Why I Write About Food 028: Nevada Berg of North Wild Kitchen

From her mountain farm in Numedal, Norway US-born Nevada writes about the food of the country her family now calls home. Through the recipes and experiences this globetrotter shares, we learn about Norwegian food, from ancient traditions to modern interpretations in her kitchen. It's an eye-opening journey, and a delicious one to boot!

Tell us about North Wild Kitchen. 
North Wild Kitchen chronicles Norwegian cooking. I share the traditions, stories, and recipes of Norway. I like to think of the blog as a way to connect the reader to a more holistic Norway, whether by the history of a dish or the landscape or the traditions that are embedded into the culture. For me, it is very important to include the stories of local producers and home cooks so they can share their knowledge and techniques.

I hope my readers will be inspired to approach Norwegian cooking both traditionally and in new and creative ways. I feature older recipes and traditional techniques of cooking as a way to share the importance of maintaining these methods and inspire younger generations to learn them and pass them down as well. I hope my approach to Norwegian ingredients will help others to understand the abundance and diversity of produce and livestock in Norway.

As an introduction to Norwegian food, what are three things we should know about it? 
1. Lunch means one thing: Matpakke (or packed lunches). It doesn’t matter whether one is going to work or school or a museum or travelling, Norwegians will rarely deviate from their beloved matpakke, which consists of a few slices of healthy bread topped with a slice of cheese, jam, meat, or anything else one fancies. There are even songs and books on the subject.

2. Brunost is a distinctive Norwegian brown cheese made from goat’s milk that has attracted the attention of many across the globe. It’s slightly sweet and goes great on top of waffles! You can’t visit Norway without trying brunost.

3. Sheep’s head served on a plate is a real dish. It’s called Smalahove and goes through a process of being salted, smoked, and boiled. The dish has a long tradition in the western part of Norway and was a way to utilize all of the food on the animals.

Lastly, Norway has the best strawberries in the world… hands down!

How is life on the farm? What does seasonal eating and cooking mean for you on the farm?
The farm is such a reflection of my kitchen these days. Our farm is in the area of Numedal and the mountains surround us. We have embraced the stillness and calmness as we take more time to cook and eat together. It is important to us that we utilize the land, so we raised our first brood of chickens last fall and planted a couple of fruit trees, vegetables, and herbs this past spring.

It is important to me that I understand the seasons and approach my cooking in a way that reflects what and when the land produces. Therefore, I cook with the mindset of what is available during the growing seasons as well as what can be preserved for the winter season. Utilizing a farm to table approach is very important for me, as I want the flavors to be at their peak for those I am cooking for.

You've lived in many different countries throughout the years. How has that influenced or changed the way you cook?
I really had to grow in my cooking and step outside of certain notions and walls I had built up about cooking. For example, at first I found it quite difficult to adjust recipes when I couldn’t find an ingredient that I was always used to using. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around not being able to access that ingredient and cooking without it. Eventually I learned to live without, because I could and because there is always a substitute or a different ingredient. Being forced to forfeit some of my cooking ‘blocks’, if you will, enabled me to be a better cook, to adapt and to see greater possibilities in my approach and tastes.

I also made it a point to learn from each culture, try their foods, and sink into an understanding of why and how. I cooked with locals, took courses, went on culinary excursions, and embraced as much as I could wherever I was. When I cook now, I rely on what is available to me from the country I am in and I find the challenge to be creative within that framework really exciting.

What dish always tastes like home to you?
When spring comes around and the first rhubarb stalks appear I always bake a rhubarb pie. It takes me back to when I would visit my grandmother and grandpa in the mountains of Colorado. Whenever my grandma had rhubarb in the garden, she always made a pie. Rhubarb has a special place in Norwegian cooking and I always look forward to June when I get to sink into a pie that tastes of my old home and my new home. 

Why do you write about food?
I have always been fascinated by food history and culture.  As an adult, my curiosity and interest in food took over and I began with greater fervor to learn about techniques and flavors. I started to develop my culinary interests more while living in multiple countries and was able to see food as a common thread in every culture, which we can all relate to.

I learned to appreciate different methods of cooking and the importance of understanding where our food comes from, as well as the history and stories behind the recipes. It was quite natural to then combine my interests in food culture with my hobbies of writing and photography to relate my experiences to others. The idea to start a food blog was brewing in my mind for some time, but it wasn’t’ until we moved to Norway that it really became clear what kind of food blog I wanted it to be.

What are you currently reading?
On my desk, I currently have the magazines Mat Fra Norge and Mat og Vin. I also have Magnus Nilsson’s The Nordic Cookbook. My go-to read for Norway’s food history is Henry Notaker’s Ganens Makt.

What's your favorite recipe on North Wild Kitchen?
One of my favorite traditional recipes might just be rømmegrøt. Rømmegrøt is a sour cream porridge topped with butter, cinnamon, and sugar. It has such a rich history and still stands as a very iconic Norwegian dish. I wasn’t too sure of it the first time I had it or even the second, but then I had it while visiting a friend on her mountain farm and it was beyond exquisite. The sour cream was made from the milk of her cows, which graze freely along the mountain grass all summer.

To add my own twist on rømmegrøt, I also created a rømmegrøt ice cream for the summer. It has a sour cream base and is topped with cinnamon sugar and crispy fenalår (cured lamb) pieces. So divine!

Visit Nevada's website at www.northwildkitchen.com
Recommended Recipes:
Chanterelle & Goat Cheese Skillet

Rhubard and Juniper Pie
Rømmegrøt with Homemade Sour Cream