infected with this fungus. And so now the noble
crayfish, as they call it, is very expensive, but still
the preferred one to eat. And there are wonderful
crayfish parties every August. But if you’re talking
about an entry food, like it’s a gateway
food, into Scandinavia it would be gravlax,
which I’m sure all of you have tasted– it’s cured salmon. And it comes from a
very ancient method. The word is an
abbreviation of gravid lox, which means buried salmon. And the fishermen
would go fishing and then they would take the
salmon and bury it in the sand until they had finished
all of their expedition. And so it started
to ferment slightly. Now we don’t bury
it in the sand, we just rub it with a mixture
of sugar and salt and pepper. You can flavor it
with elderflower, you can flavored it
with juniper, or fennel, or whatever you want. Put some dill between
it and leave it for two to three days in
the refrigerator and it’s really,
really beautiful. But all of these Nordic foods
are based on preservation and trying to get
through the winter. Here you see the
gravlax with crispbread, which again is a way
of preserving bread because it’s a cracker, it’s
dry, it will last forever. And a beet tartar, which granted
is a much more modern iteration of cooked beets. But they are very sweet, they
have a lot of sugar in them. But they’re mixed with
gerkins or dill pickles and some vinegar. So they have a sweet
and sour flavor, which is one of the
hallmarks of Nordic taste, particularly in Denmark
and the south of Sweden. Surstromming, which
is fermentation taken to what some would
consider an Anthony Bourdain level, so herring that has
been allowed to ferment– and some people
would say go bad. The smell is– have any of
you ever experienced it? It’s extremely strong. It’s actually been
banned by the EU on airlines unless the
flight originates in Sweden. If you look at the
top picture, you see that the can is bulging. I mean I was brought up never to
buy a bulging can because it’ll be botulism. But this is desirable. Salt was not very prevalent
in the Nordic lands– it was very expensive. So what they did to
preserve the herring– and this is Baltic herring,
was to put it in a very lightly salted brine instead
of a strong salt. And then it would ferment
and really began to rot by many people’s terms. And then it’s put into a can
where it continues to ferment. And then in August, just
like with the crayfish season it’s the surstromming season. You open it outdoors
underwater and either you like it or you do not. But they do this. In Norway they have rokke fisk. In Iceland they have hakarl,
which is the fermented shark. So one of the things
I love to think about is just the difference
between what is fresh and what is preserved. So Magnus Nilsson came here
and spoke at Google in 2012. And I captured this slide
from his YouTube video, Food at Google, when he was
talking about his restaurant Faviken and the seasons. And it’s really very telling. Because you can see that
the season for fresh foods is so fleeting for the garden,
for the cultivated foods. The vegetables
are extraordinary, because of course you
have 24 hours of daylight in much of the north. And so they get
this intense flavor that, even though I have
summertime in Massachusetts, which I actually do
have, but we don’t have 24 hours of daylight. Our vegetables never
get this flavorsome. But look how much is
foraged– so usually in late spring and late summer
to early fall– and then the green line and how much
is stored and preserved. So it’s really, really
important to think not just about
preserving these things but also the
transformation of flavor. So you start by doing something
to survive, but then the flavor become something different,
and intense, and very beautiful to me. When we think of pickles,
we think of vinegar. In Scandinavia more
often they’re brined. So they’re put, again, in a
salt solution, which gives them not a vinegary flavor. You get the more
essential flavor of the cucumbers, especially
when you add the dill. They also make pickles
using vinegar– these are pickled beets. In Sweden the vinegar
ranges from 12% to 24%. In the United States
it’s generally 5% of the acetic acid. And sometimes you can get 7%. The 24% stuff is also used
as a cleaning product. And it’s not legal
in the United States. I tried so hard to find it
because I wanted to make the authentic pickled beets. I could not find it. But their general
proportion– it’s called the one,
two, three solution. So it’s one part vinegar,
two parts sugar– so you get the sweet
and sour thing going– and then three parts water. And that I had to adjust,
because our vinegar is not nearly as strong. And of course pickled
herring, which starts with the
salted herring that has already been preserved. And then the salt is
rinsed off and you put it into a sweet and sour
vinegar solution. There’s another important
method of preservation that I haven’t mentioned
yet, and that’s drying, which is practiced
mainly in Norway. And cod was so important for
the whole economy of Norway until they discovered oil. And Norway, which was
once the most poor country in Scandinavia, is
now the wealthiest– so the tables have been turned. But they take this skrei,
which live in the Barents Sea. They live there for
five years and then they come down the west coast
to spawn in the Lofoten Islands. And they’re hung
in the air to dry. So you have the salt air from
the sea that dries them– you don’t have to
add additional salt. And it became
known as stockfish, but they also have others
that they dry on the rocks. And this was the lifeblood,
this was the essence of the fishing culture. By now it has largely died out. And you see these same racks
that are standing empty. And they have built
roads out to the islands. And now it’s a vacation
site, and people come and they gaze at them,
and it’s really beautiful. And the fish themselves
are endangered, because Russian and
