Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Mysterious Case of the Burning Norwegian Cheese

As I have written about before on my blog, my grandfather Hjalmar ate a Norwegian brown goat cheese called ekte gjetost nearly everyday. He would slice the cheese very thinly, then place it on rye bread or crackers, with a slab of butter. If he ate it plain he would place a slice on the roof of his mouth, and slowly suck. He claimed it was delicious, but it was a most unappealing looking cheese.

None of my other family members joined him in consuming this delicacy. In fact, to us the cheese resembled a hunk of brown soap that you'd scrub a goat with, rather than eat.

When I visited Norway in my twenties in the spirit of acquiring family culture, I decided to try ekte gjetost (pronounced yed-oost). It has a very pungent taste and smell, and I quickly understood why my grandfather sliced the cheese very thinly. The Scandinavians also call it Brunost, because it is caramelized and loaded with sugar. I acquired a taste for this cheese. 

Indeed it is very delicious with rye bread and honey and jam especially.

In the United States Brunost is usually only available in specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods, or now online I'm sure. In the 1990s I used to find it at a specialty store in Harvard Square. Afterwards I did not see the cheese for awhile, until I went to the Norwegian Cultural Festival. I thought I better stock up, so I bought a huge block of gjetost. It had a dark blue and yellow plastic wrapping, with happy, dancing goats all over it.

This cheese lasted an eternity in my refrigerator. (there's no such thing as mold on Norwegian cheese, unlike those delicate French cheeses!!)

On NPR this week I heard that there was a freaky truck accident in Norway involving a truck load of brunost. The truck crashed and got stuck in a tunnel, caught on fire, and then burned for six days, blocking all the traffic for two miles. No one would ever expect 54,000 pounds of cheese to burn so long.

This event occurred in Knarvik Norway, which happens to be the area of Norway where my grandfather was born. In fact my great grandmother Henrikka Hansdatter was from Knarvik, Lindas Norway. 

Isn't it good, Norwegian brunost?
While I suppose the blocked traffic was an inconvenience, including the toxic flames, I can imagine the local Norwegians must have also had a good laugh. The smell alone must have been quite noticeable for miles. 

I know my grandfather would be cracking up right now, if he heard the story.

1 comment:

Reese Darragh said...

Yes, it is absolutely delicious. Am having my fill in Norway now before heading back to MA