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How to pack a Norwegian sandwich, the world’s most boring lunch (vox.com)
228 points by babelfish on Oct 14, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 363 comments

I'm a Norwegian, and where I work I have the option of eating a big warm lunch, but I very rarely do. I've noticed that eating a big lunch makes the following hour extremely unproductive, so for the last year I have made a matpakke with 3 slices of bread. Normal _pålegg_ is liver paste, cheese or peanut butter. I can easily go through my lunch in just few minutes, and even while working at the same time.

My thought process is that I'd rather be more productive during working hours and go home early, than waste 2 hours in the middle of the day on a heavy calorie lunch.

As an Italian, I am profoundly offended by this statement and most of the comments in this thread :D

Italian Canadian, living in Norway. You have no idea the level of mangia cake going on here. It's like no one's palate evolved past preschool.

Being happy eating boring food is a superpower, lets you focus on more interesting parts of life.

Eating good food is one of the interesting parts of life for me.

It definitely is for me also but I've changed from "I need to eat something good for every meal" and being enslaved by that to "I can eat my boring, cheap and quick food just for sustenance and save time and money to enjoy a proper food experience" the older I get.

No idea how that happened, I used to be really really into having nice and fancy team lunches now and then, nowadays I save those times for a nice date in a pretty good restaurant.

Eating, sex and defecating are three pillars of the human experience. Only after them it comes all the other fun.

I agree with the first part of that sentence, but good food is absolutely one of the more interesting parts of life. It's just that it can be very convenient if you can eat without it having to be an interesting meal.

Just wait until I tell you that the Norwegian word for 'cheese' also encompasses boiled whey products that are hardened and shaped into brown blocks. I've lost count over the times this discussion has shown up with my French relatives.

Ah, but Gjetost is glorious.

My family is deeply split down the middle as to whether it's fantastic or a crime against cheese.

The French have it firmly classified as a crime. Not just a crime, but a sign of a fatally flawed culture, with a language that doesn't make the discinction between this and bacterially processed cheese.

We have multiple versions, Brunost ("brown cheese") in different varieties that can generally be classified as mysost ("whey cheese"), which is the closest we get to a language distinction for this product that is distinct from cheese. I think the same term can be used for geitost ("goat cheese"). But all of these terms have the word "cheese" in them :D

I love that cheese, Gjetost.

Me too. It's like people are forgetting to enjoy their lives.

People enjoy different things - you might enjoy a long lunch, the original commenter enjoys going home early (to spend time with family, friends, dog, whatever)

It’s not that. In Italy people have short lunch breaks too. It’s just what’s actually entitled to be called “lunch” that baffles the average Italian

By now people are well read and well travelled enough not to be surprised or baffled by other cultures, particularly between countries that aren't completely alien to one other. I think surprise or disgust at another culture's lunch is just performative at this point.

Well, being performative can be considered a part of italian culture.

These sandwiches are really tasty. Simple things made well can be really good.

> It's like people are forgetting to enjoy their lives.

you mean by seating in front of a table for the most part of the day and constantly talking about food? :)

Nice stereotype but lunches in Italy are usually 30 minutes, just like in many other European countries. It's the 3 minute long, bland lunch in front of your laptop that's depressing to me. But as other people said to each their own.

As a Portuguese, I feel you.

For us meals, especially lunch, are of the utmost importance.

And it's a crucial element at work. It's a moment of bonding and team-building. If you want to make a team-building activity in Portugal, forget all those annoying and stupid activities. Just gather everybody around a table with food.

I've worked in Italy a few times and i just can't get my head around it.

One sleepy little town basically shut down between 12:30 and 14:30 every day. Everyone went home for lunch but also the majority of the local shops shut too.

How do you get anything done??

In the Mediterranean, where we pretty much all have a variant of the siesta, it gets very hot [1] around the middle of the day. At that point, you have two options:

a) You can stay on and try to work in the heat.

b) You can go home, have lunch, take a little nap and return in the evening when it's cooler.

Option (a) means you spend the next three or four hours in a zombie-like state with your brain addled by the heat and your productivity severely reduced. Basically, you will do no real work at that time, you'll just be filling your chair and pretending to work.

Option (b) is the optimal allocation of resources. You work when you're in your most productive and when you can't be productive, you don't work.

I'm speaking of very recent experience. I spent August and September in Greece, working on my PhD research(80% coding, 20% paper writing, should probably have been the other way around). I'd have lunch around 14:00, then go for a nap around 15:00 when the glycaemic spike would hit (often just from a bit of salad, but with lots of olive oil). I'd set my alarm to 15:20 to make sure I wouldn't oversleep. That's just a quick nap- but I would wake up invigorated and work 'till night time, when friends would appear unsummoned and drag me off to drink and celebrate life like only we in the South know how to [2].


[1] "Very hot" is over 30°C most of the year, near 40°C in the summer (which lasts most of Spring and half of Autumn, too). That's _on average_.

[2] This is sarcasm.

Shops being closed 14-16 used to be a thing in Israel when I was a child, now with the introduction of air conditioning and modern work ethics it's not really a thing anymore.

>modern work ethics

Don't kid yourself when comparing the present to the past (and for some, still present) with sun-up to sun-down manual labor.

Option C: remember that it's 21 century and turn the AC on. Lived in Israel for a few years with the same temperatures, never seen anything close to a siesta (except the shabbat, of course, but that's a completely different thing).

> when the glycaemic spike would hit (often just from a bit of salad, but with lots of olive oil)

Hmm, what other ingredients did you have in your salad? I would think the relatively low-carb (mostly leaves) and high-fat (olive oil) meal would cause a very minimal blood sugar spike, if one at all.

Normally, tomatoes, onions and oregano, and sometimes rye rusks called "paksimadi" in Greek:


The olive oil on its own, plus the heat is sufficient to knock you out really. It gets _really_ hot in Greece in the summer.

Over 30 degrees most of the year? No way this is true.

You're right, I overestimated this by quite a bit.

This site shows Athens over 20 degrees (just) on average, six months of the year.


These days I only go home in the summer (July to September to be more precise) so I guess I've inflated how hot it is, in my mind.

Now I'm a laughing stock. And rightly so.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindos#Climate is about as hot as it gets in Greece, with an average high over 30 °C for (only) three months.

Agree. It snows in Santorini winter...

Two blocks of 4 hours of work with a break of 2 hours between them is not a bad division of time.

You do not need much more time to refocus after a two hour break than after a half an hour break, but the two hours break and the larger meal allows you to work until longer in the evening. In many cases, you can even spend time with your family during this middle of day break, so you do not have that necessity to leave early.

I have followed the two different lifestyles in the south and north of Europe. Northern people tell you how their system allows them to leave early and have more time for family or whatever, but truth is people in the south spent way more time with family and friends. Also, south people usually work more hours, but it's the north people who get the job done.

Unfortunately, having to commute home again basically kills any benefit the "split" work schedule can have. This really works when your house is a five minute walk from your workplace (so it worked great for my granddad), it works less well today with the half hour drives each way.

That's true. It works excellent if you can work from home. We should catch up with the times and make working from home a lot more widespread in the South.

Or of course we could be pragmatic and have siesta booths in every workplace etc.

Finally, there's the nuclear option: air conditioning. I find that in offices where it's constantly 18°C you don't need to take a siesta (but you have to carry your coat with you in the heart of summer to avoid frostbite).

It depends on your definition of "getting things done". I have no illusions about the work ethic of meditteraneans (being one myself, and with the caveat that work ethic is probably the wrong word to use here). This might be just me growing slightly older - but i tend to side more and more on the med side. Nowdays I wish I could take a 2 hour break to go hang out at home, cook my own meal and listen to some music instead of the usual 30/60 minute lunch break. Getting things done means different things to different people, and culture plays a huge part.

It actually means the same thing to everyone except that, as an Italian, you redefine what productivity means as to include "being non-productive".

I'm not Italian, but that's besides the point - if your definition of being productive is punching a card twice a day in 8 hour intervals then go for it. But permit me to be highly critical of you being the arbiter of what the definition of productive is.

Capitalism always makes us focus on productivity. Even more in this startup world ycombinator is part of.

It can be bloody hot so you might as well take a nap.

If everything adjusts to that schedule it’s a nice way to live.

