A preholiday eve by Akerselven. The darkness has dawned upon us, there’s frost in the air. In an old brick building, now a studio, a group of people are gathered, young and old, together. Some know each other, some are completely new. When we venture into the night later in the evening, no one is a stranger to each other any more. We’ve come here to take part in Food Studio’s Christmas table, which is true to the Norwegian tradition. Taste, joy, coming together, some light in the dark, dark winter. We are met with freshly baked bread, butter and beer from Voss as a taste of things to come. Shoulders are lowered, people are chatting, smiles are shining.
Soon, most of us are gathered around kitchen – the center of this evening’s events. Everyone gets to help preparing the meal. Just when we’re all expecting to sit down around the table, we’re led out again, into the cold night and down to the river. Here we’re greeted with a steaming cup of hot buttered rum, straight of the bonfire – all while we can hear the sizzling water nearby. The hot and smooth concoction fills us with warmth. There’s a gentle laughter all around.
We’re led to the table – the light is dimmed, the expectations rise, there’s a rich, enchanting smell coming from the open kitchen. The cooks from Smalhans, a restaurant that specializes in doing rustic, traditional food their own way, are offering us new twists on the food that the people that used to work here a hundred years ago used to eat around Christmas time. Good produce, plenty of time and stories to tell – that’s the key to this evening’s success.
They’re generously sharing their knowledge with us. We’re cheerfully pour glasses of wine, toasting, the hunger is making us impatient. Then the food arrives. Voices are muted, and a content silence spreads. The tastes are powerful – the food tastes like back in the days. Cured, stewed, smoked, baked. Herring, arctic char, pork belly, kale, blood sausage, potatoes, cheese, spelt cream, gingerbread. Salty, sweet, sour, rich. The silence breaks, and we all become surprisingly chatty, passing the sharing plates with food and exchanging smiles and stories with each other. A light is lit in the cold winter night in Oslo.
Text and photos by Tord Alexander Viken
Video by Kristian Paulsen