This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Pintxopote

GetariaBusy. Warm. Crowded. Brightly lit. This is a Donostian pintxo bar on a Wednesday or Thursday night, the night of pintxopote. The waiters (all men sweat over the counter (although thankfully not onto the pintxos). Sangria and cider flow, and I am the only solo guest.

I wonder how long I get to keep my corner table. Pintxopote is a bar-crawl tradition from the recent economic recession in Spain, where Basque bars enticed locals to spend money outdoors, by offering a pintxo and a small drink for 2-3 euro. In San Sebastián old town it is on Wednesdays, and in Gros on Thursdays. A “pintxo” is a tapa, usually on bread. A “pote” is a drink in Basque.

The pintxos are good but oil, bread, and cheese are a killer combination for dinner every day. Literally. I wish pintxos would include a side salad. I doubt the Basques eat vegetables in any other form than cooked, grilled, or pickled.

Time to crawl back out into the fresh air to find a nice seaside café for a nightcap.

(San Sebastián, and photo from Getaría, Spain; August 2019)


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Just eat

bologna-12Oh, such a change: from wheat noodles and sauce, lard on rye bread, and very few non-meat options to an abundance of antipasti, tapenade, bread, and cheeses. Fresh gelato. Wonderfully fat green olives. Aioli. Salvation.bologna-13I find myself exposed to several “food capitals” this summer: I am still in San Sebastián, the city with the most Michelin stars; and writing about the food capital of Italy: Bologna. What else can one say but “go there and eat everything that’s put in front of you”? It is bound to be a success. bologna-11(Bologna, Italy; July 2019)


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Berries

salzburg-6Himbeeren, Blaubeeren, Brombeeren. The best you can get in the summer, if strawberries are not available. Or perhaps, even if they were available.

I’d like to think these berries are picked by rosy-cheeked Austrians in the nearby forests and brambles, but most likely these come from Poland. Or Serbia. And definitely not forests or brambles.  Unfortunately. Not that there is anything wrong with berries from Poland or Serbia (except for the kilometers between me and the food). This is food business in Europe today.

(Salzburg, Austria; July 2019)


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Warmth of the sun in a cup

curcuminWhisked into hot almond milk, curcumin latte is the warmth of the sun in a cup. This one comes with ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper for extra heat. Heat is good, not only in the winter, but also as a digestive for people whose bellies burn with a slow flame, like me.

Curcumin comes from turmeric, the ginger-resembling root that makes one’s fingers yellow when handling it. And as turmeric only contains a few percent of curcumin, quite a few roots have gone into one curcumin latte – for my good health. Yum.

(Brande, Denmark; June 2019)


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Blueberries, goodberries

blueberriesBlueberries and bilberries are the same, right? Wrong. Blueberries found in our European supermarkets all-year round are cultivated highbush blueberries, juicy and light or green inside. The blue berries found in the Northern European forests are bilberries. These are the ones that stain your fingers and tongue when you eat them straight from the bush.

And it is the European bilberry which (as far as I know) is the superior superfood of the two: loads of antioxidants, minerals, and great taste, unbeatable by the North American blueberry.

But when it is April and the Finnish forests are only waking up one takes what one finds (in the supermarket). And so today granma’s old sugar bowl is filled with cultivated blueberries.

(Loviisa, Finland; April 2019)


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Hot wall

hetvaggHetvägg (”hot wall”). With marzipan. Just like it used to be for hundreds of years. While most people in Finland prefer their bun dry in hand, mine definitely likes hot milk better.

This is what people relish in the Nordic countries on Shrove Tuesday (called Fat Tuesday in Swedish). In Finland the day is “laskiainen”, an untranslatable “sliding day”. Not only because one begins the slide towards Easter and spring, but quite literally because one is supposed to rush down snowy hills with one’s behind seated on a coaster or in a plastic sled, regardless of one’s age and bone health.

Therefore, a Finnish or Swedish Shrove Tuesday is also celebrated with hot pea soup – and possibly a sip of arrack punch.

(Helsinki, Finland; March 2019)


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Dear Bali, I am back!

balifood-1Apologies for the food photo, but I am on Bali (yes, again). Thus this will not remain as the only one from my stay. You see, the healthy, locally produced (and mostly raw) food trend is on another level here.

Today I spent a few hours on a packed Air Asia flight from Singapore to Denpasar. It is astonishing how people cannot stay in their seats for as long as the seatbelt sign remains on due to bad weather. The crew patiently called for people to sit down, for a total of four times. Even children were out of their seats. I cannot quite understand such parenting, as the risk (while rare) is real that the children damage their necks and heads in the turbulence.

The weather was cloudy and choppy as we made our way towards Bali. After waiting for an entire hour in a congested immigration checkpoint, I was met by Gede, the owner of the homestay in Canggu I am staying at. Finally I get to stay in a traditional Balinese house.

But first, this delicious dinner in Betelnut Café.

(Canggu, Bali, Indonesia; August 2018)


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Swiss cheese

fondueThere are no holes in Swiss cheese in its proper form: melted into a fondue pan, and mixed with white wine and a hint of garlic. In this form it is solid, warming energy on a cold winter’s day. Fat and carbs galore (because oh, all the bread served!).

There are three tricks to survive this bonanza AND feel good: 1) sparkling water; 2) digestive enzymes, or 3) a shot of something afterwards. This time I had no pills and did not request sparkling water – and thus was offered cherry schnapps afterwards. At least it was past noon – barely.

(Zurich, Switzerland; February 2018)


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Les Halles

leshalles-2Les Halles in Zurich is not like Les Halles in Paris. Its is much better. Sure, you get Moules (mussels) there, too, but the feeling is that of a food hall and not of a modern shopping center.

There even are bicycles and sneakers hanging from the ceiling, to create that “authentic hipster feeling” (is that an oxymoron by the way?).

The moules were excellent. The food is cheap. Only cash is accepted. Do book before you go.leshalles(Zurich, Switzerland; February 2018)


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The Nordic version of Carnival

laskiaisbunThe laskiaispulla (FIN), or fastlagsbulle (Swedish dialect in FIN), fastelavnsbolle (NO) or semla (SE) is one hell of a calorie bomb: sweetbread carved out to harbor a clump of juicy, bitter-almond tasting marzipan (or raspberry jam for the heretics), with a cloud of whipped cream on top. But what else do you want on a cold February Shrove Tuesday when the body craves for energy?

This is as close as we get to Carnival in the Nordics: one or several laskiaispulla before 40 days of “fasting” (over here it was mainly cutting out the superfluous) before Easter. Except I don’t know of anyone who actually fasts. It seems to be a nearly dead tradition – and why? In the middle of the carbohydrate frenzy our body seems to prefer during the cold months, take 40 days and really consider every piece of simple, unextravagant food you put in your mouth. Cut down on sugar, leave out the booze. And kick-start it all with a few laskiaispullas in the ancient fashion: served in a bowl of hot milk. This dish is called “hetvägg” in Sweden (hot wall). Try it and you’ll find out why.

(Stockholm, Sweden; February 2018)