If, however, you run out of water and stumble in to such a village at 12:35 you’re in bad luck.

Only shops (not all, mostly small) close at lunch. Office hours are different. I think this is going to change in the years to come.

They don't.

India is also hot, they don't close for siestas.

I guess they haven't been defeated by the 40 hour minimum work week imposed by modern capitalism. As long as they are happy, who cares when they work.

> who cares when they work.

I'm not demanding change, purely making an observation as a Northern European consultant who happens to drop in to the culture a few weeks a year.

> One sleepy little town basically shut down between 12:30 and 14:30 every day

That's not been true since the 80s.

You're probably confused by the fact that some services shut down at lunch time (service facing offices like banks) for historical reason, we in Italy have a very rigid system of contracts that regulate each category of work in a very precis way, including work hours.

If banks want to stay open at lunch time, they'll have to change the national contract.

But if you go to an hospital or a bar or a restaurant or an IKEA branch, you'll find people working hard even at lunch time.

Source: born, raised and still living in Italy since 43 years ago.

> How do you get anything done??

I don't know, maybe We are smarter than the rest of the World... :)

Getting things done is not about the time you put in them, it's about the effort.

> That's not been true since the 80s.

I'm sorry my person experience doesn't match with your statement?

> How do you get anything done?

By doing things well. ;)

Seriously, ask you colleagues, who has ever done anything good at lunch time, when low sugar fatigue kicks in?

As an American who loves Italy and Italians. I agree.

As a very adult Italian, I prefer to eat a sandwich (usually 'panino con affettati') and go home early, than waste 2 hours eating with other people, in expensive places, not so great food that barely resemble real Italian food.

And I live in Italy.

There are two solutions to this: Eating less for lunch is one, taking an afternoon nap is another.

I'm taking the latter one. I eat lunch at 1pm in normal days, and my sleepiness usually kicks in around 2pm. Then I take a 15-min power nap, and I become fully energized again.

The process I take a nap is 1) open up a terminal and press the enter, so the current time is shown in a prompt. 2) literally headdesk. 3) wake up and hit the enter again, then you'll know how long you've slept. You can even set up a small script to measure your sleep time.

It turned out that my nap time is almost constant between 15 to 20 mins. Technically I can argue that I'm splitting my lunch break into two parts and using it for different purposes (45 min for lunch and 15 min for nap), so I'm not that much slacking.

The theory goes that a power nap shouldn’t be more than 25 minutes, otherwise you risk falling in a deeper state of sleep. I tested the assumption and I find it true. Also, napping quickly everywhere is a skill one can train.

Note that there's no risk with falling in a deeper state of sleep. This sleep is still good. The problem is only that waking up from a deeper sleep is harder and you will temporarily feel less awake than before the nap.

> Also, napping quickly everywhere is a skill one can train.

I am interested! How did you, and how long did it take you?

You just need to operate on a constant sleep deficit, just above total exhaustion, then you can fall asleep whenever and wherever you want

The infamous startup founder method

Not the person you were asking, but-

I learned how to nap while adjusting to the Uberman polyphasic sleep schedule (20 min naps every 4 hours). Wouldn't have described myself as a proficient napper before that, but do now.

My memory of the process is a little dim given it was in 2011, but the first thing most people I talk to about this say is "Man, I could never do that, I'd never fall asleep fast enough," and the answer to that is simple - during the adjustment period your problem is never falling asleep; it'll definitely be waking up. :)

But I still nap even though I stopped Uberman after a year (it worked fine, life just took me elsewhere), and things I've learned:

- I think most people would agree that meditating is definitely a trainable skill. The edge I ride while meditating is being completely immobile, comfortable and relaxed while keeping my awareness focused and sharp. Allowing my mind to wander is one failure mode, but falling asleep is another. For me, a "poor" meditation session frequently feels like a great nap ;) But in all seriousness, for me the physical setup for meditation and a nap is almost identical - comfortable position, no pressure points that I'll need to adjust in five minutes (this is just experience), and as relaxed as I can get. Some guided meditation tracks help train this by making you go through each part of your body and relax them one at a time. That's helpful to do a few times imo, but you get the hang of it quickly and should be able to do it yourself and all at once very fast.

- As far as my thoughts go - it's almost the opposite of meditation. In meditation, I'm constantly wrenching my attention back to my breathing or my big toe or whatever. For a nap, I drop the reins on my mind and let it do whatever it wants. Free association. I have basically one rule, which is that I don't think about problems - nothing that I'm trying to solve or understand. If I'm fresh off of work or an intense game or something, I'll seed my thoughts with some pleasant topic, situation or person and then let it wander from there. The more nonsensical and unreal the thoughts are, the better - it's almost like maintaining internally-consistent thoughts keeps my brain conscious and vice versa. Think Alice in Wonderland nonsense-poem level absurdity. When I'm on a well-balanced schedule (I'm on a two-nap schedule now and trying to hit my naps with about 30 min accuracy), my naps are light enough that I dream easily - so frequently, whatever free-associated thoughts I'm having transition seamlessly into dreamstuff.

- I used to sleep with closed-back around-ear headphones playing music the vast majority of the time (my naps are almost always on my back; my core sleep is usually on my front). I was diagnosed ADD years after learning to nap; I interpreted my use of music as giving my brain the stimulation it needs to relax or something. I was also in a college dorm, so I also experimented with earplugs under the headphones but generally found them uncomfortable (basic etymotics, not foam ones). I don't sleep with music much any more, but I still frequently sleep with headphones on for some basic background conversation reduction and as a visual "don't interrupt me" signal if I'm in public.

- sleep masks are a gift from heaven. I didn't use them back then, but I seriously picked them up last year and after a week or so of getting used to sleeping with something strapped to my face, they are astoundingly helpful. It's worth it to get a pair with eye cups so your eyelashes don't brush the inside (much) when your eyes move or open. These are a much stronger "don't interrupt me" signal than headphones, lol.

- I'm pretty skinny and don't have a big caffeine habit so small amounts of it noticeably affect my ability to nap. Be aware of any stimulants you're consuming - coffee, cigarettes, adderall, what have you - and if napping is hard, consider experimenting with timing / ordering naps and stimulants. During the Uberman transition period, I did play around with chugging a bottle of Coke and immediately taking a nap, so I could fall asleep but the caffeine would hit as early as possible after I woke up and not affect my next nap too much. I don't remember if this worked well, but this is the kind of thing you can play with.

- During Uberman, I was sort of forced to nap anywhere and everywhere - on lawns, in the backs of SUVs, on buses, in movie theatres, etc. I actually put my mattress away, and when napping in my room, I folded a rough blanket into four or six layers on the floor and slept on that (to make it less tempting to stay in bed). This definitely got me more accustomed to sleeping in mildly uncomfortable places and that's stayed with me. (But I tell you what, it's real hard to nap at Disneyland. All the benches I found were too short to stretch out on, there are no grass areas that aren't fenced off, shade is a valued resource that's almost always either in a high-traffic area or, in the more isolated pockets, already occupied. I ended up on a bench in the sun with a sleep mask on, my legs threaded through the armrest and my head on my gf's lap so randos wouldn't call security on me... it was not a best nap ever :) )

Hey thanks for the reply!

> I've noticed that eating a big lunch makes the following hour extremely unproductive

I used to work with investment company boards and so I spent a lot of time in all-day meetings with a bunch of old men. I called the hour after lunch "nap time" because at least one of them would always fall asleep.

You were right about the matpakke, except for the peanut butter.

And also it is not customary to eat the lunch in front of the computer. Even in the blandest of work environments, there is a welld defined lunch room and time, and expectation, where people have their lunches.

IMHO the drowsiness has nothing to do with calories, it's the carbs and the related blood insulin spike causing drowsiness.

My hint: Experiment with a meal without or with very minimal amount of carbs (for example eat a salad with meat or something like that) - that keeps you full of energy and doesn't drive your productivity down or that is at least how it works for me.

Another thing to try: experiment with not eating lunch at all

I suffered from this until I cut out simple carbs at lunch. Bread, pasta, potatoes, and rice all send me to sleep if I have them. Salads and meat I can pig out on without problems.

I started intermittent fasting, eating all my calories at home at night, and the result is no blood sugar dip or post-lunch fatigue at work.

