Olde Scandinavian Cooking

by The Metric Maven

Happy Metric Day

My friend Pierre has introduced me to many interesting aspects of cooking. I’ve been interested in his recipe for bacon explosion, but apparently do not have the nerve to pursue it. Pierre began to watch a program called New Scandinavian Cooking. He could not but achieve some metric schadenfreude, and surprise, when he reported the presenting chef, Andreas Viestad, was using deciliters in his recipes!

I like Scandinavians as I grew-up around their descendants in Minnesota. They are always portrayed as sanguine, happy, and calm. I heard many Sven jokes (sorry Sven) as I grew up, and they all involved Sven as clueless and happy. I would relate one, but all those I know are probably not appropriate for this blog.

I investigated the program, and to my horror, not only did he use deciliters, but their milk was in deciliter packaging! Below you will find a 3 deciliter carton of milk. Not 300 mL, but 3 dl !

Three decilitres of milk

I have watched a considerable number of the programs. The Scandinavian cooks seem to fearlessly use grams, so where are the milliliters? I randomly looked through a number of NSC recipes and found that Scones with Red and Yellow Beets had a number of volume measures. Here is the recipe:

Why on Earth would NSC use teaspoons and tablespoons instead of milliliters? I have no idea what the measures would be for a non-English version of the program, but would it be teaspoons and tablespoons? This seems unlikely, but my non-extensive, non-exhaustive internet search offered no clue. I emailed NSC and Anders Viestad. I asked what they use in Scandinavian countries for teaspoons and tablespoons.

Anders actually replied:

Hi Randy

Since the show is airing in the US and in countries using metric, I have to use both. However, when possible I use teaspoons/tablespoons, which works in both areas.

Andreas

Apparently, teaspoons and tablespoons are used in Scandinavian countries? Sweden had a ten year plan to become metric. They procrastinated for 9 years and rushed the change. Teaspoons and tablespoons might not have been addressed. Anders apparently did not feel the need to address milliliters versus deciliters.

The logical volume measure for teaspoons (5 mL) and tablespoons (15 mL) is milliliters. Confusing teaspoons and tablespoons is always a danger, esp., when it’s abbreviated tsp and tbl. New Scandinavian Cooking is not exactly Mormons Making Coffee, but they are too close for comfort using runic metric units like deciliters. Indeed, when making Danish Meatballs, Andreas indicated that one should use 1.2 deciliters of milk rather than one-half cup. Why not 120 mL?

In one recipe I noticed Andreas used a measuring vessel which is marked in deciliters. It goes from 1 through 9 dl and then becomes 1 lit and returns to 11 deciliters at the next graduation. Apparently in Scandinavian cooking one does not need to be closer than a deciliter in volume, but grams are just fine as he uses 100 grams of butter.

Andreas makes an apple dish called “Veiled Farm Girls”, and after he puts apple halves in a baking dish, he indicates that is requires a “generous amount of sugar.” How much?: “A good fist-full” That’s even less precise than deciliters.

Andreas’ favorite bread recipe uses grams, deciliters, and teaspoons–and later tablespoons—never say milliliters apparently.

What does become obvious how Andreas often cooks. The majority of time he just guesstimates the amount of ingredients. He has a captivating smile as he vanquishes measurement in his cooking. He is far too close to the happy Sven I grew up with, but I wish I could pull him aside and try to implore him to read Naughtin’s Laws. I have a feeling he would politely read the rules and carry on like the Swedish Chef might. Well, I guess it could be worse, it could be fractional cups and fluid ounces—but it could be so much better.

1 thought on “Olde Scandinavian Cooking

  1. Hi Randy !
    I really have to answer your post, because there seems to be a misunderstanding about the use of teaspoons and tablespoons.
    Yes, all Europe has been metric for more than 100 years, and EVERIBODY is “still” using teaspoons and tablespoons in recipes. Why that ?
    1. Because a kitchen is not a chemistry laboratory. There is no need and no easy way to mesure such small quantities with accuracy. With a measuring jar ? Impossible : they only have increments of 50 or 100 mL. With an electronic kitchen scale ? Too time-consuming. So, instead, we just open our kitchen drawer and grab a spoon.
    2. Because, for us Europeans, a teaspoon is NOT precisely 5 mL or whatever, but just a random little spoon, the one you’d use to stir your coffee.
    And a tablespoon is just a random big spoon, the one you’d use to eat your soup.
    3. And that’s all the accuracy you need when it comes to cooking.

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