Thursday, August 30, 2012

Denmark Chronicles: The Food

Hey guys. I've got some updates as to what's been going on here in Copenhagen. My first full week of classes has been completed and I'm finally starting to settle down into a routine. Monday and Thursdays I have class starting at 8:30 which means I need to be up at 6 so I can get ready and catch the train into the city while Tuesday and Friday I have class starting at 10 so I can get up a little later. Thankfully, everyone at my school has Wednesday off which we can use to do work or just explore or just be lazy. As for classes, everything is still smooth sailing so nothing to report there. Next week I will be going on the first of my series of study tours. This short study tour will be to Western Denmark in the Jutland region. We're doing a few company visits and a little sightseeing while there. It looks to be pretty exciting and is a good prep for my long tour to Paris later in September/October which I'm getting more and more stoked for.
Moving on....

I'm going to try and chronicle some of the many unique aspects of Danish culture and living in Denmark during my months here, so this time I'm going to go over something that is near and dear to my heart and my stomach - food. Living with a host family has allowed me to experience a nice variety of home cooked meals- some more authentic than others.

Something I've noticed about Danish cooking is that overall it's very bland, especially compared to the food I get at home which is full of herbs, spices, and all sorts of flavourings. Many of the dishes I've had here - roasted chicken, lamb, pasta - are all simple to the point of boring. When I say bland, I don't mean just through the lack of herbs and flavourings, there is also a serious lack of salt in many of the dishes served here. It's nourishing of course but I'm craving some excitement.

Danes also see to eat a lot more lightly than I'm used to back in the USA. Portion sizes are on the smaller size and also are much more protein and vegetable oriented than starch oriented. At least from when I've eaten out and at home, pasta and rice portions, staples of American plates, are tiny in comparison. Bread does play a larger role, especially rye bread which I don't mind but I can see why others might find it more difficult to develop a taste for. At dinner, every night we also have a crudite platter of raw vegetables which is nice, but I miss my cooked veggies and carbs. Each night I end up fourth mealing on cereal to get that extra carb fix.

My host family is pretty international when it comes to their taste in food. Having traveled around the world on multiple occasions, they don't mind the spicy, the sour, and occasionally the bizarre, or so I've been told. When it comes to having me try out traditional Danish dishes however, they find what I feel is a dark glee in trying to feed me specialties like herring and salty licorice. I tried smoked herring in a traditional smørrebrød or open-faced sandwich earlier with week with my host dad. It's served on dark rye bread with minced onion and a raw egg yolk on top. The dish's name - I don't recall right now - is supposed to be along the lines of "Sun rising over some danish town" which the sandwich is named after. We bought the fish whole at a farmer's market for about 23 DKK (Kroner) which isn't too bad (about $4). We had to "peel" and debone the fish before fileting it and serving it one the bread. It was a pretty simple process and I did a solid job according to my host dad for my first time. The taste itself is pretty good - a lot more mild than I expected and also a lot less fishy. I would give it a thumbs up for sure.

Looks scary, quite delicious
Something I'm not as thrilled about is the Danish love for salty licorice. In case you didn't figure it out - it tastes like what it sounds like - very, very strong licorice, salt, and a little sugar since of course it is a candy afterall. My host dad also has this "adults only licorice" which was salty licorice with chiles, cranberry, and basil. At first it wasn't bad, but with one bite, the flavour filled my mouth and it was absolutely disgusting. I don't think I will be able to handle licorice in Denmark anytime soon.

Begone foul defiler of tastebuds!

Eating out in Copenhagen is also something very interesting. Along the Strøget there are a few Chinese restaurants that have something called a "China Box" which is basically a to-go box which you can fill with a mix of dishes like you would from a Panda Express except less glamourous. These little 35 DKK boxes apparantely are the cool thing to eat while walking around but never while sitting, lest you be shunned by the Danes and their Ice Queen glares. The food itself looks like a cheapened version of mall Chinese food, especially since what look like onion rings are considered Chinese here. Apart from the China boxes are your regular assortment of restaurants that you would expect to find in any major city - Micky Ds, Subway, and the like, but also more bakeries per kilometer than anywhere in Europe, except for maybe Paris. What we call danishes are actually called Wienerbrød here and they're freaking delicious. They make the danishes we get back in the US taste like cardboard in comparison. I'll probably gain 20 pounds just from eating those....except not because I've been walking and biking more in a day here than I usually do in a week at home. Danes are all so active it's hard to keep up sometimes. It's probably why everyone here is so skinny. I'm also trying to find a gym near where I live so I can lift while still being able to eat pastries and drink tons of beer, because, y'know, that's just what Danes do.