When you add up the meal prep and time eating every week (for what are generally low quality calories), it's a tremendous time saver, in addition to the productivity boost.

Any lunch that isn’t mostly cheese and sausage by weight is just a recipe for disaster

Pretty much everyone in my office (in central Oslo) eats a hot meal in the canteen every day, I think there are maybe 5 people out of over 100 that have opted out of hot meals.

I'm also curious about you using peanut butter, in my experience, even though it's readily available in stores (well, one brand), it doesn't seem like many Norwegians actually eat it regularly.

No offense, but honestly your lunch sounds depressing as hell.

I never understood this nordic lifestyle I saw in Scandinavia, Benelux and Northern Germany where people refuse to take a proper lunch break and just eat some random cold food in front of their computer for the sake of productivity for their employer. It's just depressing to see and unhealthy in the long term.

In southern Europe(Austria) having a walk to the bistro for a warm lunch with freshly cooked quality food, away form my desk is not only healthy but also gives me a refreshing physical, mental and morale boost.

Sitting glued to my chair in front of the computer for 8 hours straight is not only unhealthy but would just burn me out quickly.

This post is kind of offensive to me, as if we're all corporate slaves who skip """proper""" lunch for "productivity". Most of us eat that way even during weekends and holidays, so it's clearly not true. I wouldn't eat elaborate meals at lunchtime even if I never had to work at all.

The last thing we need is people in other countries who have nothing to do with us telling us our food culture isn't "proper".

As a Norwegian that worked abroad, then back in Norway for 6 years before going abroad again, one thing I do not miss from Norway is the work lunches.

God that was depressing, and stressful. The mad rush to the compulsory office canteen, buy some basic food, throw the food in, and run back to your desk as you only have a 30 minutes lunch break.

No chance of going outside for a short walk to get some oxygen, little choice in what food to get, no chance of bonding with colleagues and not talk about work, no chance of disconnecting and avoiding stress.

Only occasionally did I manage to convince colleagues to rebel, go outside with me to a sushi place (or McD's...), sit in the park for bit, and take a few breaths and not rush back. It should be a daily occurrance but only happened once or twice a month.

Different strokes.

Having mostly worked in an industry where formal breaks largely don't exist, I find returning to work after more than 10 minutes painful. I hated the one place with mandated 30 minute lunches because I'd be completely unwound by the end of it and just wanted to go home.

Many folks eat just 2 meals a day- a big heavy breakfast and a day's end dinner and it works fine for them. Lunch is just a silly ritual- if you get it - take it by all means but don't assume those who don't take it are suffering!

Yeah. Another thing people don't realize is that in Northern Europe people tend to have a large dinner at 6pm, so lunch is less relevant.

I personally eat full meals at 10AM and 7PM and light meals at 3PM and 9PM. Not the most conventional times but that's when I'm hungry. Everyone has different times that work for them.

Related to both you and OP:

A couple of years ago or so I started skipping breakfast and eating my first meal at lunchtime.

This works extremely well for me and allows me to keep focus through the day - even if I eat a warm lunch instead of just Norwegian "matpakke".

Intermittent Fasting (ie skipping breakfast), has been gaining lots of attention latelt as a cheap and easy way to control blood sugar levels and calories (to an extent).

Personally I "skip" breakfast and lunch, eating my first meal at dinner. Late night munchies, my diet kryptonite, land in my eating period so I'm more likely to be hungry enough for proper food.

During the day that means no breakfast before work, no lunch packing, no bad cantinas, and no productivity slumps before or after meals. At night it means I can be a lot more calorie dense with my meals, and feel good about it :)

It’s kind of sad to see the meal culture eroding in other parts of the world. The “quickly ingest some food at your desk so you can keep working” mentality has taken hold. I’m French, and at my first office job - almost 15 years ago - the entire office was empty from noon till 2p.

People would go get their kids at school, have lunch with them at home, and bring them back before returning to work. Or child free people would go have a nice lunch out together. I personally would go back to my apartment and cook with my girlfriend. It was really nice. Adding to that, French companies have to give you a “ticket restaurant” if they don’t provide you lunches, which is essentially a 10 euro or so coupon that you can use at any restaurant, or even to buy food in grocery stores, so you get a lot of flexibility.

It was all very pleasant. I haven’t worked in France in many years, and I hear from friends that this culture is eroding, and places that still follow this kind of pace are getting rarer and rarer.

In my current team (US), we all take an hour long lunch break all together every day. That is a surprising thing to most other people at the company, and I suspect we started doing that because many of us in the team are European.

> It’s kind of sad to see the meal culture eroding in other parts of the world. The “quickly ingest some food at your desk so you can keep working” mentality has taken hold.

I really preferred eating at my desk while clocked in to eating a slow, luxurious lunch while clocked out. The slow lunch just means less time for the things you actually want to do.

But taking a break with decent food is exactly one of the things I want to do

Yeah, but not everybody shares that preference. Either is good. Take a break with decent lunch. Do it with colleagues if you want. It's fine. Or if you want, stay at work and eat something simple while you keep working. That's fine too if that's what you want to do. But this criticizing people for their preferences is just annoying and unnecessary.

Well, in addition to cultural differences, being hourly vs. being salaried is a big difference. I am salaried. I don't clock in and out. I'm just expected to be there during business hours, which don't change if I work through my lunch hour. Eating quickly at my desk just donates my "free" lunch hour time to my employer. You don't get anything back for that lunch hour donation in many salaried jobs (at least in the USA).

> I'm just expected to be there during business hours, which don't change if I work through my lunch hour.

Having also held salaried jobs, it was very much the case that some people worked different schedules than others. One was particularly notable for leaving in the early afternoon.

Yes, your employer's expectations for "business hours" are set by how many of those hours you spend being present at work. Try extending your lunch another hour and leaving at the same time, see what your employer thinks.

I too worked in France. I hated the long lunches, since it meant you left work at 6 or 7 in the evening. I’d rather be out the door at 5 (like I do now in the US) or 3-4 (like I did in some previous Swedish jobs) than spend the entire evening in the office.

I usually eat lunch at my desk these days and just leave an hour earlier.

Your lunch hour isn't really an hour, by the time walk somewhere or prepare a lunch. I can't use that hour to actually spend time with my friends or do anything meaningful. I'd rather skip lunch and just head to the pub with my mates at 5.

All places I worked so far in sweden had mandatory lunchbreaks. From 30 minutes in care-jobs to 1 hour in IT. After 5 hours your employer is required to give you a longer break where you are allowed to leave your job for lunch or whatever. Many eat out but it's also common to bring a lunchbox with rests from yesterdays dinner. A lunch is usually around 10 euro at a restaurant so many eat lunchboxes to save money and/or live healthier.

The meal culture is probably eroding because of economical reasons.

We're now under the constant reminder from our employers that there's always a bunch of people outside ready to do your work without lunch break for less money.

-That really depends on where you are.

In Scandinavia, lunch breaks are mandated by law. In Norway, if you work more than 5.5 hours, your employer must give you at least 30 minutes off (unpaid) to have lunch. If the nature of your workplace is such that you cannot leave work, the lunch break is paid. [0]

Hence no desperate souls at the gate, ready to take my place without demanding any lunch break.

Also, as other scandinavians have pointed out - this is not a recent measure to make life easier on your employer; it's just the way it has always been.

[0] https://lovdata.no/NLE/lov/2005-06-17-62/§section10-9

It's counterproductive though IMHO.

Employer won't get more or better work if you prevent everyone taking a worthwhile break. Thankfully nearly all the places I've worked over the years have been entirely happy to permit it. Or expect it.

Very few people I know are eating home. Home prices have increased and city centers became unaffordable for many people. So people are buying homes outside the city center, which adds commuting time. I have 30min drive to reach my home, 16km away from work. That leaves me just an hour to prepare food and eat, and I have to bear the traffic.

Also, people are planning meeting at 13h, because they can't find a time where everyone is available. I have a weekly meeting set up every thursday at 13h, I hate it because I have to rush my lunch.

I never understood this nordic lifestyle I saw in Scandinavia

Norway and Sweden are completely different. In Sweden most people either go out to a restaurant for a warm a lunch or eat a warm lunch they brought with from home. An hour lunch break, while not official sanctioned, is hardly uncommon.

