Fenalår is not for the faint of heart / Columns / The Foreigner

Fenalår is not for the faint of heart. Living in Norway as a foreigner means making an effort to take every opportunity to immerse oneself in cultural traditions such as attending an event, hiking adventures, or trying new foods. I was not prepared for fenalår, however. I had resided here for a couple of months as a student before trying it and had no knowledge as to what it was, but it had been recommended to me by friends. They said that it was a very popular winter food in Norway. Fenalår is meat, cut from a leg of lamb or mutton. The limb is salted in brine, then dried for long periods of time (2—9 months), and sometimes smoked to avoid moulding. This meant that it was preserved excellently for those Viking ventures over the North Sea. It had also been a very efficient food source, lasting for long periods at home during the icy winters of the Norwegian Middle Ages.

christmas, food, cooking, dishes, recipes, sheep, paywall



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Fenalår is not for the faint of heart

Published on Wednesday, 21st December, 2016 at 19:38 under the columns category, by Charlotte Bryan.

Living in Norway as a foreigner means making an effort to take every opportunity to immerse oneself in cultural traditions such as attending an event, hiking adventures, or trying new foods. I was not prepared for fenalår, however.

Fenalår
The meat and its social rituals appear to provide Norwegians a warming excitement and buzz during wintertime.Fenalår
Photo: Jan in Bergen/Wikimedia Commons


I had resided here for a couple of months as a student before trying it and had no knowledge as to what it was, but it had been recommended to me by friends. They said that it was a very popular winter food in Norway.

Fenalår is meat, cut from a leg of lamb or mutton. The limb is salted in brine, then dried for long periods of time (2—9 months), and sometimes smoked to avoid moulding. This meant that it was preserved excellently for those Viking ventures over the North Sea. It had also been a very efficient food source, lasting for long periods at home during the icy winters of the Norwegian Middle Ages.

It is sold in the supermarkets nowadays, wrapped in vacuumed plastic, sometimes with a festive canvas bag. And it appears to have taken the role as a type of winter/Christmas tradition, making the colder months a little more special.

My reactions were a mix of apprehension and intrigue when I first saw the salty animal leg snack. It was displayed on a wooden plaque, half cut into, exposing a dark rich meat under layer of marbled fat with a knife resting underneath it.

It wasn’t that I was shy to eating meat. British winter foods include a number of meat-based products consisting of roasted meats and various trimmings such as sausages wrapped in bacon. But I had never seen or tried anything quite like this before.

I took a slice.                                      

The overwhelmingly salty taste was moreish. It became increasingly addictive with every sliver. Everyone took multiple slices, sitting around the house enjoying a cup of strong black coffee, catching up with old friends. The lamb leg was passed around…

I decided to give a fenalår to my parents. Their facial expressions leant slightly more towards horror rather than intrigue as they peeled away the vacuumed plastic to reveal an animal leg, not quite sure of from which king it came. They did eventually take part in the tradition, though, albeit with tea, milk, and two lumps of scepticism.

Fenalår and its social rituals appear to provide Norwegians a warming excitement and buzz during the winter. But do proceed with care, as the high levels of salt will leave you with slightly sick feeling in the pit of your stomach if taken in large quantities.

Merry Christmas; whatever you are eating.



Published on Wednesday, 21st December, 2016 at 19:38 under the columns category, by Charlotte Bryan.

This post has the following tags: christmas, food, cooking, dishes, recipes, sheep, paywall.





  
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