A Down-East Defense Of Danish Cuisine

My function is not to stir up strife amongst the colleagues and bearers of burdens. I am motivated to dispute the indisputable matter of food only because ugly Americans bring me to my feet and I kick in all directions. The good old USA is not altogether perfection, yet.

A recent amusing diatribe in this very space downgraded the Danish cuisine and told Americans in Copenhagen to do as Americans do at home. I jest some, but not too much. It seems the young lady had herself a "Schinkenburger" in the Copenhagen railroad station. And right under the snoot of Hans Christian what's-his-name! I was grateful for the message only for the chance to be heard, thus:

Well, 'pon my word, I think I would not chance a Schinkenburger in a Danish depot. Schinken means ham, and the Danes all speak English, and a Danish "ham" burger might be something waiting for the chance American who doesn't know how to spell Kondittorei. The Danish cuisine is all right. It should not be approached by the way of schinken. The Danes just laugh at ugly Americans, but there is little humor in schinken.

We tooled our happy way to Puttgarden, Germany, pausing to admire Hanseatic Lbeck, and came to the ferry Kong Freddie Umpteen to cross to Denmark. Parked on the vehicle deck, our Volkswagen Beetle was beside a sign pointing up a flight of stairs. In English, the sign said, "To Restaurant."

The schedule and duration of the voyage to Denmark accommodate a hearty meal, and at the top of that flight of stairs we found another sign, pointed up toward another staircase, that said, "To Other Restaurants." Welcome to Denmark.

The Danes are a good-looking people, lithe and tall, and merry in a cautious way. That English is common comes from generations of plaguing the English, and has no connection with America. I felt an Oxford suggestion. Kipling once whispered to Queen Victoria, "Once you have paid him the Danegeld, you'll never get rid of the Dane." Dare I suspect Schinkenburger is a trilingual pun just waiting for an American tourist?

Our first night in Denmark was spent at Mirabo, soon after leaving the ferry. I, too, made the error of asking for a room in German, since I knew no Danish. I felt the innkeeper was cool, but didn't know why.

But when I signed the register, he saw my home address and said, "So, you are not German!" He offered, "We Danes have no reason to love Germans." He said no more. Thus the air was cleared, everybody talked with us in English, and the hotel was ours.

One man at another table came to shake hands and invited us to spend a few days at his home in Jutland. He was a salesman, but would be home by the time we got there. The Danes eat well.

The next night we slept at Skotterupkro. I assumed a "kro" is a hotel. The place was beside the sea, with small fishing boats and wharves, and mallards bobbing. It was very like our Maine coast. The innkeeper told us we had chosen a good date, since supper that evening would be "everything from the sea!" I bantered that we were from the State of Maine and we might not be impressed, and he said, "I shall also have a chateaubriand." The dining room was in a red decor, with lobster traps in repose and seines along the walls. Lovely.

The Danes came to fill the place. They were in festive mood, ready for seafood, and Schinkenburger was not served. I felt the master cook outdid our Down East clambakers.

In our cozy room after the feast, with a soothing ripple from waves on the beach, I said it was a tremendous joy to hear the Danish people eat. They did so enjoy good food!

We, too, "did" Copenhagen, except for the Tivoli Gardens, which were out of season. On our way to Copenhagen we had our finest experience with Danish food.

It was approaching time to eat, and we were ready, so our VW brought us into a parking place by a restaurant. Things were most inviting. We went in to find two rows of tables, 10 to a row, set up and ready for business. China, crystal, silver, even bouquets of flowers.

Not a soul was in sight.

BEYOND the tables, a door seemed to give into the kitchen, and I walked right down to see. The kitchen was gleaming from wax and polish, and nobody was there. I called a joyful "halloo!" and got no response. On the shelf a radio was playing good music. We sat at a table, waiting for a time, and then we used the facilities and washed up for lunch. After another 20 minutes we were still alone in the place, and the radio was still playing.

We left. We discussed leaving a tip, but decided it was better to surprise whoever it might be. That's all I can tell you about that place. We remember it in particular.

As for the Schinkenburger in Copenhagen, here are a few words. I read this in a German publication. When the junk-food people decided to invade Europe, they came up against a German law that German bread must be baked in Germany by German bakers. So a German baker was asked to bake the hamburger (sic) and hot-dog rolls. He agreed, but said he wanted to improve the quality. He was told they didn't want better rolls, they wanted them just like the ones in America.

The baker refused to turn out rolls of that inferior quality. I never heard how this was resolved.

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