And even when I worked in Norway where many people just ate sandwiches for lunch, almost everybody ate lunch in the lunchroom.

Sitting glued to my chair in front of the computer for 8 hours straight

Or you sit glued to your computer 6 hours straight, get done what you where supposed to do and go home at 3 to be with your family or get in some other afternoon activities. A very common mindset in Norway.

I (Norwegian) recently had a meeting with our Portuguese colleagues about optimal meeting times on a Friday. For the Portuguese, anything between 12 and 14 was impossible (due to lunch), whereas in Norway, anything after 14 was impossible (in the car on the way to the cabin for the weekend).

Is the workday 6 hours in Norway? When I was there it was 8. What you said makes no sense to me.

Yes. For most Norwegians in IT and Government.

Is job done? Nop...

Actually it is between 8:45 and 16:05

Here is some proof:


That is when Accenture billed 350 MILLION USD... for miscellaneous it services.

I'm highly sceptical of this meme online that office workers in Scandinavia, Germany etc quickly get their work done and focus on productivity and leave as early as they can each day instead of waiting till 1730 or whatever. I know better now that this doesn't actually exist anymore these days.

Nope, working in Norway, I can confirm that the office gets very empty very quickly after 16:00, and more than once have I been reminded not to stay all day when I was still at my desk around 17:00.

Ok, but everywhere in Europe people start leaving after 16 the question was whether the working day is 6 hours or 8 in Norway?

Yes, but around three out of four people will have left by 16:30, which is definitely not common in all European countries.

I’d say an average working day is 7 hours plus a 30-minute lunch break, usually taken before noon.

Sounds good. Do all tech companies have a 7 hour workday?

In Norway, in most places, a working day is 7.5 hours + 30 mınutes lunch. That is what it says on the contracts in the IT industry.

I feel the same (e.g. student's lunch in the uni cafeteria is 2.40€ with soup, proper main dish with salad, and a piece of fruit), but then again like someone else points out they also eat that way when they don't have work, which indicates it's not just to save time for your employer (which I'm sure is also part of it, and kind of sad, but still). I'll chalk it up to cultural differences, in part, and also in part to the generally stressful, time-pressed modern life, which only seems to get worse each passing year, as the demands of growth capitalism get ever more cutthroat.

It's not at all in the name of productivity for my employer, I take a 30 min lunch so that I can go home earlier. I want to get the working day over so that I start doing the things I like to do in my spare time

I agree about sitting at your desk, but a quick lunch is great for me because it allow me to take a proper lunch break, I can swallow some food then go for a walk listening to an audio book for half an hour.

Everyone's different. I prefer small simple meals and really don't care for the whole experience, regardless of whether I'm working or not. Healthy and efficient are my priorities.

Well, to me this would also look to benefit from any number of spreads, veggies, relishes, or sauces. However, I'm not Norse, and this is what "culture" means. There are lots of different ones. I'm sure the Norse would find some of my food habits puzzling as well.

> No offense, but honestly your lunch sounds depressing as hell.

I don't know about the preferences of the parent you're replying to, however the description in this article - and what others here have said - sounds depressing as hell.

You're being strongly downvoted because you're not allowed to say anything negative about Scandinavian culture.

If this food story were about the US, it would be held up as an example of how Americans are tortured in their food choices (read any popular thread on HN about American food); and in your example, in their work habits (sit there and eat your sad little sandwich, worker robot). Since it's Norway, it's an extraordinary shared cultural culinary experience in its wisely barren, enlightened simplicity of nothingness. As the article comically exclaims: it's unexpectedly genius.

No, it's perfectly fair to call it out for what it actually is: depressing, a sad tradition of mediocre sandwich lunches.

What it is is subjective. People love their sandwiches and if you don’t - pack what you like.. no one is forcing you to eat like this.

Is it like that though? If you are the only one in your office who doesn't follow the mindset of simple lunches, won't that impact you socially?

No. No one here cares what you eat. My colleagues only care that I turn up for the meeting scheduled for 12:00 when the lunch break started at 11:30. If you can fit a three course meal in that time then no one will care.

You're completely correct.

Hilariously, in this thread you have people arguing that Americans eat bland flavorless food while also arguing that Americans "obsess" over food that tastes good, both from a negative perspective.

So correct..

I guess now Scandinavians are also a "protected" "race"- list...

I like my work. I'd rather eat a can of room temperature soup at my desk than interrupt a satisfyingly productive line of thought.

I have no idea why you're being downvoted. I'm the same way. I don't take lunch breaks unless I'm completely wiped out mentally. I get to go home earlier, but also I get to keep focusing on what I enjoy doing. Also, the office is empty and quiet, which is pretty damn nice. People here seem to be making the assumption that we're grinding ourselves to the bone by not taking a break - but, no, if I need a break, I can take one. I just don't need to.

> No offense, but honestly your lunch sounds depressing as hell.

It's just food, it doesn't have to be a party.

No offense, but only kids need to be entertained to eat, most people need food only because they get hungry.

If I want to have a nice meal, I go out at night with my girlfriend in a restaurant we like.

> In southern Europe(Austria)

That's a bold statement! :)

Austria is Mitteleuropa (middle Europe) its traditions are very similar to those of Germany, southern Europe is radically different.

In Italy we call "germans" the people living in Südtirol on the border with Austria, because they are different from average stereotypical Italians.

Anyway you can walk to a bistrot (it's a French thing, not Austrian) and have warm lunch with fresh cooked quality food (it's a southern tradition, historically northern countries had problems growing fresh food in their long winters, except for apples, that grow abundantly in south Austria) in Berlin or Stockholm as well.

If you leave Wien and go to the Austrian mountains, for example Innsbruck, you can experience typical Tyrolean food, which is equally good, albeit not exactly light.

It is lovely that you have that option. For many American workers, if you work through your lunch, you do not then get to leave early. You've just donated your lunch hour as extra work time to the company, and you will often not get it back. It does vary, of course.

my thought process is that I enjoy work and my co-workers and that spending an hour a day eating and socializing together makes work and my life more enjoyable.

If feel that tech companies' free lunchs work against this since lunch ends up only taking 20-30 mins instead of an hour. And no they don't get more work out of me, I just leave 30 mins earlier. That great if you want to get home as quick as possible. I'd prefer a balance of making work more enjoyable and feel the lunch socializing contributes to that.

> I'd prefer a balance of making work more enjoyable and feel the lunch socializing contributes to that.

I want to feel that way, too, but unfortunately long lunches -- and especially social ones -- kill my momentum. I lose so much time getting back into the zone afterwards that I just can't afford it. I eat my lunch alone and as quickly as possible, and socialise with my co-workers after work instead when possible.

I usually follow up a 20-30 minute lunch with a 20-30 minute coffee walk, or bubble walk. It’s great to go outside and soak in the sun (weather permitting).

> 3 slices of bread ... liver paste, cheese or peanut butter ... waste 2 hours in the middle of the day on a heavy calorie lunch

How many calories are in your sandwich though?! Sounds extremely calorie dense!

It's a single slice of cheese or meat. American deli-style sandwiches where there is more filling than bread are not a thing in Scandinavia.

Also, if you were wondering what's up with "caviar" as a topping, it's this stuff made from cod roe: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalles_Kaviar

Warning, Kalles Kaviar actually contains sugar and lots of it. It's horrible, and I'm swedish. They actually make ads on the TV with people from other cultures trying to eat it. It's not as bad as surströmming but ew...

12% sugar isn't that bad given that you don't use much. Messmör, on the other hand, is something that should be avoided.

I can believe they have those ads!

To be fair, though: My spouse, the resident Norwegian, really likes it. Soetimes with a sliced, hard-boiled egg. But he's also been eating it since he was a child as it is a cheap and easy thing to make children. It is more akin to American children with peanut butter.

I, however, being the import to Norway, find it fairly disgusting.

As a Norwegian, I agree with you it's disgusting.

Dare I ask your opinion of Matjes?

That said, I've heard a some dissent from younger swedes about surströmming but not about Kalles heh.

> American deli-style sandwiches where there is more filling than bread are not a thing in Scandinavia

Denmark disagrees with you https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sm%C3%B8rrebr%C3%B8d

Yes I'm European as well. Still seems like an extremely hefty sandwich from the video...

