Many times when I tell non-Danes that I’m living in Copenhagen, the reaction is always: “WOW!”. And I agree — Copenhagen is a great city in many aspects. While the is city famous for its beautiful landscapes, architecture and lifestyle, after three years of living here, my biggest personal interest has narrowed to food.
As an authentic Chinese woman from the Northern part of China, where the region is famous for the sugar rush of sweet watermelon and grapes, I had a hard time to accept that these very same fruits can be watery and tasteless. The first summer I was in Copenhagen I spent a lot of time strolling through different supermarkets trying to find a slice watermelon that could live up to my standards. Obviously, that didn’t happen. But, I was so preoccupied with this that I didn’t even notice there were so many others options to satisfy my fruity palate.
After the dark clouds of the dreaded Scandinavian winter came, a silver lining emerged. I moved to an apartment right next to the famous Torvehallerne farmers market in Copenhagen. Although this particular market is more commercial rather than the real down-to-earth farmers market, all the fresh vegetables and fruits were more than enough to capture my attention. In the early summer days, the market is brimming with strawberries. I randomly picked up one box of ‘Dansk jordbær’ and, subsequently, ended buying a box every day they were available. The flavour, which may sound very clichéd, brought back old memories. I didn’t grow up eating strawberries but the real fruit taste dragged me back to my childhood. Back to a time when I probably didn’t even knowing that a country like Denmark existed.
coming from a country with the world’s biggest population, I will always go for local food first.
Copenhagen is such a seasonal city. You can clearly tell the period of the year by spotting the seasonal foods, even when the temperatures may indicate otherwise. My go-to burger place has an asparagus veggie ‘patty’ when it’s in the season and when fall is approaching, the yellow mushroom “Chanterelle” (Danish: ‘kantarell’) is all over the city, waiting for you to cook them with butter.
On my way to seasonal food exploration, the phrases ‘organic’ and ‘local’ constantly appeared. We’ve been educated on the benefits of organic food but what about trying to consume more local food? Prior to coming to Denmark, I didn’t really know the difference between the two or what was perceived as more beneficial. While organic food needs to meet sustainable agriculture criteria, it often comes with long-distance transportation, often referred to as the ‘food mile’. Local food, although not necessarily organic, grows with the season and follows a much shorter food mile.
It might be hard to choose which party to join but, in Denmark, I found out there are many local organic farms around. Some of them are even just outside Copenhagen, bringing the idyllic farm-to-table concept into city life. Here, it’s easy and relatively still affordable to be a local and organic consumer. Trying to be an environmentally friendly consumer doesn’t mean that I only eat potatoes and carrots during winter or that I only buy organic avocados from Mexico. It means that I, at least, make conscious decisions about what I eat and I don’t ask for too much.
Maybe people will argue that if the whole world went organic that we wouldn’t be able to feed everyone, which might very well be true. My understanding of sustainable food is still quite limited but, coming from a country with the world’s biggest population, I will always go for local food first. And, admittedly, I do look forward to when I can go back home next summer and eat a scoop of local watermelon.