Alright, I think that covers the basics of Danish food so far. I'll be sure to keep things updated if I get to try anything truly disturbing or good while here. I've been told that Western Denmark has some "fun" delicacies which I will get to try out soon enough. Goody.

Later guys,


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Velkommen til København

Heyo. I know it's been a long while but I promise my lack of posts is not because I don't love you guys; I've just been running around non stop all week and have just caught myself a bit of spare time - aka watching the ManU and Fulham game in the living room of my abode and beating my host dad in a soccer-match prediction bracket thing- to make a post.

I don't want for this to get too long and boring so I will try to condense things a bit and jump right into things.

I met my host family at the orientation and they brought me to my new home away from home. I currently live about 30 minutes by car outside of Copenhagen, or København in Danish (fun fact, it sounds nothing like how it's spelled). I take the train to get to my classes every morning except for Wednesday but then I plan to work at home or go to the city and work at one of the school buildings. My classes are in what is the old part of Copenhagen near city hall and Europe's longest pedestrian shopping street - the Strøget. It's pretty awesome when your classrooms are actually amidst all the action. I haven't seen all of my professors yet, but I have met most of them and they all seem really cool and casual - we refer to all of them on a first-name basis. My classes honestly all seem pretty easy so far too - they know all the students are here to have a good time and study some on the side, so I don't think the bar has been set too high.

The town I live in is near a Fjord and is almost the Danish equivalent to where I live in the US - except 20 times prettier, like most things in Denmark - the people, the landscape, the people, the school, the people, the cities, and did I mention the people? Yeah, all of them are effing hot. I wish I were exaggerating, but no, think as if all the H&M and Abercrombie models suddenly decided to only procreate with each other for about 200 years and put that population in a little Scandinavian country and you'll have Denmark. Trust me, you will be hearing plenty of stories of how beautiful the Danes are throughout my stay here.

Anyways, my first few days here were spent doing orientation programs like an amazing race to see various attractions in Copenhagen, and where to shop for decently priced food in the city (which is really difficult as everything is quite expensive). I met quite a lot of really cool people during this period who I became friends with so I'm thankfully won't be one of those people who only stick with people from their home school. There are about 30 of us by the way - by far the biggest group I've come across so far. Nevertheless, yesterday we did have a gathering last night in Copenhagen for a reunion type thing at a local bar. I ran into my almost-roommate from freshman year of college which is hilarious but everyone here is really pumped for the next semester. We did some bar hopping too last night and ended up bumping into a few of our professors at local bars which just goes to show how casual things will probably be here. It was a fun night though and I might go out again tonight if things pan out. It's so nice to just be able to buy drinks without being carded or anything. I'm going to miss that when I go back to the US for sure.

Well, if I'm going to be in a foreign land, I'd better be posting some pictures so here's a little of what I've seen so far:

Canal where me and some friend's had dinner one evening - rainbow!

Yeah, the harbour isn't just a postcard thing, it actually exists

Part of the Royal Palace complex. One of the Prince's houses

One of many squares in the city

The Strøget or main pedestrian shopping street. Touristy, but many bars

I have a few pictures of my house and the town where I will be living for the next few months which I will upload in due time.

I hope things are going well where you are and I'll be back with another post soonish I hope.

Hej Hej,


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Copenhagen Day 1: More French, Less Danish Please

Nine hours in the air and a hour long layover later, I'm finally in Denmark. On the way, I ran into about a dozen other early arrivers at Reykjavik and here in Copenhagen and we had a little early meet n' greet. One girl I ran into goes to my school and I knew beforehand and another guy I actually went to middle school with but hadn't seen since, so it was really cool seeing him again.

I'm currently at my Euro-style hotel room (read: TINY) and realizing I made the mistake of sleeping all day and now that it's past 11 at night here, I'm not sleepy at all. Whoops. Funny story: during check-in there was an Asian family ahead of me, and when they asked what's going on in Copenhagen, the clerk told them about Copenhagen Pride which is in full swing right now and they just stood there wide-eyed and speechless - I was crying with laughter on the inside.

Anyway, here's my room for the night, as I mentioned, it's freaking TINY.

It has everything I need for the night though. The bed is comfy enough too. The bathroom is weird though, there isn't a separate shower - just a random cutain separating a part of the floor with a drain. Something I'm not so happy about is that Netflix, Pandora, and IHeartRadio all don't work in Denmark because of silly licensing reasons. Skype, thankfully works just fine, and I talked to my mom for a bit soon after I got to my room.

