A British Minister of Culture once said: "If food is an important part of culture, which I do believe it is, we British have a long way to go."
Indeed, anybody who have been exposed to the Anglo Saxon gastronomical desert would agree; to get an acceptable meal in London one have to go to an Indian-, Chinese-, Spanish-, Italian- or Korean restaurant. In spite of what Japan Times gastronomy-sensei Robbie Swinnerton claims, the situation is not much better in the Nordic countries.
Japan can learn absolutely nothing from the Nordic kitchen, especially not from Noma`s Rene Redzepi , Claus Meyer or Thorsten Schmidt except for the art of overpricing a gourmet illusion.
The truth is the opposite. Scandinavia can and is learning a lot from Japanese and Korean fantastic food culture. That said, a menu for two persons at Noma, Copenhagen with a bottle of wine will set you back a good 4- 5000 DKr ( (60-70.000 Y).
For that kind of money, you can take your girlfriend to a five star Kusatsu Ryokan Onsen, including a fabulous dinner for two, with perfect service in your 12 tatami room, enjoy the privacy of the family bath-rotenburo and even include breakfast next morning. On top of that, Tokyo has more Michelin star restaurants than Paris and London combined, and three times as many as New York let alone all four Nordic capitals. E. g. I have eaten both in Oslo and Stockholm twice; first and last time.
On their web-page restaurant Noma announces: “In an effort to shape our way of cooking, we look to our landscape and delve into our ingredients and culture, hoping to rediscover our history and shape our future.”
Fancy words but……... Knowing the history of Scandinavian gastronomy, it is going to be hard to "rediscover" very much that did not come from the south/east of Europe, Middle East or Asia. Thirty years ago you could not even find decent wheat-bread or an acceptable priced drinkable red wine in pre EU Scandinavia, and until the muslim immigrants took over all the grocery-vegatable shops in Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm one could hardly by anything besides potatoes, carrots, onions and rhubarb. Even the famous pastry, known in USA as "Danish", originates from Turkey via Vienna and is called "winerbrød" (viennabread) in Danish.
The huge difference between Japanese and Nordic food culture is easy to understand if one looks at the world map, establishing the position of these countries and their capitals latitude, Copenhagen 55.6 N, Stockholm 59 N ( about same as Anchorage), Tokyo 35.7 N (about same as Atlanta) it is evident that the climate conditions for growing food and farming is exponentially better in Japan. Additionally its 30.000 Km coastline stretching from icy sea of Okhotsk to tropical Okinawa provides unparalleled rich and varied fishing grounds and gourmet-resources.
Staying 30 years in Japan Swinnerton-kun must have stumbled over some good seafood. For his information we can reveal one good Copenhagen restaurant, with good kitchen and decent pricing:
Oysters & Grill
Sjællandsgade 1B, 2200 København N
http://cofoco.dk/oysters_restauranten.php Bon appétit.
By Gabor Fabricius
p.s. A Swede and a Finn were drinking in a bar; after half an hour the Swede became sociable and said "skaal" "Are we drinking or are we talking?" said the Finn.
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