British slices of bread are usually far larger than Norwegian ones.

Its an incredibly small sandwich.

I love Kalles! I've eaten it since I was a kid.

I make regular trips to IKEA just to buy it, apparently they're one of the US's largest importers of Swedish food.

But yes, its very different than what most Americans think of Caviar; This is very much un-fancy.


Also, gooseberry jam.

The filling is not what adds to the calories though, it's the bread.

Yeah, if you look at the calories in the ingredients (3 slices of buttered bread each with a slice of cheese, liver paste, or peanut butter) you're looking at something that at best has the same amount of calories as a quarter pounder with cheese, and likely significantly more than that.

A lot of people seem to be under the wrong impression that simple foods are low in calories. Compared to other sandwiches the Norwegian sandwich seems to substitute protein (less meat and cheese) for more saturated fat and carbs (an extra slice of bread, butter on the bread).

Around 500kcals sounds about right. I wouldn't really call a single QP a big meal.

I think your comparison to other subs is off thought. Depending on the meat of the sub you might be reducing protein, but the Norwegian sandwich definitely has less fat (less cheese, less calories in the butter than mayo or other sauce, less fatty meats). Usually the bread preferred also has more whole grain and fibers than what's used in the US.

> the Norwegian sandwich definitely has less fat (less cheese, less calories in the butter than mayo or other sauce, less fatty meats)

Butter is much higher in saturated fat and calories than mayo, and you're putting butter on 3 slices whereas you usually only but mayo on one (per the article). One tablespoon of butter is 100 calories and 7 grams of saturated fat, one tablespoon of mayo has 60 calories and 1.5 grams of saturated fat.

If I look at the nutritional information for Kalles Kavier (which someone suggested as a topping), it seems to also be pretty high in calories with a lot coming from extra carbs (sugar).

Having eaten both the quantities really are that different. A typical American sub has much more sauce than a Norwegian sandwich has butter. Kalle's is so flavorful that you don't need a lot of it, but I agree it would be the most unhealthy choice of the ones listed.

> an extra slice of bread

A Norwegian "sandwich" has one slice of bread. The picture at the top of the article shows 3 stacked open-face sandwiches.

Sometimes people will do "British-style" sandwiches when putting on things like jam to avoid making a mess, but open-face sandwiches is most traditional.

Read the above post, this is the meal we're discussing:

> last year I have made a matpakke with 3 slices of bread

Which also aligns with what's said in the article. If you eat three of these in a meal, you're getting one more slice of bread than you'd get from a meal consisting of a single sandwich.

Yes, but the comparison in the comment I replied to talks about "the Norwegian sandwich":

> Compared to other sandwiches the Norwegian sandwich seems to substitute protein (less meat and cheese) for more saturated fat and carbs (an extra slice of bread, butter on the bread).

It's meaningless to compare to a "single sandwich" anyway, because e.g. the bread size will vary dramatically depending on country. I live in the UK now, and the slices used for sandwiches here are often 50% or more larger than what I'm used to from Norway.

But especially if talking about the amount of protein relative to carbs or fats, I don't think it's very different - each of those three slices of bread gets their own slice of meat or cheese. And not by any means everyone will use butter, while you'll get plenty of sandwiches elsewhere (e.g. UK) that are buttered.

Yeah, I don't see how this is a boring lunch at all, that sandwich looks great to me. Does it mean though that your supper is usually "heavier"?

It’s really 2-3 open face sandwiches, each being one slice of bread, butter, and exactly one topping of meat or cheese. No condiments. Rarely any veg or any extra flavor. And that’s it. If this isn’t a boring lunch, I have no idea what is.

> If this isn’t a boring lunch

The qualification seems unnecessary to me. It's lunch (well, to me, it's breakfast). It's no wonder people are depressed eating it when everybody keeps calling it boring. It's bread with a topping. It's fine. It tastes good. Does every meal need to be akin to a sushi buffet?

Sushi is rice with a topping. It's boring too.

Flavored rice, usually with wasabi and sea weed. The fish is also fresh, not processed.

Butter is a condiment. a boring lunch to me would just 2 slices of bread over just ham.

So because of the butter is no longer boring?

Absolutely, butter makes things taste so much better. Plus if you just got bread and meat, it can easily get stuck in your teeth. You need a condiment to make the sandwich easy to eat.

> “ boring lunch to me would just 2 slices of bread over just ham.”

Literally we’re talking about exactly that plus some fat. I don’t see how the fat all of the sudden makes it not boring. Especially given this is then eaten daily.

Maybe a siesta after lunch will be nice ;)


> No morals outside of what is legal and not is a recipe for disaster.

What are you basing this on? The common stereotype is that Scandinavians tend to be extremely conscious about not bothering others.

Yes that is true.

But everything is left to the government. Parents do not take care of their children. Children do not care about their parents or family.

If you have troubles, you either get drunk or shut it....

Norwegians have a fuck season which they call "julebordsesong" (Christmass party season) where a big part of the nation ends up cheating.


Family cohesion is non exsistant.

Also anything that is not illegal is acceptable.

Do you want me to keep going ?

You can't do nationalistic flamewar on HN. We ban accounts that do this. Please stop.

Your comments on this have been curiously interesting, no doubt because they come from personal experience, and also because the rant is over-the-top which makes it a bit less mean. But it simply isn't legit to smear a whole country, and posting like this destroys the container here. HN's Norwegian readers have the same right as everyone else not show up here and run into comments that slur them. Please find a different way to tell your story.


Why did you waste 16 years of your life in a place that you dislike so much?

I spend a lot of time with latino people (due to work), and yes, I agree that they are a lot less boring than Norwegians. But hour after hour of juvenile penis-jokes and giggling at what is always something sexual, it gets pretty boring too. Sure, they do laugh a lot more than Norwegians, but for anyone else, they come off as pretty boring as well.

At the Norwegian table, during lunch, the discussions are often deeper and more interesting, but there is a lot less laughter.

I would not call them wasted.

It is a calm place.If you know how to live in it. Just like a jungle. I just treat it like my personal urban jungle where I can do whatever I want.

That is the beauty of Norwegians. They are pushovers, non confrontational, scared , and very easy to manipulate and intimidate.


So work is easy, money are good I found out that a Norwegian food is cheaper that an Indian servant.

Heh, glad to hear that you've found someone you can manipulate and intimidate. That would be a perfect setting for a sociopath.

What a load of over-generalising bullshit.


What? That's not how Jante works.

You misspelled happy...

As a South African I am genuinely offended that you get to go home early when you skip lunch and you're done with your work.

Screw productivity, think about your health. Your flawed thought process went to either eating a bad but fast meal or a heavy calorie lunch for 2 hours?

First, nobody 'wastes' 2 hours, just 30-45min in a regular lunch. Second, a healhty lunch means, adequate calories and nutrients. And that does not mean it will kill your productivity.

As a Spaniard, I'm very offended by your opinion. Also, I would like to know what your ancestors ate before all these ultraprocessed food existed, pretty sure it was more nutritious. Also, pretty sure they invested more than 10 minutes.

Former Norway resident here, 3yrs.

Their lunch traditions are definitely basic, as they were not a wealthy country for hundreds of years before striking oil in the 60s.

The point to remember is that while the fare is basic, the quality is typically very good. Their cheese is extra creamy and nutritious, as is the bread. The same goes for the milk.

Many Europeans won’t drink the milk here in the States because the quality tends to be much lower, due to feed/living conditions for livestock. Garbage in = garbage out.

> as they were not a wealthy country for hundreds of years before striking oil in the 60s.

I was surprised by that statement and had to look it up and it was, of course, false. Norway was a wealthy country back to the 1800s: sources: https://medium.com/@Jernfrost/no-norway-was-not-a-poor-count... and https://eh.net/encyclopedia/the-economic-history-of-norway/

The second paragraph of the first link specifically makes it clear it is a question of point of view and concedes Norway was poor relative to today. Meanwhile the distribution of wealth was a bigger issue.

Even in my lifetime - I'm 44 - the growth in wealth in Norway has been astounding.

