The profile of the ‘world’s best restaurant, Noma in Copenhagen, and cutting edge TV drama have contributed to a fascination with New Nordic Cookery and admiration for all things Scandinavian. However, not all the recent news emanating from Denmark more recently has supported these glowing reports.
‘Scandimania’ seems to have gripped the UK in recent years – not just the growing interest in Nordic cookery but the success of TV dramas ‘The Killing’ ‘Borgen’ and ‘The Bridge’.
A new TV series on Channel 4 'Scandimania', fronted by TV chef, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, began in February. In the programme, he visited Sweden, Denmark and Norway.
Needles to say his visit to Denmark included learning a trick or two from Rene Redzepi, the founder of the Noma restaurant, which revived the interest in local, seasonal and foraged foods.
The programme also looked more broadly at some of the nuances of Danish culture and society. It mentioned that the Danes were No.1 in the World Happiness Report 2013 and how trust and 'hygge' (‘cosiness’) permeates life in Denmark as opposed to our own more adversarial culture.
However, elsewhere, ‘Scandimania’ appears to be turning into ‘Scandifatigue’ as reflected in “The Almost Perfect People – The truth behind the Nordic Miracle”. The author is Michael Booth, who lived in Denmark for 10 years and has a Danish wife. His book seeks to puncture the bubble of Scandi-hype… the Danes may be the happiest people in the world but they forgot to tell you that they’re also the world’s second highest users of anti-depressants.
Denmark’s reputation also took another recent bashing over the treatment of Marius, now the world’s most famous giraffe. Surplus to requirements at Copenhagen zoo, Marius was put down and the post-mortem was broadcast live on the internet as well as watched by a live audience, including children, before the meat was fed to the lions. The very ‘matter of fact’ interview given by the zoo director, Bengst Host, to Channel 4 will have done little to assuage the sensibilities of an animal-loving British audience.
But, fear not, the cavalry is at hand. The Vikings will be back in London in March, as a four month 'Vikings: Life and Legend' exhibition opens at the British Museum.