Denmark is a good place for food lovers, as long as they bring enough money. Supermarkets and restaurants in Denmark are more expensive than pretty much anywhere else, but they do have a wide variety of food on offer. It`s five o`clock in the afternoon when I start exposing people in Arhus to today`s question: what`s for dinner tonight?
Helge (22, photo) needs to ask his friend before he`s able to answer my question. `We`re having a bachelor`s party and one of my friends is cooking.` After consulting with the evening`s cook, the main component of the meal is expected to be grilled meat, probably sidelined by salad.
`Danes typically have dinner at 6 o`clock`
Helge tells me that Danes consider 18h or 18h30 a proper time to start dinner. `If you are not invited to somebody`s place, knocking on their door around six o`clock is not a good idea. If people are having dinner, they will feel disturbed. It`s better to show up when they`re done eating.`
`Danish dinner typically consists of a piece of meat, a bunch of potatoes and some boilt vegetables with gravy of some kind`, Helge says. `My favourite is Japanese wok food: it`s healthy, it`s quick and easy to prepare.` Helge thinks that, some exceptions left aside, pretty much every Dane can cook. `I even think that more and more people are regaining interest in cooking. I think people have more and more to spend and they will use a part of that extra money to buy better ingredients for their meals.`
Meds (28) thinks that it`s quite fashionable for families to invest in expensive kitchens. `More so than they care about cooking. I suspect that they are still preparing the exact same food.` Meds will be having dinner with two friends tonight, but he is not sure about what will be served. `I like cooking so it will probably be me preparing whatever it is we will eat. I am thinking of chicken with vegetables and coconut milk.`
Lise Marie (27) is not sure what she will be having. Like Meds, she is thinking of chicken with vegetables and coconut milk, which seems to be a popular combination. `It all depends on which shop is still open, because I need to get the ingredients first`, Lise Marie says.
Jakob (31) is not sure about his dinner plans. `It will be something ordered by phone: spaghetti, Chinese or some kind of burger. I work as a croupier and I am now on my way to work. That`s where I will eat. My favourite food is chicken. It`s easy to cook and it`s cheaper than beef.`
Hjalte (21) also eats at work, but he happens to be on the way home and has already eaten. `I work in a restaurant, and I usually have dinner there. It`s for free, so why would I not? Today`s meal consisted of burritos. My favourite food is spaghetti Bolognese. It`s simple but very tasty. On the days I don`t work, I simply cook for myself. I usually take about 30 minutes to one hour to prepare something. I don`t do microwave food, maybe because I`m from the countryside and therefore used to proper food. I care quite a lot about what I eat. I don`t try to eat fat-free, but I do try to prepare balanced meals, if possible with organic food.`
Sidsel (24) and Solvej (22) are carrying some heavy bags filled with ingredients for tonight`s meal. `We`re going to have dinner in a group of four`, they explain. `Solvej is studying in a different city. She came over to Arhus tonight which is why we are having the dinner. My housemate is also sitting in, just like my boyfriend. We are going to prepare something Italian as you see. It`s nice to cook for more people than just yourself. I am less fanatic about it when no-one else is joining.`
Sidsel explains that cooking skills between men and women do not differ much in Denmark. `Almost everybody can cook. My brother is one of the few exceptions.` Solvej says that older generations have more distinct role patterns when it comes to cooking. `My mother used to cook when I was younger, except when guests were coming over. Then, my dad would do it. Barbecuing is also a typical men`s thing. Women will prepare the salad, while the men mess around with the fire and the meat.`
Danes do not need special occasions to eat out, even though the costs may be a serious burden. Still, sandwich houses, lunch bars and restaurants are all over the place and those who can afford it enjoy spending time eating out. Sidsel says that restaurants are a suitable place for people going on dates: `A lot of the restaurants are fashionable and cosy, rather than classical and stiff. A lot of caf?s also serve food so you can even go for a drink and later on decide to eat something too.`
When I meet Maria (23) and Morten (23), they just had dinner in a restaurant. `We eat out once a week and cook once a week. On the remaining five days of the week, we eat bread for dinner. It`s not very exciting, but we don`t have time to prepare stuff.` Morten thinks cleaning up after cooking takes too much time.`
Although well represented on Danish soil, McDonalds does not seem to be particularly popular among the people I talk to. The American fastfood chain is generally regarded as quite unexpensive, but also as low value for money. Lasse (23) does not consider McDonalds to be part of his usual eating style, although he did have lunch there in the afternoon. `I actually like cooking, but nothing beats trash food after a night out. I will balance it all out with tonight`s dinner. Just cornflakes and that will be it.`
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