The globalisation of beef

So we made it back in one piece from a ten day jaunt in Wonderful Copenhagen, as it’s known, and which is mostly true in summer when the sun hardly sets and the Danes really do appear to be a happy bunch with few cares in the world. We took to the streets on borrowed bicycles, drank lots of beer (the only thing we could afford at sit-down places, bar one “cheap” Bloody Mary at a skanky bar where we got embroiled in political discourse with a drunk local who had actually visited South Africa as a trade unionist and could even speak English – kind of), and ate.

I managed to give the philosophe a taste of most of my childhood favourites: bright red sausages with spicy ketchup (he made good work of the hotdog stands in general); Danish fish’n chips (crumbed plaice or other flat fish with chips and remoulade, that wonderful yellow relish); a proper Danish lunch with rye bread and all the goodies: herring, roast beef with horseradish, salami with remoulade and crispy fried onions, frikadeller with red cabbage, liver pate with beetroot etc etc, naturally finished off with beer, snaps and plenty of Skål!, and of course a good shwarma, which is about as Danish as all the rest these days.

Hoarding travellers as we are, we’ve now got remoulade and crispy onions in the kitchen, which will help us tackle the litre of Aalborg Aquavit in the freezer (and for the next morning, a stiff shot of Gammel Dansk to calm the nerves).

The philosophe also promises to recreate another of his favourite meals from the trip, the classic “Pariserbøf” (Parisian burger): a beef patty fried with a piece of white bread on one side (the bread goes golden and crispy), served with lots of grated horseradish, capers, raw onions, and pickled beetroot. The Danes add raw egg yolk, though fortunately no one in this household is that gung-ho.

Why is this Danish classic called a Parisian burger? I have no idea. You’d think it’s one of those misrepresentations, like the fact that what the rest of the world calls Danish pastry, the Danes call Vienna bread (wienerbrød), because that’s where it originates. But this one confuses me. For one, a recent article in the New York Times details how burgers (the previously villified “American” staple, though as that name tells us, they actually come from Germany) are only now penetrating the Parisian gastronomic scene, and makes no mention of the thing Danes call a Parisian burger. And neither does the Larousse Gastronomique, which my sweet husband has just gifted me for my birthday.

That can remain a mystery, and while it does, the Danish Parisian burger will make its way into our Cape Town kitchen, and I’m pretty sure it will rock.

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