Embracing kos with the “Waffle Queen”
Woman behind successful Norwegian company starting Nordic waffle business in the US
Norwegian American Weekly
When it comes to waffles, Norwegians do it best, according to Stine Aasland, a Norwegian woman behind a successful waffle company in Norway. And she’s determined to share the wonders of the Nordic waffle with the United States with a new business launching this spring.
“I’m here to preach the Norwegian waffle culture,” she told me with a laugh.
Aasland started Norway’s largest waffle factory some years ago after finding success offering waffles at her gas station franchise. After some time she realized she was making more money on waffles than on anything else. She moved on and started the company Telemarksrøra, which became Norway’s largest waffle business and became a resource for gas stations, convenience stores, coffee shops, and other such places to provide waffles.
In a country where waffles are a part of day-to-day life, it was an unexpected success. When the company got started, people just laughed, she said.
“In Norway everybody has their own waffle batter and everybody knows how to make waffles, so they just laughed and said, ‘Why are you going to have success?’”
While it’s true that most people know how to make their own, Aasland identified an important distinction.
“If you want to create a bestseller, one of the most important things is that the customer always gets the same product, and in Norway it’s not like that,” she explained. “You take whatever you have left in your refrigerator and you make waffle batter out of it. It’s pretty good but it’s very inconsistent.
Now people in the United States can also experience Aasland’s waffles. Her cookbook, We Love Waffles: The Heart of Scandinavian Culture, is now translated into English and is available to readers across the country through Scandinavian shops such as Ingebretsen’s in Minneapolis as well as from online retailers like Amazon. In addition, her new business, Nordic Waffles, is making her waffles available to businesses in the Midwest.
It will provide cafés, coffee shops, and other businesses with everything they need to provide freshly made waffles to their customers. The retailers receive training and then continue to buy the batter. (Businesses interested in learning more about Aasland’s waffles can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Waffles are a big part of both American and Scandinavian cultures, and a significant one for those who share these heritages. In addition to being a tasty treat, the waffles serve another purpose as well.
“I would say that the waffle could be the definition of kos,” she said, mentioning a Norwegian word that like the Danish hygge and Swedish mys translates roughly to “cozy.”
“If you’re going to have a cozy time, you make waffles. It’s really a thing that we do together, like if you come for a visit to someone’s home they would very likely to serve you waffles,” she said. Families make waffles together during the weekend, and now that there are ways to make the waffles healthy, Norwegians are also eating them for breakfast and packing them in kids’ matpakke, lunchboxes, she said.
This idea of kos or koselig is an important one in a part of the world where winters are cold and dark.
“It’s a whole sense of values of friendship, love, joy,” Aasland explained. “They say that Scandinavians invented this kos to get through the dark and cold times but then it never stops with the cold dark times because now in Scandinavia we have this kos all the time. It’s like a timeout, it’s like a break.”
For those in Norway, where it’s common to keep a batch of batter in the fridge at the ready for snacktime and to serve for unexpected visitors, waffles are an easy way to embrace the idea of kos. Aasland wants to spread that culture with the Nordic waffle. She encourages Americans to “get into the culture of kos because it’s beautiful.”
Daytona Strong is the Norwegian American Weekly’s Taste of Norway editor. She writes about her family’s Norwegian heritage through the lens of food at her Scandinavian food blog, www.outside-oslo.com. Find her on Facebook www.facebook.com/OutsideOslo; Twitter @daytonastrong; Pinterest @daytonastrong; and Instagram @daytonastrong.
This article originally appeared in the April 29, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.