All about Danish Christmas porridge | Risengrød | Where to Try it in Copenhagen by Oregon Girl Around the World

Where to try Risengrød | Get Danish Christmas Porridge at Grød

TRY THE DANISH CLASSIC PORRIDGE THIS CHRISTMAS
IT’S NOT JUST FOR BREAKFAST IN DENMARK

When I say porridge – you say? Grød! No, no, no. Not grod. Grød. Listen.

When I say porridge – you say? Grød! At least the Danes do. Grød is porridge. To me, the word porridge conjures up visions of huge kettles of oatmeal that has been sitting out way too long at the breakfast buffet of your hotel when on a long weekend away with your son’s lacrosse team. Oh sorry. Just me? Maybe the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? I always steer clear. Of the “porridge.” Goopy. Soupy. Snotty. Oatmeal. Don’t get me wrong. I love oatmeal. But it isn’t porridge to me. It is oatmeal. And that stuff in the kettle? That is not oatmeal.

All about Danish Christmas porridge | Risengrød | Where to Try it in Copenhagen by Oregon Girl Around the World
Piping hot with butter about to melt

Here the Danes love porridge. Specifically risengrød. Rice porridge. When presented with new foods, I instinctually scroll through my mental rolodex of experiences and tastes. As you do when trying to make connections with that strange dish placed in front of you. The closest thing to risengrød that I have tried before would probably be rice pudding. In the States, it is a salad bar staple, but often gelatinous or potentially chunky. Now before you judge, not all American rice pudding is bad, but many can be. We do love the Trader Joe’s rice pudding straight from the container. Especially when served cold with cinnamon and nutmeg. Wait. Cold? Nutmeg? Did you say NUTMEG?!?! Records screeching silent. Looks of disdain. Utter shock and horror. You do NOT put nutmeg on risengrød, says my Danish friend. Oh. Ok. Duly noted. Thanks for the tip.

When we moved here two years ago, we found a tube of risengrød at the local Netto, a local market that I can only describe as a cross between Safeway, Tesco and the Dollar Store shoved inside the space of a 7-11. But Netto is an institution here. And a shopping experience it is. You either love it or you hate it. Or you grow to love it. Nothing is ever in the same place. There are boxes everywhere and there is nary a concern for presentation or atmosphere. Of any kind. But the prices are good. Very good. For Danish prices. Before arriving, I had read a little about Danish Christmas and knew that this tube at Netto was potentially a key player. It said Risengrød. That was an important Danish dish. You can see our first attempts at testing it here. Oh what we didn’t know that we didn’t even know at that time.

In Denmark, grød is a staple. (You’re still trying to say it correctly aren’t you? Keep trying.) You can eat grød for breakfast, lunch AND even dinner. Risengrød gets elevated status as a special dish at Christmas time. Think about it. Rice doesn’t grow here in Denmark. It was imported. You had to buy it. So if you normally made your daily grød from commonly grown grains like oats or rye or barley, rice was special. A treat. As was the exotic cinnamon which topped it. A risengrød was for Christmas. And when served at the beginning of the rich Danish Christmas dinner people filled up and it helped meter the costs of the more expensive dishes like the Duck and Roast Pork. Today, when modern Danes serve risengrød to their families, they make connections to history and those cultural roots. Those roots set in early, as most children have grown up with porridge for breakfast. It is comfort food in a bowl. And my family was eating it all wrong.

It should be served piping hot. With a “knob” of butter. And covered in cinnamon sugar. COVERED. Let the butter melt, but don’t stir it all in. Nibble like a Nisse from the edges. What’s a Nisse you ask? Those mischievous little sprites that live in the forest and help at the farm, but only if you treat them well. In December they move inside. Modern children place nissedør (doors) in their homes to allow the Nisse access. Leave them a little risengrød and they might leave a present in your boot. But forget and they might hide the toaster. Or move your shoes. They’ll play tricks to remind you. I can’t help but think that the “Elf on the Shelf” tradition has some roots with the nisse. Nisse love risengrød.

And risengrød has to be the perfect consistency. Recipes allow for any short grain rice, but Danes only use grødris. Follow a recipe. Keep stirring and stirring. Don’t walk away or the milk will burn. The rice shouldn’t be al dente, but definitely not mush. You want to feel the grains when you chew. It needs some tooth. Too much to take in? Not interested in making your own risengrød? But you are intrigued by this Danish tradition? Don’t worry. You can try it. At GRØD.

Yes. There is a restaurant that serves only porridge. In bowls. Piping hot. In fact, GRØD loves to claim that they were “the world’s first porridge bar.” You can visit the mother ship in Nørrebro on charming Jæggersborgade or in the glass market at Torvehallerne. Lucky for me, my Danish friend loves GRØD and we have one right here in our Østerbro neighborhood.

Today, we met for a bowl of the klassisk risengrød. Served just how she taught me. It’s simple. But homey. And definitely not soupy. Just right. Let the butter melt. Don’t stir it in. Warm and filling. Do I need it everyday? Probably not. But I would not say no to another bowl of porridge served hot.

