For the most part, we can get all the ingredients we need to keep making the same dishes we used to make in the US, but sometimes they have slightly different names. For example, baking soda is called “natron,” probably derived from “natrium”, another name for the element sodium. My coworkers from the UK often end up buying corn flour (corn meal) instead of corn starch.
Sometimes the ingredients we need just don’t seem to exist here. We haven’t found graham crackers anywhere, and the marshmallows here are typically vanilla flavored and prone to burning, so making s’mores is difficult. We can find panko bread crumbs at Asian grocery stores, but we can’t find what I would call “regular” bread crumbs.
I asked a group of coworkers about bread crumbs specifically, and my boss said they did not exist in Norway. Another coworker suggested I put bread through my coffee grinder. “I more or less do that,” I said. “We buy those long Wasa cracker things and put them in a food processor.” I held up my hands to show the size of the cracker, about the size of a dollar bill.
My boss stared at me with a mixture of shock and disgust. I had seen this look before. It’s the same look New Englanders are trained to give whenever anyone says Dunkin’ Donuts isn’t very good, or Tom Brady is a system quarterback. I had somehow managed to insult the very bedrock of Norwegian culture. But what had I done? I lowered my hands sheepishly. Maybe I had inadvertently made a rude gesture? Am I not supposed to crush crackers? The table was silent for a moment.
“Those are NOT crackers!” exclaimed my boss. “Those are knekkebrød. Completely different.”
“They are definitely crackers,” replied a Canadian coworker. “Why aren’t the Ritz crackers in the same aisle? That always annoyed me.”
“They are different things!” insisted our boss. “You use them differently, they taste different, they are not the same at all! Next group trip we are going to the store and I am teaching you all you need to know about Norwegian food.”