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Smørrebrød: A Danish Delight


Americans love their grilled cheese sandwiches. Whether the toasties are being delivered by parachute or by one of NASA’s very efficient Smart Boxes, we just can’t seem to get enough of that cheesy sandwich goodness. But good ol’ USA isn’t the only country to declare the bread-and-dairy combo to be a national favorite. In Denmark, smørrebrød open-faced sandwiches are considered to be a culinary treasure, and are revered as a traditional dish that represents the true Danish experience. Often eaten as a series of mini sandwich courses, the cheese smørrebrød is the perfect way to round out this classic Scandinavian meal.

Photo Credit: Image courtesy of seriouseats.com

Photo Credit: Image courtesy of seriouseats.com

With a name that translates to “butter bread,” smørrebrød in its most basic form is a piece of dense sourdough rye bread and a thin slathering of butter; all additional toppings are merely a decadent luxury. This iconic Danish dish has its roots in Medieval European dining but was popularized by 19th-century factory workers who needed a conveniently packed lunch to get them through the grueling day. Piled high with leftovers and scraps from the previous night’s dinner, whole-grain rye smeared in butter or animal fat was exactly the boost of energy that the famished industrial workers needed. Since that time, smørrebrød has developed into a Danish delicacy that is prized for its sophisticated flavor combinations.

When eaten in courses, the three primary groups of toppings include briny fish, rich meat, and creamy cheese. As part of smørrebrød dining etiquette, these flavor profiles have a very particular order, and the cheese course always comes last. The most popular variety of cheesy smørrebrød highlights Danish blue cheese, which makes a delightful pairing with sweet apples or pears. The rye bread does a particularly good job of soaking up any excess fruit juices and gives a refreshing note to the final bites of the meal. Of course, blue cheese smørrebrød can also take on a savory quality with the addition of bacon. Because everything is better with bacon, right?

Photo Credit: Image courtesy of npr.com

Photo Credit: Image courtesy of npr.org

Photo Credit: Featured image courtesy of npr.org

Emily Dangler

Culture Intern Emily Dangler is a creative writer and travel enthusiast, who is always looking for a good story to tell. Originally a West Coast girl, Emily has spent several years migrating across the country and is currently an adopted resident of Boston, where she is enjoying the city's delicious food and rich history.