All about Danish Christmas porridge | Risengrød | Where to Try it in Copenhagen by Oregon Girl Around the World
Risengrød covered in cinnamon sugar with butter starting to melt.

GRØD serves many different kinds of porridge beyond the simple and traditional risengrød. They want to elevate what they believe a classic and elegant meal in a bowl. I will admit that last time I visited I enjoyed the curried lentil porridge. Been to GRØD? It is definitely worth seeking out. What did you try? This time of year – don’t miss the risengrød. Cozy Danish Christmas in a bowl.

WHERE TO FIND GRØD

Torvehallerne Glass Market

Hall 2, Stade 8A, Linnésgade 17
1362 Copenhagen K
Monday – Friday: 07.30-19-00
Saturday & Sunday: 9:00 to 18:00

NøRREBRO

Jægersborggade 50, kld. TV
DK-2200 Copenhagen N
Monday – Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 21:00
Saturday – Sunday: 9:00 to 21:00

Østerbro

Nordre Frihavnsgade 55,
2100 Copenhagen Ø
Monday – Friday: 7:30 to 21:00
Saturday – Sunday: 9:00 to 21:00

Additional locations in Frederiksberg and on Jutland in Aarhus.

Need a recipe? Try this one and find more Danish Christmas food classics. Glædelig Jul from Denmark! Merry Christmas from Copenhagen, Erin.

Copenhagen Denmark Snow

Copenhagen in the Snow

Winter in Denmark can feel long, dark and damp. When the little white lights of a perfect Dansk Jul are boxed up and put away ‘til next… October, the limited daylight of January and into February here can be challenging. But if you are lucky and like manna from heaven, the city becomes blanketed in fluffy white flaked goodness – watch out – Copenhagen’s charm shifts into overdrive. Snow. Snow. Snow! Sne in Danish.

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Being Human

Writing a blog about an expatriated family – our growing pains and exploits in a new local and as we travel is a fun, cathartic way to explore oneself while sharing our adventures. But when the world goes and throws crazy at you in every iteration – like organized terrorist attacks in the City of Lights; Stateside school shootings in your “from” and now NOT your from; bombs in Middle Eastern cities; or refugee babies dying on beaches next to their families trying to escape an unspeakable horrific only to encounter more horrific and unwelcome. It makes me stop. It cramps my fingers. I can’t write. It cramps my heart. It makes me sick. It wakes me up at night. I have to breathe through it all to survive.

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Dancing with Summer

Dancing with sommer. Playing with sommer. Flirting with sommer. But what a tease she is here in Denmark. I will admit that this past Friday was beautiful – lunch outside with a friend at a charming café patio. (I can highly recommend the avocado sandwich at Café Bopa on cute and leafy green Bopa Plads in Østerbro if you need inspiration!) Soaking up brilliant blue skies and sunny warm rays surrounded by loads of other Copenhageners doing exactly the same. Friday night followed by catching the “scene” down at Toldbolden on the water to extend our sommer day, which isn’t hard to do when the late stays so long. Stalked ourselves a table with a view and more sunshine with cold drinks and warm nuts (yes, its true) and the most excellent people watching on land and on sea. The boat traffic on the Copenhagen harbor accelerates in direct proportion to the rise in centigrade. Tourist canal boats tour with tops off (the boats, not the people) sailboats those wee and those mighty, yachts of various ilk, motor boats, zodiacs, water taxi’s, all trying to grab onto this idyllic Danish sommer ideal which has been fleeting so far. I am told that it is magical when it stays and I can well imagine from the brief glimpses we have encountered so far.

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Tip on the tight rope

High above the chimney tops – that’s where you’ll find me. Haha! Definitely not me. Still relegated to a more grounded perspective due to recent surgical ankle relocation. But, rather, my wee peeps. Up in the trees. Swinging from the branches. Maneuvering obstacles. Crawling over old tires and logs and beer crates and shipping palettes and shopping carts – even through an old car – all strung up in the trees, way over my head behind the Carlsberg Brewery complex in the Vesterbro neighborhood of Copenhagen. Klatreskoven is a high ropes course for all ages, a playground in the trees.

Klatreskoven
Klatreskoven

We first found Klatreskoven in the winter time, on a weekendly family discovery drive around town. Everyone drives down the famous Elephanten Gate at the historic Carlsberg Brewery. Those cement larger than life elephants are something to behold, even if you don’t drink Carl’s beer. Hang the second right past the elephants and follow the huge red brick building with the gold circles down to the right. You can’t miss it. At first it looks like a possible art installation – upcycling sorted garbage in a criss-crossing web through the branches. Wait – what does that sign say? Google translating as fast as my thumbs can type, we realize that it is a playground, a climbing course. Holy cats. Seriously – they let people up there? THAT IS WAY UP THERE! The childrens’ collective eyes grew and excitement mounted – “Can we do it? Can we do it!?” Er. Uh. (EEK) Alas it doesn’t open until spring.

