I’ve never been a fan of cooking shows but one day my mum made me watch an episode of a Nigella show. She was just so exquisite and had such a warm personality and her show seemed more interesting than the crappy 10 minute morning news show style cooking segments I was used to. I’ve heard my mum rave about River Cottage / Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and I’m obsessed with just about everything Nordic so that made the DVD even more appealing. At least if was shit I’d get to see some cool scenery and learn a bit about my cultural heritage.
Scandimania is a three episode series with an episode each dedicated to Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Hugh wants to find out why these countries are known as the happiest countries in the world, or as he so eloquently puts it: “to break the Norse code”. He sets out to show us that the Nordic cuisine isn’t just meatballs, pickled herring and smörgåsbords anymore.
Some of the highlights then.
Sweden: Hugh visits a wood fire restaurant in Stockholm to try some of their cuisine then heads to the Abba museum to have a sing and dance. He later hangs out with Bjorn Ulvaeus in which they discuss the Swedish saying lagom “just enough”. He then goes hunting in Umea and cooks Elk liver for dinner and watches a flat-pack house being put together.
Denmark: Known for Borgen and Bikes, Hugh cooks with Rene Redzepi the head chef at Noma, which has been voted the best restaurant in the world for three years straight. He hangs out with a cast member from The Killing and Borgen. The UN declared Denmark the happiest country in the world and Hugh checks out their penchant for biking and visits a boarding school where teens are taught to become better citizens. He ends up cooking a feast of lamb Nordic style.
Norway: In the land of fjords and fishing Hugh tries smoked sheeps head, and hangs out on an oil rig and partakes in an evacuation. He catches up with Vegard and Bård Ylvisåker of comedy act Ylvis (of The Fox fame) and discuses Janteloven and how it is relevant to them. He discusses the Breivik massacre with a crime writer and then visits a prison island which resembles a holiday park. He then heads off to a remote fishing village to try some shellfish.
I was expecting more cooking but I enjoyed the travelogue aspect of the show but the social commentary was a bit rushed at times. It’s not very in-depth and moves subjects quite quickly but then it was meant to be light but Hugh discusses some weighty topics at times. While this was interesting to me if you’re expecting an out-and-out cooking DVD this is not it. It’s basically some food at the start and end of the episodes and in between is discovering Nordic cultures and customs.
Hugh’s a really entertaining and charismatic person to watch and a bit of a joke-ster so the show’s never dull or boring. Well worth checking out if you’re a fan of Hugh’s or a fan of all things Nordic.
Hugh’s Scandimania is available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.