The new Nordic green cuisine has become a mark of identity

Economy packs of Danish meat and potato chips or venison and hand-picked lingonberries? The new Nordic green cuisine has become one of our most important marks of identity. Eating like a foodie – organic, ethical, modern and innovative food, is a way of acquiring status.

 Sofia Ulver, Associate professor of marketing at the School of Economics and Management.

Interior design was big in the 1990s. But now interest in food has become the new black.

Among other things, consumption researcher Sofia Ulver investigates the new, green, sustainable food culture, and its dedicated practitioners: gastronomy fans known as “foodies”.

“It started in the early 2000s when the innovative chefs who received awards were focusing on authenticity. Locally grown products and seasonal ingredients were already highly regarded at the time.

Just before the turn of the millennium, Sofia Ulver was living in Copenhagen and spending a lot of time in the restaurant world.

“I have always been sensitive to movements within society and within my time, the values that are gaining attention and the societal and political changes that occur.”

A lifestyle that included discovering new restaurants, chefs, dishes and ingredients became a research interest for Sofia Ulver.

The change that laid the foundation for the new green cuisine had been ongoing for a while but, during the early 2000s, several things suddenly happened at once. Al Gore released his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” about global warming. A number of Nordic chefs, including Michelin-starred Mathias Dahlgren, formulated a manifesto in ten points, “The New Nordic Manifesto”. It emphasised the importance of regional, seasonal and healthy raw materials.

“The manifesto resonated in large parts of the restaurant world. Interest in basing one’s cuisine on the new Nordic principles grew. At that time, we saw many new small companies and consultancies starting up. Cities, municipalities and government also paid attention to the emergence of the new Nordic cuisine.”

Sofia Ulver mentions the restaurant Noma (“NordiskMad” – “Nordic Food” in Danish) in Copenhagen which got its first Michelin star in 2005 as an important milestone for the movement. Food became big on TV in the 90s and TV chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Rikard Nilsson in Torekov prepared the terrain for quality cooking. Businesses soon increased the range of organic food in the shops.

“Everything converged. When a sufficient number of stakeholders discover each other’s interest in something, a tipping point is reached.

Food and climate are so closely intertwined that it is almost impossible to consider them separately”, says Sofia Ulver. And today, even mediocre restaurants copy the new green approach to food.

However, large parts of the food industry as it is today are one big climate threat. Food waste, pesticides, transport, and excessively low prices that push down conditions in the sector.

“Food systems are a large part of the sustainability system. We must solve the issues of how food is to suffice for all and be distributed in a fairer way than it is today, as well as the important question of how land is used – because the nutritional content of food today is increasingly poor.”

The object of Sofia Ulver’s research is precisely the culture in which these ideas emerge. If people prioritise responsibly produced food of high quality, it could lead to the abandonment of other types of consumption.

“Food is seen as an opportunity to save the climate by changing the system in place today. This is how chefs, restaurateurs and people interested in these issues talk about them.”

Text: Evelina Lindén

MORE ABOUT Sofia Ulver

Favourite dish: Nowadays, you are supposed to answer traditional, simple home cooking. For me, that is true: mum’s meatballs. Allspice, minced pork, grated onion.

Home-grown produce: None. I don’t practise what I preach. I probably would if I didn’t have small children. Kitchen gardens are the new hot trend. Planting a new kitchen garden outside your home and being able to produce your own supply of eggs and vegetables is the latest thing.

About the restaurant world before the new green revolution: I presume that you remember the 1990s. Dead, dull, dry chicken breast with a little couscous. Nobody could really imagine the star chefs in Sweden’s future.