Monday, 1 March 2010


The Norwegian equivalent of ‘fit as a fiddle’ is ‘frisk som en fisk’, which translates as ‘fit as a fish.’ It seems extremely apt for a country that prides itself on its love of nature as well as its love of fish. The eating of fish is as central to the Norwegian diet as it has been in Scotland, but the manner in which the fish is consumed seems rather different.

I hoped that ‘frisk som en fisk’ might apply to me if I took to eating fish on a regular basis. In the spirit of ‘you are what you eat’, I also hoped that I might see measurable improvements in the performance of both body and mind if I took advantage of the delicious fishy dishes available here. So I ate twelve all in one meal.

It sounds disgracefully glutenous, but it was by way of research, really it was. When I say twelve fish, I do not mean twelve whole fish. I mean delicate morsels of twelve different species of fish, all of which had had various things done to them. They were pickled, smoked, poached, fried, dried, marinated, barbequed, steamed, peppered, boiled, baked and just plain raw. Each one was served with a soupcon of skilfully concocted sauce, a clever accompaniment and subtle garnish. Every mouthful amounted to a delectable treat for the taste buds.

You may have already guessed that I did not prepare this myself. A skilful Norsk chef decked out in immaculate whites did it for me. His creations were served on a table of starched linen awash with a decorative props of a marine theme, delicate shells interspersed between sparkling glasses and flickering pale candles. All was smooth and clean and calm. And reeking of Scandinavian chic. 

Now I know that many of Scotland’s chefs, not to mention home-cooks, are wizards with fish. Fish, after-all, has been the livelihood of many throughout our history, as it has been in Norway. But the difference was that we were enjoying a family Sunday lunch, with dressed-up children and posh table manners. The non-stop buffet tables were not groaning under the weight of joints of red meat and mountains of chips in order to cater for the whims of the family market.....this place catered for the family market by providing fish after fish after fish. And the children were eating it.

In its recent plan of Dietary Targets, the Scottish Government stated clear two was to maintain the consumption of white fish at current levels, while the other concerned oily fish, aiming to double the per capita consumption from 44 grams per week to 88. It seems we are woeful at consuming enough oily fish, the very sort that contains the goodies that make us ‘frisk som en fisk’.

There is an odd thing though. With all this fish around, you might think Fish and Chip shops would be numerous in Norway. But, despite the fabulously abundant fish-markets in each city, the irresistible whiff of the Chipper remains curiously absent from the streets of Oslo, Tromso, Bergen, Stavanger and elsewhere. I am ashamed to admit, as soon as I set foot in Scotland, it’s straight down the chipper for a decent poke o’ fish n’ chips.

But then I am wracked with guilt at the bad things that delicious meal must be doing to my insides. Even if a lump of fish is involved in a traditional fish supper, it is not the healthiest meal in the world. So I have developed a new craving... I want a new kind of Fish Supper, the sort that provides me with a takeaway-smorgasbord of different fish, healthier than its predecessor but less raw than sushi. I want a virtuous Fish Supper.

Meanwhile, I am waiting and waiting for my brain and body to function with renewed vigour. I mean, it took real work to eat twelve fish.


  1. ok I'm salivating .. truly I am ... and would be first in the queue at your take away fish smorgasbord in Aberdeen ... hurry home!!

  2. Rob
    I live in hope.But if anyone has a technique for persuading children to consume fish, we need to know it.

  3. Good luck persuading your oldest child of anything... I spend my days attempting it, rather unsuccessfully. This might have something to do with the fact he already has the debating skills of an experienced UN diplomate and he's only in Middle School... Don't tell him, but he brightens my days, or at least my history classes :-).

  4. Wim...that's funny, altho of course I shouldn't laugh. However it is a comfort to know I'm not the only one having to sharpen up my debating skills.