Wednesday, November 24, 2010

the art of hygge



Hygge is one of those wonderfully untranslatable words to be found in every language. Roughly pronounced "hoo-guh," hygge is Danish for something closest to "cosy"— but it's beyond cosy. From what I've come to understand, it's both a state of mind and being. Soft sweaters, candles, hearty food, the warmth of friendship and those long, meaningful conversations held over fragrant cups of tea— anything that makes your soul hum. My friend Sue, in a generous and thoughtful effort to introduce me to hygge, and the experience of something my grandad would have loved, cooked us a delicious meal of something I cannot pronounce for the life of me. Rounds of ground beef wrapped in bacon and pan-fried with caramelised onions, a massive tart pickle and buttery baby potatoes lavished with the oh so traditional Danish brown gravy. Sue explained how gravy must absolutely be a dark brown; apparently this matters so much to the Danes that there is an actual food dye to make your gravy the perfect shade of brown. All this home-cooked hygge deliciousness was washed down with a velvety walnut beer.

For some reason, I felt I wanted to cry—everything was so much my grandad. With the exception of a few random plates of spaghetti, dinners with my grandad consisted of a meat, buttery potatoes, a brown sauce or gravy and some kind of vegetable. Sue's meal took me back to my grandparent's kitchen, which always smelled of bread and butter and sweet pipe smoke. I was a little girl at the table, my feet unable to touch the floor, I was a teenager, I was an adult— my grandad grinning at me after some joke, my grandad swearing in Danish at the news on the TV.



Morning brought mist, deer, and the smell of bacon and toast. Before my train to Esbjerg, Sue wanted to show me the Middelfart Sindssygehospital, a unique museum that had once been a psychiatric institution. As the mist fell back to the earth, the sky was a rare blue. We wrapped ourselves up in our wooly scarves and set out on our way.

4 comments:

sarangkot said...

The Norwegian version is koselig. I think it's particularly Scandanavian concept (and one needed for the long winters) and a lovely one.

szaza said...

It is lovely— I can really see how it's Scandinavian. All I wanted to do was hygge around :)

I really can't think of something similar in English.

rowlandjones said...

I think the closest we have in the UK is the idea of 'comfort food' which your pictures capture well!
I agree it's mainly a Northern European concept(not only Scandinavian, though) I was in Bratislava in September and they understand the concept rib-stickin food. In Dutch I think, they say gezellige. I asked an Italian friend as to what they considered 'comfort food' he looked at me blankly and said 'All food is comfort food, surely?' I have to say when it's winter here in Umbria, you need comfort food... and luckily they have it.. salsiccia, lentils, pasta with wild boar sauce... time to put more wood on the fire. . .

szaza said...

Yummy— I just love comfort food. Mac and Cheese is a favourite of mine!