Stories about life in Denmark

Denmark and Butter: A Love Story

The hottest competitive sport in Denmark over the past year hasn’t been handball, or football, or badminton.

It’s been chasing cheap butter in the supermarket.

Recent inflation has doubled the price of butter – in some places, up to 30 kroner – but if you rush, you can get…a package of butter for 10 kroner at one supermarket…wait, only three packages per customer…but hey, this competing supermarket has matched the price…look, this other one has it for only 5 kroner…ohhhhhh, it’s sold out for today. Better come earlier tomorrow.

Butter chasing is how even high-achieving, high-earning Danes have been spending their time. Nobody wants to pay 30 kroner for butter.

Butter and the Danish soul

Butter is a part of the Danish soul. The Danish word for butter is smør…you might be familiar with smørrebrød, the famous open-faced Danish sandwiches. Smørrebrød means buttered bread.

So even though inflation has hit Denmark recently just like everyplace else in the world, supermarkets use low, low butter prices to bring in customers who will buy their other goods.

Butter is big business in Denmark – it is one of the world’s top 10 butter exporters – and dairy in general is a big part of the traditional Danish diet.

There used to be corner shops called mejeri, dairy shops, that only sold dairy goods and eggs.

Evolutionists would tell you that Scandinavians evolved to get more Vitamin D from food, since they don’t get much from the sun for most of the year.

Butter and the Danish soul

But while many Danes have turned away from cow’s milk in favor of oat milk or almond milk, I’ve yet to meet a Dane who doesn’t like cheese or butter.

Lots of butter – to the extent it is sometimes called tandsmør, or tooth butter. That means there’s so much butter you can actually see your teeth outlined in the butter after you bite into it.

You might get tandsmør if you go into a Danish bakery and order a handværker med smør. This is a bun with butter, suitable for someone with big caloric needs, like a hændværker or construction worker who might be building with heavy bricks or big machines.

You might get your hændværker bun with smør og ost – butter and cheese – a meal with plenty of fat that will fill you up from breakfast until your lunch break.

Butter on vegetables, butter on meat

Butter, as I mentioned, is an important ingredient in smørrebrød, the famous open-faced Danish sandwiches. You put butter on the rye bread before you add fish, or potatoes, or eggs.

And in Denmark, butter is often melted over steamed vegetables or used for frying meats.

It’s also a crucial ingredient in Danish butter cookies, which is why the supermarket butter wars are particularly intense around Christmas cookie season in December.

So many types of butter

You can choose salted or unsalted butter, organic butter, garlic butter, truffle butter.

And there are very few Danish homes without an open container of spreadable butter, a corn oil mix that is easier to spread on sandwiches.

Spreadable butter, usually under the Kærgården label, is probably one of the first brands Danish children can recognize, since they see it on the table at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Butter pigs and butter voices

If you’re learning Danish, look up all the expressions that begin with the word “smør.” I counted about 30 in Den Danske Ordbog, Denmark’s official online dictionary.

One well-known expression is smørgris – butter pig. That’s someone who loves butter so much that they eat great amounts of it, with gusto.

Another is smørtenor. That’s a tenor singer with a voice that is as smooth as butter – butter voice.

What is a butter hole?

Or smørhul, butter hole. A butter hole takes its name from the hole in the middle of a bowl of oatmeal. You make a hole so you can put the butter inside.

But smørhul has a bigger meaning.

A ”butter hole” or smørhul, is a way to describe a very nice place, safe from the tumultuous world around it.

A “butter hole” is the way many Danes see Denmark itself.

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