The Farm

Our Norwegian Farm

Home sweet home. The place where we have hung up our coats and kicked off our boots. Many of the stories and recipes shared here focus on this area. So, here’s a little introduction, in case you haven’t already had the pleasure…

Our Farm

Within the belly of Norway, in the stillness, where rivers flow and mountains dwell, lies our small farm. The farm is first mentioned in writing in 1651 and it bears the name Koto, which is believed to mean a ‘cabin’ or ‘small house’. You see, the thing about small places is they immediately create a sense of intimacy. With little effort, they can be cozy and warm and inviting. And that’s what we desire for our Koto and for all who come our way. A place of comfort. A sense of home. Where putting one’s feet up, rolling around in the lush fields, daydreaming away by the bank of the stream & getting lost in the slow moments make up the days.

We have four outbuildings spaced around the main house. A barn, whose wear and tear tell the stories of hooves & plows, hard work and dedication. A stabbur, where food was once stored as the winter months cast their shadow over the fields. A summer barn still basking in the perfume of its previous tenants. And a smithy, where the blacksmith’s hammer once clanked and the bellows made the fire dance.

As we delved deeper into the stories and people who came before us, we discovered a deep connection between Koto and America. Several generations of families left. Sometimes whole families, sometimes only brothers or sisters or aunts or uncles. They left Koto for the promise of an easier life. A better life. As famine and poverty and disease encompassed the area, many sought hope across the waters. And so they journeyed to a new adventure. And centuries later, in a twist of fate, an American and her family would arrive at the doorstep of Koto in search of a better life – perhaps one that was a little easier than what the city could offer.

The Valley

Numedal is the westernmost valley of the large valleys making up southern Norway. Extending from the Hardanger plateau to Kongsberg, the valley encompasses the three municipalities of Flesberg, Rollag and Nore og Uvdal. Steep mountainous regions make up the northern part of the valley, while the more forested southern part gently slopes. And winding its way through the valley is one of Norway’s largest rivers, Numedalslågen. Known for its salmon downstream, it is one of Norway’s top salmon fishing rivers. Trout and pike are also common.

The old road, well travelled, is known as Nordsmannsleppa. It reaches over the Hardangervidda, the largest mountain plateau in Europe, right between the western and eastern parts of the country. This road was once an important communication and merchant route for thousands of years.  Along the plateau, there are over 250 registered Stone Age settlements and the oldest one, dating back to 6300 BC, can be found at Sumtangen.

Today, Numedal has named itself the Medieval Valley of Norway (Middelalderdalen). They can safely make such a proclamation because within the valley lies the largest remaining collection of houses and buildings older than 1537 AD. In Rollag, Nore og Uvdal municipalities, there are between 50-60 buildings including 4 stave churches. The predominance of so many medieval buildings still intact may be due, in part, to the wealth local people gained from the extraction of iron. They could then afford such high quality materials and craftsmen to build enduring structures.

For being an area of such importance and influence in the past, it is interesting that its prominence was since forgotten until only recently. Being here does bring a sense of contentment and mystery. It’s as is if you have been included in on some big secret that only a few people are a part of. A place deeply rooted in history with clues of prehistoric civilizations scattered about; a luscious and varied landscape to appease any lover of nature; a peacefulness and sense of calm; and wild produce to entice any foodie.

History of Food in Numedal

Up until the 1890s, it was customary that everyone ate from the same plate, but had their own spoon. Life in Norway was hard and laborious, therefore, it was typical to eat 4-5 meals a day, with the lesser amount of meals taken in the winter as it was usual to go to be earlier than in the summer.

Variations in the meals were limited. Breakfast hardly changed day to day. It included potato cakes, flatbread or bread with butter or cheese. The second meal consisted of porridge and sour milk. Dinner, taken during the middle of the day, was cured meats, cooked meat or soup with dumplings. Saturdays were special and they often ate a variation of rice porridge. During the winter, dinner could be trout and sausage.  Following dinner, they would drink homemade beer and eat bread and potato cakes. The final meal included potatoes, sour milk, cold porridge, thick milk or prim (a spreadable brown cheese).

People sustained themselves with their own livestock and produce from the farms. In the summer, animals were taken to the mountains with possibly one cow staying behind to provide milk for the home.