Ironically, for example, whale meat is something I remember from my childhood as a cheap meat substitute (but that is now an expensive "delicacy"; we never saw it as a delicacy then - it is tough and oily) because my parents despite both having good jobs could not often afford beef in the early 80s. Even then we'd usually have it only once a week.

When I was a kid, a packed lunch was an economic necessity for many families.

This was also in some sense exacerbated by more income equality: eating out is relatively expensive in Norway because serving staff are also paid reasonably well.

But I think the main reason the matpakke has survived is basically that this was much closer to the norm a lot of places with low population density (~13 per square kilometer in Norway) berfore urbanization and well into early industrialisation and that Norway also for a long time was very severely lutheran, with a puritan streak. Even if you have money, showing it off is not the done thing.

> The second paragraph of the first link specifically makes it clear it is a question of point of view and concedes Norway was poor relative to today. Meanwhile the distribution of wealth was a bigger issue.

Every rich country was once very poor relative to its current status though. This doesn't change the fact that Norway was not poor relative to other European countries at the time.

Yes, but the change was very rapid and very noticeable. My parents grew up with very noticeable, very visible poverty around them. A lot of the habits the post war generations grew up with, and that still affected society throughout the 70's still permeates the culture.

Every european society had this kind of change though. Norway isn't unique.

Here's an Italian movie from the 1970s, showing a family in a large slum around Italy.


While "everyone" has seen growth, Norways GDP per capita went from ~167% of Italy in 1967 around the time of the start of the oil wealth to about 230% that of Italy in 2017 (world bank numbers). The oil contributed substantially to that.

Whale meat is quite inexpensive actually

It might be again now that the novelty of it being more widely available again has worn off, it's been a while since I looked.

Huge local differences. My grandparents almost starved to death in the 1920s due to failing crops, multiple long winters, collapse of lumber exports and general economic crisis.

What was the wealth disparity back then?

Absolutely. The quality of typical supermarket bread, bologna, cheese, butter in US is pretty low, so while it may look similar the taste and afterall feeling is really different.

A very typical and widespread cousin of the Norwegian sandwich from USSR/Russia - "buterbrod" https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterbrot . Bread + butter topped with cheese or bologna or hard salami and chased down with black tea (hot, or at least warm, to make sure that the high fat content of the butter and the topping blooms into great taste, and it probably also helps digestion considering how good it feels :). Topped with cold smoked fatty fish (typically a red like salmon) or red or black caviar - great "zakuska" (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zakuski) to chase down vodka or cognac.

> Many Europeans won’t drink the milk here in the States because the quality tends to be much lower, due to feed/living conditions for livestock. Garbage in = garbage out.

If you have the time and money, I found the opposite to be true.

The average quality of products like bread and meat is much lower in the US than in Europe, but in the US I have the option of going to some high end shop or bakery and get stuff that is much better than I can get here in Europe. In Europe things are extremely uniform. (Yes, I realize that Europe is a big place and I am generalizing somewhat.)

Good cheese is very hard to find in the US though. Speciality shops are rare and even there you have much less options.

When I go to the US, on the first day I am very saddened by the "bread" and milk I can find, it's just awful, but quickly I go to the good shops and get the good stuff.

When I come back to Europe I am saddened again because now I can't get the good stuff anymore, no matter how much time and effort I put into it. That's why now I bake my own bread here in Europe.

I spend a large proportion of my time in the US, and I found that this phenomenon generalizes to many products. For many products the US average is worse than the European equivalent, but in the US there's a much broader distribution of quality, and the high end tail of the quality spectrum is usually in the US. Of course this quality comes at a cost.

> "The average quality of products like bread and meat is much lower in the US than in Europe, but in the US I have the option of going to some high end shop or bakery and get stuff that is much better than I can get here in Europe. In Europe things are extremely uniform."

Maybe you need to shop around a bit. There are also high-end shops and bakeries in Europe. Though maybe not in every town.

If the most affordable option is “good enough” instead of bad, it makes sense there’s a narrower distribution for quality.

I like bread, and have visited many countries. The loaf I remember most is from Norway. Crusty outside, chewy inside, overall delicious.

Comparing the cheese to what you get in the States, it might look extra creamy. Being a Swedish born living in Norway, I'd say most of the cheese is boring and tasteless! The typical cheap cheese in Sweden (Hushållsost) is much more creamy and tastes a lot more than the cheapest alternatives in Norway (Norvegia). You have to go up about 40-50% in price to get the most equivalent (something like Novergia Fyldig). The milk though, tastes much better in Norway.

My favorite growing up was Norwegian Gräddost. And yes, you're right, that's a Swedish name; shamelessly stolen.

There are other countries that have not been wealthy but still would consider such basic lunches unpalatable (e.g., Korea, China, Singapore).

All these countries are warm Asian countries, where street food stalls actually work due to the climate.

You can't have the same food culture in places that are covered in snow at least half the year.

Seoul has average temperature below 0 during January and February . Same with Beijing. These temperatures are in line with temperatures seen in countries like Netherlands, which also have a “basic” lunch culture.

Your climate hypothesis doesn’t quite hold unfortunately.

American raw milk is some of the best, though. I love my Amish raw milk. Some of the most nutritious stuff you can get.

Raw milk has no nutritious difference to pasteurised milk, unless you count diseases as nutrition.

Pasteurization destroys some vitamins. Also, supermarket milk goes through more than just pasteurization: some protein and fat is removed to make other milk products like butter and cheese.

It tastes far better, and as long as basic hygiene is followed, is very clean, too.

The taste is different (better imo), goes bad really fast.

Unfortunately you can't get raw milk in most states.

The milk quality in the US is fine, it's just different. Each carton has been pasteurized differently, then homogenized, fortified, and contains milk from thousands of cows. There are lots of other differences that affect flavor, mouthfeel, aroma. We may also use different cows, environment, etc.

American milk also has anti-biotics and bovine growth hormone in it. I was fairly disappointed when they recently started allowing American milk to be sold here. Luckily it has to be labelled.

This is simply not true.

Milk is tested frequently and antibiotics are very rarely found [1]. Milk tankers that test positive for antibiotics are discarded and this milk never enters into the human consumption stream.

1. https://www.fda.gov/federal-state-local-tribal-and-territori...


>While the administration of growth hormones known as BST or rBGH to dairy cows is allowed in the US, it is illegal in Canada and therefore not permitted for use with any dairy cows.


>In both Canada and the United States, all milk sold must be antibiotic-free, so the issue is more about potential antibiotic-resistance than actually consuming antibiotics through milk. In Canada, a farmer who provides a dairy with milk containing antibiotics will have to pay for all expenses related to the milk that is thrown out. That means farmers take their commitment to providing antibiotic-free milk seriously.

There's another, simple reason which predates the very real concerns another antibiotic resistance these days; it's impossible to make cheese or other dairy products with even slightly antibiotic contaminated milk.

Source - grew up on a NZ dairy farm. Every milk collection from every farm was sampled and tested for bacteria, and antibiotics. Too much of the first, and you were penalised with a lower payment for a start. Any of the latter, and you paid for disposal of all the milk in the tanker load, from your farm, and the others it collected. This was thirty years ago, if anything it will be stricter now.

Solution was simple, look after the cattle, and keep the medicated ones out of the milking herd.

You have to search fairly hard in the States to find a jug of rBGH milk anymore. Maybe the absolute bottom of the shelf stuff if you're "lucky". I assume that milk is going towards cheese production and related industries instead.

Who tests this, the FDA or the ones with their income dependent on these test being negative?

Also the websites only talk about maintaining a database over this not that you need to discard the milk if positive.

The food industry has QC out the @$$ (until you get to the final step before the consumer where things can be hit or miss) because their margins are so thin for the volume that they move that you can't afford not to have really good process control. Letting bad stuff out for a week could put you in the red for a very long time going forward.

Nobody wants out of spec milk because it's not useful. You can't sell it because it will come back to bite you.

the homogenisation is the problem. and it's hard to find non-homogenised milk in the US.

US Milk also tends to be rather old by the time it reaches consumers, with ~2 weeks being surprisingly common. That has several implications which alter it’s taste.

Of course this varies a lot based on the store and product.

Milk in the US is only a couple days old by the time it's in the grocery store.