Earlier tonight I went exploring at a mall that is near my hotel for some toiletries and for dinner; there I found what looked like the Danish version of a Target Superstore. What started innocently enough ended up being one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. Everything, and I mean everything was in Danish. The only English words I picked out were "Bacon" and "Shampoo", and I only needed the latter. I was trying to find some other things but ended up getting lost somewhere in the home goods section (fun fact - straight, neat isles don't exist, at least not where I was). I found my way out eventually, bought my toiletries, and ended up getting Shwarma for dinner (surprisingly fitting since Denmark looks to have a largish Muslim population). Annoyingly, even mall food costs a fortune compared to the US - 80 kroner or about $14 for merely passable food. Speaking of - everything is pretty expensive here except for beer, which is cheaper than soda haha.

I had some spare time after dinner and fired up good 'ol Grindr to see what's going on nearby. It's definitely less dense than back in DC but something I found really funny was that one guy that popped up actually goes to my school back home and had a thing for me during freshman year. I found out he's been backpacking across Europe for the past few weeks and just happened to be in Copenhagen the same time I arrived. We talked for a bit and I convinced him to go out tonight since he's staying at a Hostel near the city center. It's definitely one of the funnier coincidences in my life.

Tomorrow I'm getting all my orientation materials, signing up for a cell phone, and finally meeting my host family. I might run into my friend Kate at the Airport since she's arriving a little before I'm set to be picked up so I'm looking forward to that. Expect more (and better) photos soonish of my actual room and where I'll be calling home for the next four months.

Alright guys, I'm going to attempt to get some sleep, whether I'm successful is another story.

Wish me luck.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Meet the (host) Fam

T-minus 24 hours until I leave for Dulles Airport to begin my journey to Denmark. I know I've been pretty bad about posts this summer, both in quality and quantity, but for the next few months, I hope to be more regular in updating this thing with my adventures in the land of blond hair and blue eyes. With things all finally falling into place, I should start off this new chapter with something that will play a huge role for my experience abroad - my host family.

Yup, I decided to forgo dorm or "Kollegium" housing for a host family. If I'm going to be so far away from home, I would feel more comfortable with some sort of family structure for my semester abroad. So some details, I'll be living in Roskilde, Denmark which is a suburb of Copenhagen with the family of Rune and Anne. They're a middle aged couple who have two grown children of their own that are going to school in Copenhagen as well. Rune, the husband, is second in command at an insurance company, while Anne works with helping to organize the Danish seafaring and fishing industries. I'll be the first student they will be hosting. Roskilde is about a 30 minute train ride from Copenhagen which I will be taking almost every day for classes. The family has been travelling all summer, going to Dubai, recently leaving Bali, Indonesia, and is currently in Singapore. They have a holiday home in Southern Denmark near Germany as well where they also hope to take me to some time in the autumn.

As a family, they are all very active and enjoy running and walking, competing in a few events throughout the year. They also like to stay aware of the world around them, being interested in healthy and good food, politics, culture, music, nature, news, and events. They hope to show me the traditional Danish lifestyle while also having me help improve their English at home, though they at least write it very well already.

To say I'm excited would be an understatement, but to say I'm hella nervous wouldn't be too far off either. Almost all of my stuff is packed, but I still need to swing by the campus bookstore tomorrow to pick up a gift for the family, and I need to get all my paperwork all set. Apart from that, I'm enjoying one last home cooked meal, playing with my overgrown puppy a few more times, and hitting the gym one more time before shipping off.

I can't believe this is actually happening. Damn.


Also, from my last post, this guy will hopefully start playing a bigger role in my life soon, probably more so when I get back, but he should have a reference name. We'll call him Brandon. And yes, I really am going to miss him.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I almost don't want to go to Denmark, at least not now. If I could have just one more month of summer I would be the happiest guy in the world. It's not because I don't want classes to start or that I'm afraid of going to a new country, I just have something here at home now that I don't want to leave....a guy.

While I don't believe I've mentioned it on here before, but I've been seeing a guy since early June. He works at the gym I go to and while we started out as just friends, but last night, while chilling on the balcony of his house enjoying the sound of crickets and a few beers, we both realized we are starting to fall for each other. We couldn't be more different. He's a bro-y, frat guy and I'm just not, but I guess opposites attract because I can not figure out how things happened otherwise.

We spent hours just sitting on that balcony talking, flirting, and just laying in each other's arms. Even when one of his roommates got back from work at 2AM, we all just sat and talked the night away until it was 4, not having any idea where all the time went. I spent the night at his place and fell asleep in his arms for the first time. It was the most amazing experience to wake up feeling so secure and comfortable. That's the thing, we're just so relaxed around each other, more so than when I'm with even some of my closest friends. I didn't want to leave.

