How to feed a Viking

Are you having a Norse beforeigner over for dinner, or do you just want to try out the Norse diet yourself?

When you think of Norse food you might be caught up in the cliché of burly men eating large chunks of meat straight off the bone. Well, people still do that today whenever we find ourselves in a BBQ restaurant, but Norse table manners were actually more sophisticated than you might think.

There were forks and spoons made from wood, bone or iron.

Everyone typically brought their own knife, so no need to worry about that if you’re having a Viking over for dinner.

The Norse typically lived near the coast, so their diet consisted of a lot more fish than their contemporaries in other regions. The Norse diet was also rich on vegetables, roots, fruits and berries. A plant like lambsquarters (meldestokk or svinmålla) would fill the same niche as spinach today, rich in iron and protein, while chervil (kjørvel or körvel) was used as a spice, similar to anise.

There were trade routes with the Far East, so spices from so far afield were not unheard of in Norse cooking.

The Norse had two hearty meals per day. At brunch time they would have a meal called dagmál (day meal) which could be bread or porridge and leftovers from the day before. At 7 or 8 in the evening they would eat their dinner, called náttmál (night meal). This would often be a meat or fish stew, but feel free to make something more elaborate if you have guests.

Female Norse visitors will probably volunteer to help with making the food, but the men are not expected to go anywhere near the kitchen.

“...it is not for men to get mixed up in the preparation of food.” Hallgerðr in Brennu-Njáls saga

The only sweetener available in Norse cooking was honey, so stay away from refined sugars, as Type 2 diabetes is a common beforeigner malady.

It was much more common to boil meat than to grill it in Norse cooking, but smoking fish and meat was used for conservation, to make it last throughout winter.

RECIPE SUGGESTION - SERVES 4 PEOPLE

Nettle and Meat soup

  • 1½ liters water
  • ½ kg meat (pork or lamb)
  • 3 parsnips
  • 2 turnips

  • 2 large onions
  • 2-3 cups of nettle top shoots
  • Thyme, nutmeg, black pepper and salt to taste

Brown the meat for a few minutes in hot oil. Place the meat in the water, bring to a boil, and then simmer for about an hour. Skim off the froth and oil from the top of the water and discard. Dice the onion and root vegetables.

Wash the nettle shoots and chop them coarsely. After half an hour, add the vegetables and herbs to the soup. When the meat is tender, remove and cube it before returning it to the pot. Add salt to taste. Serve with flatbread.