Understanding Matpakke—Norway's National Packed-Lunch Obsession

iStock.com/artisteer
iStock.com/artisteer

We could all save a little money if we ate like the Norwegians do. As the BBC reports, the Scandinavian country's humble matpakke is not just a meal, but a way of life.

A matpakke (pronounced maad-pukk-eh) is a packed lunch that often contains a stacked open-face sandwich with layers of fish, meat, or cheese on several thin slices of whole-wheat bread. Sandwiches wrapped in parchment paper—sometimes with messages like "ha' en god dag!" (have a good day) written on top—are a common sight in school cafeterias across the country.

This national tradition continues well into adulthood, with many worker-bees choosing their tried-and-trusted matpakke over fast food. (The fact that Norway has the most expensive McDonald's branch in the world, where a Big Mac meal will set you back $23, might have something to do with that.)

In fact, the Norwegians take their matpakke so seriously that 30 percent of citizens have brought one on a plane in their hand luggage, according to an Expedia survey of 4000 people that was spotted by Norwegian news site Thor News.

While it's certainly practical and pragmatic, the average matpakke isn't exactly a gourmet meal. "In Norway, you're not supposed to look forward to your lunch," Ronald Sagatun, who runs a YouTube channel about Norwegian culture, says in a video. "It's kind of a strict thing. It's easy to make, easy to carry around, easy to eat, but it should be a disappointment."

So why do so many Norwegians continue to pack such a specific lunch if it's not especially tasty? Part of the explanation is that it's rooted in Norwegian tradition, history, and culture. According to Thor News, the tradition dates back to the '20s, when the government introduced a free "Oslo Breakfast" to schools in the capital in an attempt to encourage healthier eating habits. The government lacked the necessary funds to introduce the project nationwide, but many families started preparing the meal at home. It consisted of two to three cups of milk, half of an apple or orange, dry biscuits, and a granary loaf with butter and whey cheese.

Nowadays, the matpakke is viewed as a way of being resourceful, independent, and responsible—and it's unlikely to go away anytime soon.

[h/t BBC]

To Avoid Grocery Shopping, Quarantined Americans Are Reviving Wartime-Era Victory Gardens

Zbynek Pospisil/iStock via Getty Images
Zbynek Pospisil/iStock via Getty Images

For many people practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the supermarket is the one place where it's practically impossible to avoid crowds. When they do brave the stores, shoppers may struggle to find what they're looking for, with panic buyers clearing shelves of everything from pasta to produce. Though the circumstances are different, citizens across the country are responding to the novel coronavirus outbreak by reviving a trend from the First and Second World Wars. As The New York Times reports, victory gardens are making a comeback.

Victory gardens started in 1917 as a way to supplement the commercial farming disrupted by World War I. As farmers became soldiers and farms became battlefields in Europe, the U.S. agricultural industry suddenly found itself responsible for feeding its own citizens as well as its allies abroad. Encouraging people to plant crops in any available space they could find—including rooftops, parks, backyards, empty lots, and fire escapes—was a way to lighten the burden.

The U.S. government formed the National War Garden Commission weeks before joining the war. Over the next couple of years, pamphlets were distributed to citizens showing them which seeds to plant and how to protect them from pests and diseases. One booklet read “The War Garden of 1918 must become the Victory Garden of 1919.”

Thanks to the effort, 3 million new gardens were cultivated in America in 1917 and 5.2 million appeared in 1918. The initiative resurfaced during World War II, and again, it was a huge success. At its peak, home and community gardens were producing nearly 40 percent of all fresh vegetables in the country.

For more than 70 years, victory gardens only existed as a footnote in history books, but now, they're seeing a resurgence. The U.S. isn't at war, and as of now there's no risk of the country running out of food, but the chaos and fear surrounding trips to the grocery stores are inspiring many people to turn to their own backyards. As many industries are struggling, seed companies are seeing a spike in business. Organizations dedicated to gardening are also seeing the trends. Soul Fire Farm in upstate New York normally builds about 10 community gardens outside homes, schools, and churches a year. But since the start of the novel coronavirus crisis, they've received 50 requests for community gardens.

A home garden is only useful in times of national hardship if it actually produces something. If you're interested in building a sustainable home garden and limiting your trips to the supermarket, here are some easy plants to start with and gardening mistakes to avoid.

[h/t The New York Times]

America’s 10 Most Hated Easter Candies

Peeps are all out of cluck when it comes to confectionery popularity contests.
Peeps are all out of cluck when it comes to confectionery popularity contests.
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Whether you celebrate Easter as a religious holiday or not, it’s an opportune time to welcome the sunny, flora-filled season of spring with a basket or two of your favorite candy. And when it comes to deciding which Easter-themed confections belong in that basket, people have pretty strong opinions.

This year, CandyStore.com surveyed more than 19,000 customers to find out which sugary treats are widely considered the worst. If you’re a traditionalist, this may come as a shock: Cadbury Creme Eggs, Peeps, and solid chocolate bunnies are the top three on the list, and generic jelly beans landed in the ninth spot. While Peeps have long been polarizing, it’s a little surprising that the other three classics have so few supporters. Based on some comments left by participants, it seems like people are just really particular about the distinctions between certain types of candy.

Generic jelly beans, for example, were deemed old and bland, but people adore gourmet jelly beans, which were the fifth most popular Easter candy. Similarly, people thought Cadbury Creme Eggs were messy and low-quality, while Cadbury Mini Eggs—which topped the list of best candies—were considered inexplicably delicious and even “addictive.” And many candy lovers prefer hollow chocolate bunnies to solid ones, which people explained were simply “too much.” One participant even likened solid bunnies to bricks.

candystore.com's worst easter candies
The pretty pastel shades of bunny corn don't seem to be fooling the large contingent of candy corn haters.
CandyStore.com

If there’s one undeniable takeaway from the list of worst candies, it’s that a large portion of the population isn’t keen on chewy marshmallow treats in general. The eighth spot went to Hot Tamales Peeps, and Brach’s Marshmallow Chicks & Rabbits—which one person christened “the zombie bunny catacomb statue candy”—sits at number six.

Take a look at the full list below, and read more enlightening (and entertaining) survey comments here.

  1. Cadbury Creme Eggs
  1. Peeps
  1. Solid chocolate bunnies
  1. Bunny Corn
  1. Marshmallow Chicks & Rabbits
  1. Chocolate crosses
  1. Twix Eggs
  1. Hot Tamales Peeps
  1. Generic jelly beans
  1. Fluffy Stuff Cotton Tails

[h/t CandyStore.com]

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