I leave for Denmark in four days. I'll be boarding my plane to Reykjavik, Iceland Saturday evening and then arriving in Copenhagen around noon local time on Sunday. I won't be back until December which feels like an eternity away but I'm pretty sure it will pass quickly.

I've never been in a situation like this before and it's kind of confusing. I just wish I had four weeks instead of four days before I had to leave to figure things out better.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ryan Lochte

"Ryan Lochte is basically the perfect symbol of the international community's view of the American people: Nice to look at, but limited substance underneath it all."

Not my words, actually the words of one of my friends, but I gotta say, I totally agree with it.

Where does this whole idea come from? Well, have you heard the dude talk?

Basically, he's great at swimming, but otherwise kind of dumb as a brick.

I'd totally still tap that though.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chick-Fil-A: My Opinion

There's been so much media coverage on this whole Chick Fil-A anti gay marriage business for weeks now that I'm really starting to get sick of it. I thought I'd just provide some of my thoughts on the subject.

Personally, I couldn't care less if the President of Chick-Fil-A supports gay marriage or not. Like anyone else, he is entitled to his opinions and we should respect them. To me, as a gay man, it wouldn't be fair for me to demand to be respected for my lifestyle and then crucify someone just because theirs doesn't fall into line with mine. We all have a multitude of opinions which should be able to be expressed freely. We have the luxury of living in a country where conflicting ideas can coexist and people should be able to express their points of view without receiving death threats or be called unspeakable things. Unfortunately, this isn't always true. Chick-Fil-A has always been a very Christian business since its founding in 1947. They have never made an attempt to hide this fact, and honestly, I'm surprised how surprised some others are at this sudden revelation. Sure, I was as slightly shocked as anyone when I first found out that they don't open on Sundays, but did I honestly care? No. Did you honestly think a company that prints bible verses on their cups would support gay marriage? Snarky question, I know, but suddenly deciding to stop eating there after 5 years and picking up a sign to protest because you simply didn't pay attention is too little too late.

In my eyes, I couldn't give a damn about the personal beliefs of who makes my food or of the leadership as long as it doesn't mar the quality of what I come to a restaurant for in the first place: the food. Chick-Fil-A makes a damn good chicken sandwich and kick ass waffle fries, and if I'm craving that, I will go there and get a sandwich. I'm pretty sure the teenage cashier isn't spinning my Oreo shake with hatred and bigotry, and if they are, it tastes really, really good and needs to be used more (kidding). Honest question: If I go in to a Chick-Fil-A as a gay man and not cause a ruckus, will they refuse to serve me? $10 says they won't. Nowhere is it stated in Chick-Fil-A's mission statement that they will not serve gay individuals.

What has happened recently with people protesting Chick-Fil-A because of a belief held by its President, a devout Christian man, is ridiculous. The intersection of religion and societal issues and human rights has always been a tricky thing to deal with. Should all companies who have Christian leadership or leaders who don't support gay marriage be protested? For example, should all Muslim owned business be boycotted? Homosexuality isn't exactly all peachy in the eyes of Sharia law in case you didn't know. Given that fact, let's boycott all Muslim owned businesses too. Does that make any sense? Not at all.

Another luxury we have by living in this country is the right of choice. Our food choices aren't monopolized by the government or a single corporation. Instead of boycotting, protesting, and sending hateful messages and death threats trying to get a company to change their ways, just don't eat at or patronize whatever establishment you're so incensed with. Nobody is forcing you shove waffle fries in your mouth. For me, I'm more concerned with my food tasting good and receiving courteous service no matter the beliefs of those serving me. If they can't provide a high level of service over their views of something like my right to marry, a business doesn't deserve my patronage and I won't return, but I'm not going to flip a shit and picket their business, because quite honestly I have better things to do with my life. We're still talking about a restaurant now, remember that.

Something I must also point out is that everyone protesting needs to stop and look at the consequences of their actions on the innocent people caught in the middle - mostly the restaurant employees. Do the bottom level cashiers, cooks, and staff deserve the ridicule and hate that they have received for working for this company? I'm positive many of them are just trying to make a living and not because they wanted to work for a devout Christian business, yet as they are the face of the company most of us interact with, they unfortunately also receive the brunt of the hate. I pity them since they don't deserve that one bit.

Don't turn a chicken sandwich of all things into a symbol of hatred. If you feel more strongly about the President of a restaurant chain's beliefs than if the taste and quality of the food itself, then I honestly don't know what to say. Do you go to a restaurant to hear a sermon? No, you go to a restaurant to eat and be full.

I honestly can't wait for this whole Chick-Fil-A issue to blow over and be done with. I'm not going to stop going to my local restaurant; like I said, they make a mean chicken sandwich and a killer shake.