Soul Food for the Dark Times

Still Life With Danish Open-Faced Sandwich.
Still Life With Danish Open-Faced Sandwich.  Called “smorrebrød”, it’s eaten with fork and knife and usually features smoked or pickled fish and butter on a slice of the heavy loaf at left called “rugbrød”, which translates to “rye bread”. Two things: one, there’s no way to make a painting like this without filling the flat with fish odor that grows more withering by the minute, and two, if you aren’t born Danish, you have no hope of ever pronouncing “rugbrød”like a native. The word is spoken at the back of the throat, and if you’re good you can say it without moving your lips. I use the word all the time, too, since I like eating rugbrød. So I’m also becoming immune to embarrassment. I asked one baker if “rugbrød” could be the hardest word in the Danish language.  He just smiled and said, “Welcome to Denmark”. Pastel on Artspectrum Colourfix paper, 14″ x 16″.

We’ve fallen into Dark Times here in Denmark. It’s dark now at around 4 pm, and in midday the sun is so low in the gray sky there’s not much light seeping through the windows anyway. I was warned about the Dark Times. The Danish cure for it is to light candles, throw on another scarf and drink hot mulled wine from one of those little wooden huts just now popping up in all the town squares. And eat good things. Smorrebrød may be a year-round sandwich, but along with the Dark Times comes the season of Jul, or Yule, which has a cuisine tradition all its own. And the little wooden huts have popped up downstairs all along Nyhavn Canal, gently pushing back the darkness.

5 thoughts on “Soul Food for the Dark Times

  1. Marci says:

    I love the way you wrote this. I feel like I am there! Perhaps the candles served duel purpose, light & warmth as well as odor control ( scented variety, of course…what is the scent cure for ripe fish? ) ; )

  2. zeladoniac says:

    Thanks, Marci! The cure for ripe fish smell is…open all the windows. No matter how cold. I’m wondering how the Flemish Masters painted their sumptuous banquet scenes with all those dead animals…

  3. 7891samoth says:

    Beautiful – i love the blue in the shadows. It represents the kind of light that we have now.. I woudln’t mind having that smell here right now. I’d be the first one to steal your sildemad! (Hering sandwich – i presume?)

    1. zeladoniac says:

      Yes, it’s a sildemad- and the herring on it is pickled. After many hours of painting, though, you might not want that particular sandwich. Glad you like the sildemad, and the blue light, too. Thanks for the note!

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