Unless most people in Europe are buying direct from the dairies, I can't imagine it's appreciably faster. Even then, I grew up having milk delivered direct from the dairy and definitely don't notice any difference between what I grew up with and what I typically buy in the grocery store.

I would guess most of the flavor difference comes from pasteurization differences, since Ultra High Temperature pasteurization appears to be the norm over there.

> Milk in the US is only a couple days old by the time it's in the grocery store.

Same for me. It took me a bit to figure out what was going on with this discussion and then suddenly I realized ..

The US is not a single system and actually the quality does vary a lot. I remember being in Florida and thinking why is the milk so weird.

In Denmark you can get milk at the grocery store that was inside the cow less than 24 hours ago. Ultra High Temperature pasteurization is not really normal in Denmark, but I think it is in Germany.

Its unusual for milk not to be UHT here in Spain.

I wonder if it's due to Spain being a warmer country and the milk spoiling more quickly.

They have fridges these days....

I miss UHT and homogenized milk since I moved to Denmark :( I loved being able to buy a six pack of milk bottles back in France and keep it in a closet for weeks, now I can barely drink a carton of milk before it goes bad.

While most milk in Netherland is pateurised and therefore keeps only a few days, there's also sterilised milks which keeps for months. Doesn't taste as good, though.

That really depends on the supply chain, but many stores do occasionally need to throw out old milk so you really need to consider how long the sell by date gives them to work with. Then add 2 days before pasteurization though this can legally be up to 5 days or in theory as little as 24 hours.

Just remember they moved to Ultra High Pasteurization because 2 weeks was simply not long enough.

UHT Milk is not normal in the USA outside the grab & go bottle sizes (1/2 liter): https://www.fredmeyer.com/search?query=milk

What is concerning is the high fructose corn syrup, kelp & skim milk blend that Darigold, Kroger and other US milk producers are advertising as Fat Free Half n Half: https://www.fredmeyer.com/search?query=fat%20free%20half&sea...

All the milk that are sold at my grocery store, no matter the size, is ultra-pasteurized. It's not unusual at all, in my experience. They sell common East Coast brands like Organic Valley.

(According to various sources I can find when googling this, there's no difference between ultra-pasteurized and UHT.)

Backing up the other comments, this also isn't true from anything I've seen in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, or Pennsylvania. Seems like an issue specific to places where the demand for milk far outstrips the regional creamery supply.

But "not normal" is not correct, either.

Perhaps ultra-pasteurized is common on the East Coast? Its definitely not common for 1 gallon or half gallons in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Idaho or Michigan (in my experience).

UHT is only for warm shelf milk here in Virginia, and maybe for some of the really expensive organic stuff that's shipped all the way across the country.

Many organic milks are UHT, but here in the Midwest most milk is not UHT.

> Just remember they moved to Ultra High Pasteurization because 2 weeks was simply not long enough.

That wasn't the idea. It was supposed to sit unrefrigerated on normal shelves. They haven't had great success with the product in the US as people don't trust non-refrigerated milk.

About two days old, after being stored at 39 degrees while constantly circulated. There's no indication that mass-produced milk in Europe is any "fresher", and if it's UHT milk, just forget freshness.

Milk can legally be up to 48 hours old before it it’s picked up from the farm. With ever other day pickups being very common and multiple milking per day some get’s close to that. It can then sit at the factory for another 72 hours before pasteurization though this uncommon. It then varies though Ultra High Temperature (UHT) gives you up to 70 days at this point.

That’s the extreme which would be very unusual, but buying milk that’s ‘only’ 2 week old milk is reasonably common. All it takes is knowing how long the sell by date is after pasteurization and another ~1-2 days to get to that point and you can find how old this stuff is.

>buying milk that’s ‘only’ 2 week old milk is reasonably common

Do you have a citation for this by any chance? I've had a quick Google but no luck. Been interested in average food quality differences in US and EU since the "chlorinated chicken" news in the UK.

I grew up with matpakke and the 1/4 of milk every day and I hated it. It was depressing. Only good side was you got more time to play outside at school since you just wolfed down the food to get it over with.

My kids go to a school in Spain and they get a 3 course meal every day for about 5 EUR a day. As a parent its great because you know they've had a full complete meal every day and you can just make a small evening meal.

I also grew up with a madpakke (I'm in Denmark) and also hated it. Was pretty jealous of Swedish kids since I knew they got a hot school lunch and didn't have to eat boring, open-faced sandwiches and room temperature milk. I guess Norwegians have it just as bad as Danish kids.

I spent 17 years in Denmark, and now a couple years in Norway, and I can say that the Danish lunch culture is far richer than the Norwegian one. I studied at a Danish gymnasium and university. I now work at a Norwegian university.

For starters, Norwegians do not employ rye bread.

Furthermore, Norwegian open-faced sandwiches have not evolved into full-blown smørrebrød - where stacking multiple ingredients is such essential part, that you cannot eat the common smørrebrød without cutlery.

Case in point: https://www.valdemarsro.dk/luksus-stjerneskud/

At my university, we would lunch in groups, building such works of art during lunch-time from shared packs of ingredients.

It may be that Danish school children get a "boring" lunch, similar to the Norwegian one. However, as Danes grow up, their lunches evolve in tastes and complexity. It seems less so in Norway, and that's OK, but a tiny bit boring :-P

I feel like this article somewhat undersells brødskriver. They can be delicious.

Most important is good bread, which is super common here, despite it being totally unavailable in most other countries. All ordinary grocery stores get freshly baked bread every day, whole in paper bags of course.

For example - with a thick slice of butter, then some oven-baked liver paste and two slices of gherkin on top and boom - you have something delicious in a single minute.

> Most important is good bread

Having lived in Norway for two years, and resorted to deep frozen baguettes from Meny (an upscale supermarket chain) because the fresh bread was so bad, I'm... not sure about this.

Glad to be back in Finland where the bread is good (seriously!) and the lunches are substantial, healthy, warm and filling.

IMO you can't get good bread in grocery stores in any Western country, Norway included. Good bread has about 2-3 times the density of store bread, for one thing, which would make it 2-3 times more expensive to make (2-3 times more raw ingredients + more time & energy in the oven). That takes the price into ridiculous territory, so it's just not reasonable for supermarkets to stock them.

My recommendation: get a decent bread baking machine. What's decent? One where the bread, container and rotor all come out of the machine after baking, so they can be easily washed. It takes about 2 minutes to mix in everything, and the quality is honestly pretty indistinguishable from hand made (as long as I remember to put the rotor back in after cleaning it :).

Dwarf bread refined over decades: 400g wheat flour (coarse if you can get a hold of it), 300ml water, 1ts salt, 50ml olive oil and ½ts dry yeast, which goes in a separate compartment in the machine to be dropped in when ready. To this you can add up to 200g or so of goodies - pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts or grated carrot.

The built in bakeries in Lidl and other stores have great bread imo.

You can get good bread in the USA, it’s just that it’s $6 a loaf instead of the $0.87 bread loaf of white bread from Aldi or Walmart. Most people just don’t see the point in spending more money on food than is absolutely necessary (likely to our detriment).

My mother-in-law criticized me and my wife for buying fresh salmon as being “too expensive” despite her being a millionaire, and it being quite affordable for us. She thinks tuna in a can is “good enough”.

> Most important is good bread, which is super common here, despite it being totally unavailable in most other countries.

I think the rest of Europe will argue with this.

I think a lot of America will argue with this.

Norwegian living the U.S. here. It's pretty different when you consider the average supermarket.

The breads you get in your average American supermarket (Giant, Safeway, Shoprite and so on) are either the pre-sliced, packaged kind, which are largely flavourless and full of preservatives and sugar, or the stuff in the bakery section, which tend to be Italian-style white bread rolls, bagels and so on. You can find better bread — and sometimes very, very good bread — in many bakeries, or in high-end grocery stores like Whole Food, at farmer's markets, and so on. But it's not the norm.

Scandinavian supermarkets generally don't have separate bread and bakery sections. There's just a bread section [1], where you'll find all freshly made bread. The whole grain content is very high, and the breads feel rustic and wholesome overall. You'll be able to find plain wheat bread and French baguettes, but these are the exception. You'll also find some pre-packaged breads, but they are typically sold specifically for their longevity.

