The arrival of ScandiKitchen
Of course, the first thing I had to know was why Brontë decided to open ScandiKitchen. After all, Scandi-fever hadn’t really hit the UK back in the mid-00s, and I don’t think anyone predicted the massive Nordic obsession we’d develop in the following years.
“In short, homesickness. No matter how many years we have lived here, the food from home is still a big pull back to the Northern countries.” Brontë (a Dane) explains that she and her husband Jonas (a Swede) wanted to start a family, taking more of a Scandi 50/50 approach to parenting than their previous jobs would allow. Starting their own café enabled them to have both fulfilling careers and raise their family in a way that suited them. “I love that both of us are parents, and that we are present. Before I wrote this, I baked some rolls – the kids and I made the dough earlier and because it is Monday and Jonas comes home later because of football training, so we always have Aftenhygge together just before they go to bed. When he misses dinnertime, we have our little catch up later. It’s nice. Hyggeligt.”
The link between food and hygge
“The space in your brain that controls memory is close to your senses – such as taste and smell. The scent of your mother’s stew can send you back to her kitchen table in an instant. The smell of pancakes in the morning can send you back to weekends at your granny’s house. The smell of Christmas morning is associated with the smell of coffee, the cups of tea, the bacon in the frying pan. So yes, it’s the same for us Scandies – food is a very powerful emotion. It can instantly bring you a feeling of comfort – and perhaps also that comfort you last felt when you were with your close family, growing up.”
She thinks there could be other reasons for our strong ‘hygge’ reactions to certain foods. As food and memory are so intrinsically linked, it’s likely there’s some sort of combined emotional and physiological response when we eat specific things. “We may eat something sweet and we get a little sugar rush. Maybe we eat something fragrant and the experience is different. Maybe the hot chocolate warms us inside and makes us stop and breathe and savour the moment. Like when you eat a really expensive piece of chocolate from the best chocolatier: you savour that moment, like you never want to let it go.”
Brontë’s new book, Fika & Hygge, is all about the foods which evoke hygge, as well as fika, the Swedish notion of taking time out of your day to stop for a coffee and a sweet treat. So of course, now we’re comfortably in autumn, I had to know which recipe from the book Brontë recommends for the coming months. “This time of year, I love cinnamon buns most. Actually, I always love buns. It’s the Annual Day of the Cinnamon Bun on 4th October. I’m going to have two.” Would we really expect anything else from a Dane? Also, how great is it that there’s a whole day dedicated to cinnamon buns? I’m going to have three – will that be enough to turn me Danish? I can only try.
A hygge dinner party
A question I hear a lot is how people can throw a hygge-inspired dinner party. I’m a much better guest than I am hostess (I’m a strong purveyor of scruffy hospitality and I’ll be damned if I’m going to change anytime soon!), but I asked Brontë for a few tips for those of you who are more competent than I am when it comes to having people over:
- I invite people over I know will get on and feel relaxed together.
- I make sure my apartment isn’t full of bare strip lights etc – we Scandies LOVE lamps. I have six in my small living room – plus the candles. It’s like that all the time – we love creating atmospheres, but it is not done to bring out hygge, this is simply just how we live.
- I cook nice food and open some wine.
- Eat treats.
Sounds simple, right? And that’s exactly the point. Brontë says it’s not about creating hygge – it’s about doing these things as normal. When the conditions are right, you’ll feel it. “I don’t think it’s different that if you were preparing for a date – except it isn’t a date, it’s nice people, sitting down, eating good food and creating some new memories together. The most important thing in all of this is – when everything is going so well and everybody is happy – just let the teeny little thought into your mind that you are happy. That you appreciate it. No need to speak about it.” So there we have it – don’t tie yourself in knots worrying if you having the right tablecloth or trying to cobble together a matching set of glasses. Just relax, let it happen and let the guests make the night.
Hygge is not a séance. Hygge is just there. It’s not really that planned.
Why hygge, why now?
If you’re reading this post, you’ll know just how much attention the British press is showering upon hygge at the moment. But this is a very recent development. I’m always interested to hear from Danes about why they think it’s happening now.
Brontë believes there are a couple of key reasons. Firstly, hygge is the new buzzword, following on from mindfulness. For a couple of years, you couldn’t enter a bookshop without being faced with a mindfulness display – self-help books, inspirational stories, wellness and colouring books were the order of the day. And now, since the mindfulness craze has died down, we have the meteoric rise and rise of hygge. “Everything Scandinavian has had such a massive wave for the past 4-5 years, I think it was simply about time that people get to know the heart of who we are.” Hygge (and mys and kos, its Swedish and Norwegian equivalents) is such an integral part of Scandinavian life that it was only a matter of time before Brits discovered it, and wanted to know more. But, as we learn in Meik Wiking’s book about hygge, many Danes believe that hygge is exclusive to Denmark. I wondered if Brontë agreed.
A Danish Christmas
Look, we’re nearly in October guys, and this is a hygge blog – we’re allowed to talk about Christmas. Christmas is peak hygge time, with all the festivities and merriment and joy, and the Danes do Christmas seriously well.
“All Scandinavian countries are big on Christmas. Massive. I think it has something do with the fact that Christmas fall half way into the really dark season with not much daylight. It brings a welcome glimmer of hope that light will happen soon, a few months later, that spring will eventually come. That we’re half way there.”
I often hear people suggest that hygge is so important to Danes because of their especially dark winters with just a few hours of sunlight each day – that that’s why candles and lighting are such a vital element of hygge.
We celebrate the big day on Christmas Eve – not on Christmas Day. The whole day is spent with family preparing food, presents, the tree – and then dinner is eaten, we dance around the tree together (it’s a thing) – and then we open presents. Then we go to bed and we don’t have to worry about having to get up early the next morning. It’s nice.”
Hygge doesn’t care what colour you are (hair or otherwise), how much you earn, if your room is a tip, if you have the right lamps or wearing a Norwegian jumper. Hygge is a feeling – all year round, not just winter.