Flatbread was customary to be served at each meal. It was very versatile and could be made delicate and nice or thick and filling. The liquid used in the dough was extremely nutritional, and played a very important part in their diet. Even to this day, flatbread is often used to accompany a meal or served with various toppings. An old Norwegian saying goes: a girl is not yet ready to marry unless she can cook flatbread and sew. While such an idea seems quite primitive to us now, the importance of baking among women and girls was embedded in the culture at the time. Therefore, it was natural for the art of baking to be passed down through the women of the family.

Food Today

The ingredients are bountiful. The taste profiles are vast. Food movements are popping up all across Norway. People are finding new ways of using what has already been there. And they are revitalizing the traditional methods and recipes. Historically, Norwegian food could be described as simple and unimaginative. In a country with a vast amount of produce and livestock (including mushrooms, wild meats, fresh fish, wild berries and herbs), it is interesting how a more exclusive and renowned food culture did not integrate itself into the everyday Norwegian cuisine.

Yet, to understand Norway’s food culture is to also understand the country and its history. Many factors have played a part, including lifestyle (laborious and hard), religion and wealth. But what we can take from the past, are valuable methods and strengths in cooking. From smoking, to preserving, to storing and hunting. Survival enabled enduring processes from which we now are going back to so we can learn from them and remember what a fish cooked off of a stone over a hot fire in the middle of the forest tasted like. And as we are blessed to live in abundance and have a knowledge of and access to food and methods from around the globe, we can integrate both the past and the present into an innovative and inspired meal. That is, by every definition, Norwegian. Because the products are locally sourced, and the tastes describe the evolution of the Nordic plate.

*Sources: Mat fra Numedal by Moi, Ingvar; Tråen, Even; Kjersem, Anse. Visitnorway.com 

 

 

21 Comments

  • Reply Debbie January 26, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Wonderful! I’m sure this would be a dream come true for many thousands upon thousands of people. Well done, congratulations to you both!

    • Reply nevada January 27, 2016 at 7:40 am

      Many thanks Debbie!

  • Reply Debra | The Saffron Girl August 9, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    I just discovered you through the Saveur contest. And I must say, I’m already entranced by your writing, your stories, and your photography. I voted for you as the ‘best new voice’ because I think you deserve it, and I don’t say that lightly. It’s rare that I stick around to read a blog, although I’m a blogger myself. I’ll be visiting often! Best wishes, Debra xx

    • Reply nevada August 9, 2016 at 6:04 pm

      Hi Debra. Reading your comment has put a smile on my face! It means so much to me that you enjoy the entirety of the blog and I really appreciate your kind words. I visited your blog and it’s so lovely – especially with the mixture of food shots and nature shots. The recipes are really inviting! I can’t wait to try them! xx

  • Reply Whytney August 18, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    I’ve just discovered your blog. The Saveur awards site brought me here and I’m so glad it did. What a gem! And how totally envious I am of your lifestyle. My husband and I have always wanted to see Scandinavia. We are making our first trip there this December, to Copenhagen. We live in New Zealand and many people have told me that the scenery here reminds them of Norway. Perhaps I need to go and see for myself 🙂 Our dream is to have a small farm with a vegetable garden and chickens one day. We might not be as lucky as you to have the mountains right at our doorstep (not far away, though) but it’s the heart of the home and what is created within it that really matters, to me. Now, to discover your recipes!

    • Reply nevada August 19, 2016 at 10:17 am

      Hi Whytney! Thanks for wonderful comment! I have always wanted to visit New Zealand as I too have heard that the scenery is quite similar. I suppose though, each place has it’s own splendor -you just need to have your eyes open. And I completely agree with you that home is what you create and who you are. I do hope you get your own small farm one day soon and you can share your experiences also. Enjoy Copenhagen and please let me know if your travels ever bring you to Norway. You can come and meet our chickens 🙂

  • Reply Vaishali September 28, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Hi, I just came across your on saveur’s website. I love the pictures although I am yet to read your blog. Which I can’t wait to as soon as my exams are over, and I am totally jealous of your farm!

    • Reply nevada September 30, 2016 at 1:22 pm

      Hi Vaishali. Thanks for your comment and best of luck with the exams!!

