Scandinavian style is surging again. It's minimalist, clean, uncluttered and cozy. Not cozy, exactly, but there's a Danish word for it: hygge. It's one of those words that doesn't have an exact English translation, but is a very important concept, like terroir or umami.
Hygge is a feeling, a way of being, a wintertime warmth shared by firelight, under furry throws, over mugs of hot, boozy drinks and plates of cardamom-scented nibbles. Hygge is also a style, a way to make a home, well, more homey. It's an attitude of embracing the season by going outside for a winter walk or some tobogganing, then heading back inside to enjoy the company of friends, family or even strangers.
Hygge is what gets Nordic people through long, dark, cold winters, and it's an idea we're starting to warm up to here. Shops featuring Scandi design, such as the Finnish Place, Torp, Dansk, and Design within Reach, are flourishing. The New Nordic cuisine is basking in its moment.
To suggest there are rules might be a tad severe, but there are traditions that just make sense. Set the right mood by dimming the lights, building a fire, stringing up a few fairy lights and lighting lots and lots of candles. There should be plenty of soft, woolly things, such as snuggly Oleana Knit Scandinavian blankets and hide rugs, whether reindeer, alpaca, sheepskin or faux. Place extra cushions on the chairs and oversized floor cushions by the fire. The cozy Nordic feeling should extend to the dress code. Think big, cuddly sweaters, fuzzy socks and, perhaps, a touch of Marimekko.
Making it through a northern winter also comes down to having enough to eat and drink. While hygge is possible without gravlax and aquavit, we don't advise it. Again, it's all about sharing, about everyone tugging off bits of warm-from-the-oven bread, scooping up lingonberry preserves and slicing off some venison terrine, all served right where it will be eaten. Lay the spread out on a rug or coffee table by the fire. If the thought of baking and cooking causes chills, Toronto's Viking Foods ships herring, rye crispbread, ginger snaps and imported pickles and jams across North America.
Remember, mood is not just atmosphere, it's an emotion. You need camaraderie, conviviality, generosity, hospitality, and love. It's time to get your hygge on – together, we'll get through the final weeks of winter.
Cardamom turns up a fair bit in Scandinavian cuisine, and it runs through this beautiful, braided bread like a subtle perfume. Enjoy warm with butter and honey.
Pronounced glurg, this Scandinavian mulled wine is strong in both flavour and fire-power. There are quite a few ingredients but it truly is easy to make, either on the stovetop or in a crock pot or slow cooker where folks will be gathering.
Richer than rich, this traditional cold-weather dish is not for the faint of heart. Might we suggest a satisfying day of log splitting in sub-zero temperatures to justify all that butter? Serve with dark rye bread or crackers.