Spring forward. Maj Day weekend. We’ve already celebrated our Danish solidarity on our free Friday off. The following Søndag was a beautiful spring day – sunny skies, mild weather – you might say – a blue bird day. Klatreskoven has pushed itself into the forefront of our littles’ subconscious again. “Can we do the ropes course? Please?” Umm. Uh. Ask Dad? For me… two things. First – I can’t do it with them for obvious reasons. Second – it kind of terrifies me. I had done some research online and translated that participants do wear helmets and harnesses and must have a safety orientation before beginning. There are also varying “levels” depending on one’s age, ability and height (most importantly). The top, highest, most precariously terrifying course is the Black course. Egad. Please no. Not that one. Ok.

As it turns out – our eldest wasn’t interested in scaling the ropes – so we did the most teenager-y of things – he and I went shopping. Dad took the subsequent two littles on their bikes cross-town to Frederiksberg and Klatreskoven. It was perfect. By the time I crutched my way from the bus stop there – my son and daughter had confidently maneuvered the first path of the course and any insecurity on their part that I may have perceived as a safety issue had been worked through. They were having a ball. It was impressive watching them unhook and re-hook the double safety system between each obstacle. My husband reassured me that they are never unattached preventing any potential plummeting to the ground. Are you sure? Yes. I’m sure. Sure?! Sure.

At one point, my wee lass had followed big brother (of course, why wouldn’t she?) onto a course above her level. In the original orientation, she had been relegated to the “blue” course and suddenly realized while waiting on the platform about 20’ up that this was the harder “red” course from the red ties around the trees. Unfortunately the paths move in one consistent direction and people were continuing to progress behind her – there was no turning around. Dad assured her (and me) after a quick assessment where this new path would take her, that she could proceed forward. Her slow, calculated, determined progression was a sight to behold, especially for the nervous mother neck straining looking up from below. Watching her carefully work through where the next step would be, how she would not tangle herself from the harness, how to reach that slightly higher ring. I had to let go. She had to do it. I could not help. Neither could Dad. It was freedom. For her and for me. (I’m a little verklempt actually writing about it actually.)

Copenhagen has afforded my children much freedom. And I feel so very fortunate that for a city this large and this European and this cosmopolitan – it is so very ok to let them have it. It is safe here. Leave your babies sleeping outside in the enormous pram on the sidewalk while you sip, eat, shop. Yes. I am not naive that things can happen. Believe me. It has been a process to afford them the same opportunities allowed Danish children, the same freedom. I blame a little bit of it on my American bred fear-based conditioning. We put our children in bubbles for fear of what might happen. But when the nightly news shows you images of your worst fears occurring time and again, it is no wonder why we are all “nervous Nellies.” But why aren’t the Danes?

Yesterday was the 4th of Maj. In our house this date always conjures Star Wars references – May the 4th be with you and a possible showing of one of the franchise movies. Take him to you I will (Oh sorry, that’s my favorite.) But here in Denmark – this day has a much different connotation. It is a day of freedom – an end to the 5-year occupation of Nazi Germany during World War II. A day when blackout shades were torn down and thrown out and windows all over the city slowly lit up with candles showing the light again. It was over. They were free. Queen Margrethe celebrated the 70th anniversary of the occasion at Mindenlunden i Ryvangen (Ryvangen Memorial Park) – the historic site where Danish resistance members were executed and buried so many years ago. There were candle lit parades around town filled with generations of people who may not have even been alive in 1945, but the stories from FarMor and MorFar (grandparents) have had lasting impact. Never forget. Light your candles. Remember our freedom.

Maj 4th
Maj 4th

It made me wonder, as my daughter lit every candle we have in every window of our 5th floor flat (nearing fire-hazard levels, despite the excellent hygge up in there) how was it that Danes remember the light, but have been able to let go of the dark. They had to know fear. I cannot begin to pretend to know what it was like to live under an oppressive occupying force in my own country. As an American, I know that our fear during that time was somewhat different – sending our young men into the fray and worrying about their safe return. My paternal Grandpa was one of those forces. A pilot, based in England, flying B-17 bombers over Germany. He did return. Thankfully for our family. My Grandma, in her inability to celebrate him as one of the “Greatest Generation,” passed on her fear – not directly expressed, but translated clearly. His experience was not to be discussed, talked about, lauded over. That was a terrible time and it was past. Maybe that is how the Danes have moved on. I can only guess.

What living in Denmark in 2015 has definitely taught me, in six short months, is that there is freedom in letting go. See the light. See it in your children’s faces as they confront their own challenge and succeed. Now I’m all verklempt again. It isn’t easy. It is pushing me as well – outside of my comfort zone. This is not the bubble. Being mobility impaired has proved an unlikely catalyst – I simply can’t do as much for them. But they were ready to step up. Ready to tip on the tightrope. Ready for the challenge. For this we are all expanding. Freedom.

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