Norway signed a treaty about the Barents
Sea, and now it will be open to exploration
for oil and natural gas. And it’s the world’s last
large stock of wild cod, so it is a cause for concern. I wanted to show you the
final method of preservation, and that of course is smoking. So all of these things
transform flavors– they add another layer of flavor. And even though it’s
all very chic now, it goes back to survival. And so returning to this
theme of fire and ice, I think of the Sami huts,
which you can visit as tourists if you go to the north
of Sweden or to Finland It’s called a kota. And here you have this hut. And in the center
you have the hearth, and the smoke goes out
the central chimney. And you can see the
salmon on a plank that is being cooked by the
indirect flames from the fire. You find that in the
Pacific Northwest, the plank salmon that the
Native Americans did– they put them on cedar planks. In Finland this is known
as fire-glow salmon. And it’s really beautiful. It’s very succulent and moist. But the thing that I also
think about with this slide is the word focus, which is
the Latin word for hearth. So the hearth, the center of
the home, really is the focus. And fire is all about warmth,
and cooking, and conviviality. And to me, ice is too. Because you can have a
bar with the schnapps– this is the ultimate icebreaker
in the north of Sweden right on the Russian border. And so ice can be warming too,
and this wonderful antidote to the darkness. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] And now if you
have any questions, I don’t know if
there’s any time. Oh, yeah, there are a few
minutes left for questions. I’m happy to answer any. AUDIENCE: So much of
the Nordic cooking seems to be about place,
and a representation of the environment, and what’s
right there in their backyard. And I think you touched
on this a little bit. But can you talk
about what it was like developing recipes and
maybe some of the challenges that you ran into creating
that sense of place in an American kitchen? DARRA GOLDSTEIN: I
was very pleased. It was quite easy
living in Massachusetts, which is a northerly place. But I think that for the
most part all of the recipes can be created anywhere. Because the only ingredients
that were difficult to find were fresh herring– which runs
only in June in the East Coast. Here you have yours coming up. There’s amazing herring
in the San Francisco Bay, and you’ll be able to get it if
you can find a fishmonger who will sell it to you. And it’s an extraordinary fish. Most of the Herring
in this country goes to Japan for sushi,
where they appreciate it– or is ground into cat food,
because cats appreciate it too. But it’s an amazing fish. Whitefish is also eaten a lot. We have great whitefish
in the Great Lakes. And again, it’s not a fish that
people tend to think about. And Swedish anchovies, which
you can buy up the road– or you can even buy them on Amazon. They’re not the same as the
salted Italian anchovies. They are sprats
that have been cured in a sweet and sour brine with
some sandalwood and spices. And they’re added
to wonderful dishes like Jansson’s temptation, which
is basically creamed potatoes with these fish that
just melt in– oh, I’m starting to salivate
again– these fish that just melt into it. It’s really wonderful. So I found it– as opposed
to the Georgian cookbook that I wrote– when I
moved to the Berkshires I couldn’t even find cilantro. That was way back
in the dark ages. But I would have to travel for
an hour to buy some cilantro. These ingredients are for
the most part familiar to us. The fresh mushrooms
you can either forage or you have
the Ferry Market here that I’m envious
of, or the Berkeley Bowl, or any of these places that
have lots of mushrooms. Lingonberries, cloudberries,
you can’t get them fresh. AUDIENCE: How did
you decide which recipes to put in the book? DARRA GOLDSTEIN: I wanted
some that were iconic. So obviously gravlax
had to be in there. I didn’t put lutefisk in,
which is the dried cod that is treated with lye
and then reconstituted that Garrison Keillor has
made so many jokes about. So I decided to put in
ones that I enjoy eating, but also some that
people might know about and that really
did speak of place. One of the more unusual
ones in the book is one of the first foods
I tasted in Finland. It’s called vispipuuro, which
simply means whipped pudding. And what you do is
you take faina– which is basically cream of wheat. But not the instant
stuff– it has to be the so-called slow
cooking, which I think is only 10 minutes. But for Americans
that’s impossible. But don’t try it with instant. And you just cook the
farina with cranberry juice. There they would use
lingonberry juice, but here I substitute
cranberry juice. It turns this
beautiful garnet color. And then you put it into
the mixer and you whip it. And it’s this gorgeous pudding. And no one knows what’s
in it, because who would think of eating
a cold cream of wheat lurid pink pudding? And it’s absolutely delicious. It’s an after-school treat for
children, it’s very nourishing. So I wanted that to be in there. They use a lot of almond
paste, which I adore. So that was a reflection of me. So there’s a beautiful wreath
of a rich brioche-like bread that has almond paste in it. They grind up almonds
and make meringue layers and then spread strawberries
and whipped cream during the summer. There are a lot of soups,
because soup is slow cooked and nourishing. I could go on and on. So much of it I reflected
me, my own taste, what I thought Americans
would be interested in, but also trying to get somewhat
of a balance between these four countries. And I didn’t add them up,
because I’m not a the Google person. So I didn’t look at
them quantitatively. But in general I think
it’s pretty well-balanced. OK, well thank you
so much for coming. [APPLAUSE]

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