While I can get great bread in the U.S. if I seek it out, I still miss the easy availability of good bread, and I feel bad for all those who think that pre-sliced package bread is all there is.

[1] https://bdn-norge.no/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/grovhet.png

[2] https://www.polarbrod.se/no/vare-brod/havre/

I just want to point out that you can get very horrible bread in Norway as well. In the image you link to, you have Loff at the bottom left of the screen. That stuff is even more tasteless than the average American bread. It also gets more prominent placement, at least from what I've seen in Oslo grocery stores.

"Loff" is terrible! I didn't even like it as a kid. To be sure, not all Norwegian bread is great, I was really speaking about the general difference in the availability of good bread.

To be fair, the point of loaf is exactly that, to be unhealthy, white and tasteless. It's great for pan-fried toast with cheese and kids who only want to taste the jam.

The majority of Americans get their bread from the grocery store, and by the time they eat it it’s probably several days if not weeks old.

It is true that you can get extremely high quality fresh bread from a bakery (or even bakeries inside grocery stores) but that isn’t really part of the culture and good quality bread is usually considered an occasional treat.

“People don’t usually buy it” is a different claim to “it is totally unavailable”.

A baguette in my Midwestern city close to as good as a standard Parisian corner store baguette is like $6. You can get some that are "good" but in fact way worse than the real deal for $4-5. Approach the 2 Euro baguette in price and we're talking something that's so much worse it's unrecognizable. Pastries have a similar ~2x markup and are still usually not quite as good as the norm there even at the high end of the price range. IDK what it is that makes decent baked goods so expensive here. We grow all the wheat, FFS. Apparently kinda halfway knowing how to produce a plain-ass croissant that is somewhat reminiscent of an actual croissant is rare and expensive knowledge around here. We flat-out cannot produce affordable baked goods & bread that aren't fairly bad, it seems—simply not-bad is luxury priced here, and you may have to drive a ways to get it.

[EDIT] and this bleeds over into anything requiring bread, like a sandwich. If you buy one out and it's not quite expensive, it will for sure be using pretty bad bread and there'll be a fairly low cap on how good it might be.

[EDIT EDIT] toss in the fact that decent or better cheese is more expensive here, and the sandwich situation is downright dire.

> The majority of Americans get their bread from the grocery store, and by the time they eat it it’s probably several days if not weeks old.

Every grocery store near me has giant signs advertising fresh baked bread. Buying bread in plastic bags isn't necessary.

Heck when I was a poor college student I'd buy fresh baked 6 inch sandwich rolls, IIRC they were 6 for $2 or $3.

Is it bake-off or real bread baked at the store?

While I'm sure that depends on the store, many supermarkets I'm aware of -- including Safeway out here in Silicon Valley and Publix in Florida, where I grew up -- have in-store bakeries.

Publix is a god send. Some of their bread actually rivals non-American bread.

One of the chain supermarkets I go to has a big sign announcing the time the next batch of fresh bread will come out of the oven.

So, yes, in spite of the typical HN US-bashing, fresh bread is available in America.

This isn't even mentioning:

1. The chain of Brazilian bakeries around me

2. The fresh bread loaves baked at multiple larger Asian grocery stores.

3. The awesome Vietnamese bakery that sends out fresh baguettes daily.

4. The multiple dedicated Japanese bakeries making fresh bread.

5. The multiple dedicated Chinese bakeries making fresh loaves of bread.

6. The multiple local American bakeries that deliver fresh bread to area grocery stores every day.

Actually, after making that list, I am kind of shocked at how large the market is for fresh baked bread...

I should have been clearer, with "good bread" I meant dark whole-grained bread, not white stuff like loaf and baguettes. Sorry, just my Norwegian bubble I guess.

> I should have been clearer, with "good bread" I meant dark whole-grained bread, not white stuff like loaf and baguettes. Sorry, just my Norwegian bubble I guess.

Then I'll walk to the Eastern European deli a couple blocks from my house! Though only a small selection of their bread is freshly delivered, the better Eastern European deli near me closed quite a few years ago, they baked stuff on site.

I can get plenty of darker whole grain breads from some of the above sources I listed as well.

Though saying that French styles breads aren't good may get you in trouble with a huge swath of the world! There isn't a "quality" difference between fresh made baguettes and any other styles of bread, at that point it is down to preferences. I wouldn't call anything fresh made at a local bakery "not good bread." I may not prefer it, but that doesn't make it low quality.

Nutrition, of course, is separate discussion!

Now if you want something legit to complain about in America, talk about deli meats. Boar's Head has an almost complete monopoly over deli meats, especially on the west coast. I have to travel to, at minimum, Chicago, before the corned beef starts getting good.

Likewise with cheeses. Each major area of the country likely has a local dairy making cheese, and I used to think those cheeses were a-ok, after all, local dairy and all that. Travelling a bit made me realize how not-so-good most cheeses, outside of the artisanal ones, sold in America are.

On the flip side, ok-quality cheese also trends in price towards being dirt cheap, and "not-so-ok" quality cheese is dirt cheap.

Ah, total cultural translation fail. To me anything very "dark" is bad bread. I really enjoy the sort of "medium light in color multigrain" my local bakery makes, which includes whole grains like millet and flax, with a slightly chewy texture. Here are "good" breads from my local bakery in small town USA: clockwise from top left, semolina sunflower, multigrain, country white, and cranberry walnut. Scones, muffin, and cookie are bonus. https://photos.app.goo.gl/Prcba1K99yioxNVU9

Pumpernickel, and three types of rye are available daily. Plus random oaty things.

Remember that a huge part of the United States was settled by Germans.

The bread in America is garbage compared to Europe.

Best not to conflate all bread in America with Wonder Bread. We have bakeries that actually choose to make a quality product, and it's available in (edit: grocery stores in) most cities. Many Americans simply choose to optimize for cost.

The bread in Copenhagen was fantastic, though.

Maybe a more precise statement is the distribution of quality of bread in USA versus countries like France is skewed towards France.

Yes USA can have bread just as good as in France but it's considered in the tails of the distribution while in France it's considered near the mode.

Having to go to speciality bakeries to get good bread is a different thing than just having it available in every corner market and whatever the bodega equivalent is.

But you don't have to go to a specialty bakery to get good fresh bread. I can get Acme Bread at nearly any grocery store in the San Francisco Bay Area -- and lest someone (fairly) say, "Yes, but that's the Bay Area," anyone who grew up in the southern US probably knows Publix, the biggest grocery store in that region, is justifiably famous for their in-store baked breads.

I think there's sometimes a tendency among Europeans in particular to write off all American food as being essentially the same as the most iconically awful brands we have over here: Wonder bread, Velveeta cheese, Hershey's milk chocolate, Bud Light beer. And that's just not true.

I'm sort of inspired by Vox's article on the "boring lunch" here to start packing simple sandwiches again, which I haven't done in years. If I do, I'm probably going to be able to get pretty good bread, butter, cheese, and meats -- they're just not that hard to get here.

The difference is that when I lived in Florida I was going grocery shopping at Publix once a week or so. I tended to buy in bulk and prioritized shelf life. I now live in the downtown part of a walkable city and I tend to buy staples every other day or every 3 days because I can just drop in on my way home from work.

Having the good stuff suffusing your daily life rather than being a specific thing you need to go get makes a difference in your relationship to the food. It’s just easier. It’s not a decision you make, it becomes a default thing you get.

You don't need to go to a specialty bakery to get good fresh bread in most of the US. It is ubiquitous in most cities, and many stores that sell it will start to run out later in the day. It is either made or delivered daily. Several small shops within 1-2 blocks of where I live all sell fresh bread.

The old school sliced white loaf in a bag that was very popular in the 1960s has been in decline for at least a few decades. I rarely see it anymore.

In my experience most of the food is. American seem to go for quantity over quality. I am sure there are exceptions (they do good hamburgers) but most of the stuff i got served seemed overly processed.

Been living here for 20 some years never had problems finding good bread.

Most important is good bread, which is super common here

That must be a new development. I lived in Norway until 2002 and have eaten my fair share of matpacker and the bread with definitely very mediocre unless you where willing to pay ~$10 at a decent bakery. Otherwise it was Kneip, Loff or frozen baguettes , neither which can really be called "good".

But in general I agree with you. Good bread with lots of butter is amazing.

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