The Norwegian pantry is a bit of an oddity to me.
Every, and I mean every Norwegian wife has a cupboard full of the national baking necessities; cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon. Throw in a few bags of flour, yeast, some sugar (granulated, pearl, and vanilla scented), and salt, and you’ve got the backbone for every Norwegian baked good conceivable.
This differs with the American kitchen in a few critical points.
Baking soda, which Americans use in mass quantities in everything from their chocolate chip cookies to deodorizing their fridges and running shoes, is found in Norway only in “street sized” packets. Judging by the price of baking soda in the grocery stores here, you’d easily assume that there is a war going on and rationing baking soda is the patriotic thing to do. Me? Don’t tell the border control, but I import King Sized Arm and Hammer boxes from the states.
Another thing I’ve started smuggling across the ocean is vanilla extract. Vanilla extract brings back memories from childhood when I would sneak up into my mom’s spice cabinet and take a little nip from the vanilla bottle. They say that kids learn quickly from their mistakes, but even though the initial shock of how strong that stuff was the first time I tried it out, the intense and alluring smell kept me coming back for more.
Although I stopped taking hits from the vanilla extract bottle well over two decades ago, I still adore the stuff and find it to be a crucial flavor enhancement in a large portion of everything I bake. Vanilla beans are great to have in certain desserts, but when practicality and affordability is at the top of importance I tend to turn to my Costco brand Pure Vanilla Extract. Whether my vanilla is from Madagascar, Mexico, or Tahiti is really the least of my concern when I’m baking. What does matter is that I don’t have to use the Norwegian favorite vanilla sugar (vanilla flavored powdered sugar- weird, right?) and that I have my 16 fluid ounce bottle of extract by my side, rather than the doll house sized 15 ml bottle, available in Norwegian grocery stores.
The list of pantry oddities can go on and on. I can remember the pure astonishment (and excitement) in my sister-in-laws voice when she found out you can buy blue food coloring in America. Red, yellow, heck- even green! food coloring is readily available in Norway, but apparently that blue color is just too risky to have on little Sigrid’s birthday cake. I could probably make a killing selling little flasks of blue on the black market here.
A few other baking unattainables in this part of the globe: butterscotch or toffee of any sort, corn syrup (for good reason), cream of tarter, light brown sugar, peppermint extract (not to mention maple, raspberry, banana, and root beer), decent cocoa powder, mini marshmallows and marshmallow fluff (I know, the outrage!), and extra large eggs.
Although not typical items for baked goods, the following are crucial to the American kitchen, and are not available in Norway: grape jelly, canned or boxed chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, a can of Campbell’s tomato soup for less that six bucks, a KitchenAid Mixer for less than a thousand dollars, decent ice cube trays, and Ziplock bags. Needless to say, I stock up on Ziplocks when traveling back home and will never own a KitchenAid Mixer without winning the lottery.
It’s nice to have a place to rant and rave about the insignificant things in life. Sometimes you need a place to express your frustrations and annoyances, especially your culinary ones, and especially when your husband couldn’t care less if you can’t get a hold of light corn syrup for your pecan pie. But never fear, the next Transplanted Baker post will be free of whining and will be purely edible and delicious, complete with a recipe. That’s a promise.