  • Reply Suzanne October 1, 2016 at 9:38 pm

    Congratulations on your win! I just discovered you and am delighted I did. I moved to Oslo as a young college grad to work at the US Embassy from 1976-79. I’ve only been back twice over the years but you’ve inspired me to return. I recall fondly cooking American dinners for our Norwegian friends and enjoyed their reactions to our heavy use of onion, garlic and other spices. So glad I found your blog Nevada.

    • Reply nevada October 2, 2016 at 12:10 pm

      Hi Suzanne, thank you so much! Your story sounds so fascinating. I can only imagine how your Norwegian friends reacted to all the ingredients in our American cuisine! I do hope you return and when you do, perhaps you will make your way a little further from Oslo to Numedal for a visit :-). Have a great weekend!

  • Reply Alma October 10, 2016 at 2:14 am

    Hello Nevada,
    Tussen takk for the lovely blog and one written in English! We are cousins of Ingunn that you met and we are from the USA (southern California). We just spent 16 days over in Norway to see our cousins, visited Rollag, Veggli farms, the Christmas store/farm and many other places too within your country – making it all the way up to Kirkenes via Hurtigruten, then rented a car to go cousin hopping. Your blog and descriptions are so wonderful to read and reflect much of what we experienced when over there. Our 27 year old son wants to move there too as he fell in love with Norway! I look forward to reading and trying some of the recipes which you have posted.

    We learned from my hubby’s parents how to make flour lefse (not potato version) many years ago and it is one tradition that is especially dear to our hearts at the holidays! Maybe someday when we venture over to Norway again we can meet and share recipes and talk traditions together.

    Kind regards always!

    • Reply nevada October 10, 2016 at 12:53 pm

      Hi Alma! Thanks for reaching out, it is so nice to meet the extended family of Ingunn! She is so lovely. And I am happy to hear you were able to travel around Norway and spend quite a bit of time here in Numedal. I can only imagine how much your son would like to move here, it’s such a breathtaking and wonderful country!

      I hope you are able to visit again as I would love to meet up and hear all about your stories and experiences. I find it really refreshing to hear of a Norwegian/American making lefse without potato :). There are so many versions across Norway, and not many make their way across. If you are happy to share your recipe, feel free to email me directly at nevada@northwildkitchen.com. I enjoy comparing all the different ways and techniques to make lefse/kling. Please keep in touch! 🙂

  • Reply Bryna Opdal October 17, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    My husband and I saw your blog on the news recently when you won your award (Gratulerer!). We are so happy we found it! I am a fellow American from Seattle and married a Norwegian doctor in June and moved to Bergen! I am currently in language classes and settling into the culture. I have been struggling to find good traditional Norwegian recipes in English, for google translate isn’t always accurate:) I am very inspired by your blog and excited to discover the joys of cooking Norwegian cuisine! Tusen Takk!

    • Reply nevada October 19, 2016 at 9:57 am

      Hi Bryna and velkommen til Norge!! I am so glad you came across the blog and are inspired by it! If there are any recipes which you would like to see in the future, please let me know. Also, my husband is from Bergen and we have family there so perhaps the next time I visit we can grab a coffee and chat about Norwegian culture and food 🙂

  • Reply Kimber March 1, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    Nevada: I , too, stumbled intentionally upon your blog via a not-at-all-intentional stumble upon the Saveur award, and am so very glad I did. Your creations are exquisite, as is your photo journal of them. All combined has created in me an even greater desire to spend some time in Norway! Beautiful. Thank you.

    • Reply nevada March 2, 2017 at 10:24 am

      Hi Kimber – thank you so much, that means a lot! I am also very glad that you stumbled across the blog in your intentional/unintentional way 🙂 And I hope that you get a chance to visit Norway soon, there is so much wonder here!

  • Reply P K March March 6, 2017 at 10:11 pm

    Hi Kimber
    Just found your site Enjoyed the pictures, my family is from that area They came to America in 1868 They were from Lyngdal, and Flesberg

    • Reply nevada March 9, 2017 at 2:52 pm

      Thanks! It is great to hear that you have family ties to this area of Norway. It is such a wonderful place 🙂

  • Reply Anlaug BJ April 21, 2017 at 11:59 pm

    What a nice blog you present here! And thank you for your very inspiring visit at Numedal Fotoklubb yesterday:-)

    • Reply nevada April 25, 2017 at 11:50 am

      Thank you! It was a pleasure spending the evening with other photo enthusiasts 🙂

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