Book Review: “Nørth”

Cover of "Nørth."

Melinda Bargreen
Everett, Wash.

After the avalanche of recent books on how everything is better in Scandinavia, some of us may be feeling a certain angst: Are we really Nordic enough? Do our homes radiant sufficient hygge? How important are frozen weekend interludes at a remote hytte? How can we become more like the “almost nearly perfect people”?

Fret no more: help is on the way, with this tongue-in-cheek volume (Nørth: How to Live Scandinavian) by Brontë Aurell, a Danish chef and writer who is married to a Swede and lives in London. (Hygge alert! What should we infer about their Scandinavianity from the fact that they’ve jumped ship to the stiff-upper-lip UK?)

If nothing else, this book will make you laugh. We read about how to dress like Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes (hint: tight trousers, practical hiking boots, and lots of black, respectively). We also find that Swedish homes should feature a few of those red wooden “Dala horses” and several candles; Danish ones have black-and-white color schemes and modern furniture; and Norwegians are obsessed with their weekend hytte (a remote cabin, even if it is a garden shed).

It’s fun reading about superstitions: in Sweden and Denmark, for instance, it’s bad luck to let a piece of cake fall on its side as you serve it, and in Sweden, you must never put your keys on the dining table. The chapters on observing holidays, from the Norwegian Syttende Mai to Christmas and Midsummer, are entertaining and informative, especially since a few recipes are sprinkled in here and there. (We may have to try the Glögg recipe, strictly for professional reasons.)

Enhancing this book considerably are the very beautiful photos by Anna Jacobson, a Swedish/Danish photographer whose images will make you wish for a return to the Old Country.

Melinda Bargreen is a Seattle-based writer and composer whose career at The Seattle Times began in 1977. Her choral works include the “Norwegian Folksong Suite.” Melinda contributes to many publications and is the author of Seattle Opera’s forthcoming 50-year history book. She holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from the UW, and a doctorate in English from the University of California, Irvine.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 1, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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