Welcome to yet another weblog post about Norwegian culture. All three definitions used, apply here. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, culture can refer to “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.” It can also refer to, “the act or process of cultivating living material (such as bacteria or viruses) in prepared nutrient media.” A third definition refers to the, “acquaintance with and taste in fine arts, humanities, and broad aspects of science as distinguished from vocational and technical skills.” This will be done by introducing some norske ord = Norwegian words.
Wikipedia tells us, “Milk is a nutrient-rich, white liquid food produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for infant mammals (including humans who are breastfed) before they are able to digest other types of food.”
The average Norwegian consumes about 90 liters of melk = milk annually, along with 11 kg of yogurt = yogurt, 10 kg of krem = cream products and about 20 kg of ost = cheese. There are about 10 500 dairy farms in Norway, each with an average of 25 cows. Altogether there are about 230 000 dairy cows in Norway with each cow producing an average of 7 500 kg of milk each year. In addition, there are about 35 000 goats producing about 20 million liters of goat’s milk each year.
Sweet milk must be kept cool so as not to become sour. Without cooling technology, it was impossible to transport milk long distances, whether it was from farm to customer, from farm to dairy or from dairy to shop. The market for milk production was primarily in the cities. Therefore, the production of milk to drink was initially a niche for urban farming or for farms situated on the outskirts of the cities. Farmers who were farther away from the cities produced milk that could be processed into more durable and more easily transportable milk products such as smør = butter or cheese. Refrigeration technology has become increasingly important since the mid-1900s.
Until the middle of the 20th century milk in Norway was sold by the churn or pail. The dairies transported span = churns (milk containers) out to shops. The customers brought their own milk pails to the shops where the serving clerks poured milk from the large dairy churns. The customers also had their own smaller cream pails.
In the 1930s, provisions were made that all milk sold in stores should be pasteurized. Milk bottles were used in the interwar period, first in the big cities. Around 1960, clear glass milk bottles were replaced with brown bottles that better protected the milk from light. The milk bottles were returned by the customers to the stores.
In the 1960s, the melkekartong = milk cartons came into use, and with this, disposable packaging was introduced. By 1980, all Norwegian dairies had replaced bottles with milk cartons.
Since the 1970s, the selection of dairy products in the Norwegian grocery trade has multiplied. Yogurt was introduced around 1970, including yogurt flavored with fruit and berries.
Around 1960, skummet melk = skimmed milk came on the market. Lettmelk = low fat milk was not on sale until 1984, and in the 2000s, extra low fat milk was introduced to the market. Since the 1980s, low fat milk has accounted for an increasing proportion of the drinking milk volume.
Kulturmelk = cultured milk was originally a general type designation for soured milk, but from 2005 (together with skummet kulturmelk = skim cultured milk) it became protected by the Norwegian agricultural industry’s public labeling protected food names and belongs to Tine SA. Cultured milk is referred to by many as surmelk = sour milk as opposed to søtmelk = sweet milk, ordinary whole milk.
In contrast to North America, where similar types of milk can be made through acidification, pure lactic acid bacterial cultures are used to make cultured milk and to give it a distinctive taste and consistency, in contrast to regular homogenized milk. Regular cultured milk contains 3.8% fat, while skim cultured milk contains 0.4% fat.
Cultured milk is consumed as a drink, poured on assorted types of breakfast cereals, and is used as an ingredient in baked goods.
In Norway, one finds many other soured milk products. Tettemelk = dense milk and skjør are old varieties of Nordic cultured milk. Kefir is undoubtedly even older, but its use in Norway is more recent, as is that of yogurt. Cultura and Biola, which are Tine brands, are flavored cultured milk. Kesam or kvarg = quark, is a fresh cheese made from skimmed cultured milk.
I consume cultured milk almost exclusively, despite having to read the carton in Nynorsk = New Norwegian, the second and less popular Norwegian language that originates along the West Coast of Norway: Kulturmjølk. Syrna mjølk med lange tradisjonar. Heftig og frisk smak – ikkje ulik naturen mjølka kjem frå. (Nynorsk) = Kulturmelk. Surmelk med lange tradisjoner. Sterk og frisk smak – ikke ulik naturen melken kommer fra. (Bokmål) = Cultured Milk. Sour milk with long traditions. Strong and fresh taste – not unlike the nature, milk come from.
An irritation: Tine insists on telling me that cultured milk is traditional. I disagree. It is a modern, bacteriological enhanced milk product that has some superficial similarities to historic varieties. I also object to statements about milk being a natural product. It is a product from industrialized agriculture.
More information about milk (in Norwegian) can be found at: melk.no
An aside about food security
“Food security exists when all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe food for an adequate diet that meets their nutritional needs and preferences, and which forms the basis for an active and healthy life.” United Nations definition
The term is sometimes used indiscriminately to cover also food safety, which means that the food does not contain microorganisms, environmental toxins or additives that negatively impact health, when food items are prepared and consumed as intended.
Norway is a net exporter of sea food. It produces more than enough of everything needed domestically, and its sea food exports significantly exceed its sea food imports. Norway is self-sufficient in milk. It is largely self-sufficient when it comes to meat. However, where it fails is its considerable – and increasing – deficit with respect to plant produce. It is now able to provide considerably less than 50%.
It is this lack of sufficiency in plant materials, that is prompting me to build a community greenhouse, with other members of Friends of the Earth, Inderøy, and to experiment with hydroponic gardening.
At this point, I should probably add that I do not have anything against gene modified organisms in principal. I would have no objection to using an artificial milk that is produced through bacterial processes, in vats. It seems much more humane than keeping cows. This does not mean that I support other gene modifications, such as Monsanto/ Bayer and their use of glyphosate herbicides. However, I have studied genetic engineering and microbiology, and see both fields as important contributors to increasing stocks of nutritious foods, if done properly.