Christmas Table at Scandic Ishavshotel Tromsø, Norway. Crisp pork ribs (ribbe) and cured lamb chops (pinnekjøtt) are the staples at Norwegian Christmas Tables.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2021

A PLOS ONE study on periodic human activities and high word frequency occurrences showed that we speak what we think, and what we do [1]. Language not only reflects thoughts, experiences and realities but it also helps create realities. The study methodology is not particularly ground breaking. The authors analyzed an historical corpus from American and British daily newspaper articles from between 1836 to 1922 to uncover patterns in language use that correlated with seasonal human activities. Still, what I personally found interesting was the concrete illustration over decades, that people did indeed speak their lives in the fashion of their daily, monthly, and yearly activities. Certain words were used more frequently during certain times of the year than in others, thus reflecting an underlying social reality of the people. The top 25k frequently occurring words in the historical corpus reflected activities and concerns around annual weather patterns, hunting, harvesting as well as religious and civil activities. Taking my own n-of-1 writings as a small, specialized corpus, I can see how much I love Christmas Table sittings, particularly at year’s end.

So what’s different from year to year?

While there are many variables to consider, including that your experiences are maturing to include a broader spectrum of activities and places, I think social ambience is the element that can be most strikingly observed at Christmas Table sittings.

Scandic Ishavshotel Tromsø is an award winning breakfast buffet hotel. Having had a Sunday breakfast there or two myself, I certainly acknowledge that their breakfasts make for memorable dining experiences. Their smoked kveite (flounder) has been on one of my favourite foods list since I first tried it at their breakfast buffet in 2019.

The hotel’s 2021 julebord offered an array of Norwegian classic dishes. Crisp pork ribs (ribbe) and cured lamb chops (pinnekjøtt) and Norwegian meatballs were on the menu. Smoked and baked variations of cod and salmon were also staples at the Christmas Table.

The views from the tall and open restaurant windows were wintry crisp with the surrounding fjords covered in a blanket of thick snow. I’ve always found it a pleasure to sit and watch the ferries dock and go, aware of the contrast between the cold outdoors and the warmth indoors with cup of hot chocolate in hand.

The atmosphere at this year’s julebord is distinctly quieter than julebord sittings of previous years. Still, the julebord spread was fantastic to observe, with more than 22 different dishes and a dozen different desserts to complete your julebord course. Brightening up the dining event were the cordial and efficient team of individudals who provided meticulous services throughout the julebord sitting.

Meatballs are also a signature yuletide dish at both Swedish and Norwegian Christmas Tables. The ingredients and flavour profiles are however different between the two countries and cultures. In Swedish meatballs, kryddpeppar or pimento is used as a prominent seasoning, and anchovies are added to bring out the umami flavours of the combined ingredients. Norway is better at making fishballs.

In this picture, the staples of ribbe and pinnekjøtt are pictured, together with a tray of finnbiff or reindeer meat. To avoid using long hours to tenderize the reindeer meat, traditional finnbiff dishes are served usually as a stew with shredded reindeer meat. Considered an ancient Sámi dish, shredding the reindeer meat makes for more efficient outdoor cooking in a nomadic lifestyle of the Sámi people.

The Norwegian ribbe or crispy roast pork features as a signature Christmas Table dish in Norway.

Pinnekjøtt or cured lamb ribs (pictured bottom left dish) is a traditional northern Norwegian Christmas Table dish. The pinnekjøtt is steamed for about three hours till the meat separates from the bone. The lamb is served with mashed rutabaga and potatoes.

Chocolate mousse cake slices are but one of several delectable looking desserts at the Christmas Table at Roast Restaurant, Scandic Ishavshotel, Tromsø.

A Cézanne dessert platter.

Festive greetings from magical Tromsø, Northern Norway.

[1] Dzogang, F., Lansdall-Welfare, T., FindMyPastNewspaperTeam, Cristianini, N. (2016). Discovering Periodic Patterns in Historical News, PLoSONE 11(11):e0165736. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0165736