Smørrebrød: Bread and Butter, and then some
There is no single meal that represents Danish cuisine better than smørrebrød, which literally means “buttered bread”. Forget everything you know about sandwiches; these guys are a class apart. An open-faced sandwich featuring rye sourdough bread smothered in butter and topped with combinations of seafood, cold cuts, and cured meats, vegetables, and condiments.
Smørrebrød became the default option for an inexpensive, satisfying lunch in the late 19th century when factory workers began eating their midday meal away from home. Leftovers were piled onto cheap rugbrød (rye-bread) for a filling meal and a gastronomic tradition was born.
Soon these heaped sandwiches became popular with everyone, from farmers and factory workers to the urban elite. It’s the details, contrasting flavors, and the etiquettes to consuming it that make this so special.
The sandwich’s codified preparation makes it a uniquely Danish staple, with a handful of rules that need to be adhered to for the full experience. Some rules are intuitive: avoid mixing proteins and layer toppings by thickness. But there are less obvious rules too: to eat an array of smørrebrød, start with herring before moving onto any other fish, eat meat next, and finish with cheese. For the love of god, use a knife and fork; never your hands.
Smørrebrød had become somewhat of a lost tradition till young Danish chefs breathed new life into it; social media did the rest. Danes are hungrier than ever for their traditional lunch and its popularity is spreading from coast to coast. Smørrebrød cafes are popping up across the globe and a whole new generation has fallen in love with the no-frills lunch option. We can totally see why. It’s quick and convenient to make at home, and it’s a wholly healthy option.
There are a host of recipes available online, so don’t shy away from fixing up your very own smørrebrød, as long as you stick to the basic rules- there’s no such thing as too outlandish a combination. Don’t forget to send us your creations on Instagram. Godspeed.