What I missed the most when I was not working for a big corporation was Christmas parties! The venue, gossips, food, offensive presents from Kris Kringle, dressing up, dancing, drinking, singing karaoke… and working from home the day after. Ah good times in Australia.
Rumours about office Christmas parties in Norway
What I discovered at Norwegian class is that Christmas parties in Norway are epic. People say what they never dared saying to their boss, to a colleague they fancied… things go awkward and everybody magically forgets the next business day. It’s called Julebord = “Christmas table” but you pronounce it like You -leh- boor.
Rumours or reality, I needed to see for myself.
My husband’s office Christmas party
My husband had his party a few weeks ago in a 60 staff government owned financial institution. The dress code is traditionally suit and tie. He was picked to make a speech towards the female co-workers. Another lady was picked to make a speech to the male coworkers. To his disappointment, the dinner was a cold buffet and he didn’t have any traditional Norwegian Christmas dish like Ribbe (roasted sickling pig with crispy skin), Pinekjøtt (3 hours steamed lamb cutlets) or Lutefisk, a mysterious fish that people say comes with an acquired taste. They had a fair bit to drink, a bit of dancing, no drama, and he was home around 2am.
My Norwegian office Christmas party
My new job in Oslo is in a small yet global company. We are 3 people in Oslo, plus one guy on the west coast of Norway and one guy… in Estonia! So our CEO booked a table, a real table at a restaurant and we had traditional Norwegian Christmas food. I’m lucky, my boss is a foodie too. He loves foie gras and was keen to show me what culinary specialty his country had to offer.
The restaurant he selected is an institution. So local and anchored in the City’s history that it’s website doesn’t even have an English section. Schrøder is probably one of the oldest restaurant in Oslo and is home to Harry Hole, the main character in a series of crime novels written by Norwegian author Jo Nesbø.
I really wanted to try those traditional dishes. We managed to purchase ribbe and pinekjøtt from the supermarket and cook it at home. However I had no idea what Lutefisk would taste like. I was imagining some dried fish, very salty, with perhaps an additional sweet taste like local specialty Brown Cheese or their 2 euro tube of Kaviar. Out of curiosity I ordered Lutefisk and here what I got:
First, lefse (potato pancake) and flat bread, mustard and maple syrup…
Then the cod fish which has been dehydrated, salted then rehydrated with lye (caustic soda). Result: a slimy texture that make the flesh very moist. Not quite like jelly but very moist. The taste is a subtle cod taste, nothing added, no sweetness, thank god. I really liked it.
Then came the green peas mash and the bacon in oil…
So how are you supposed to eat all that? Stack it all up on a pancake! Tadaaa…
Now I understand why tacos are so popular here!
What does the whole thing taste like? It’s a whole blend of sweet, salty, spicy tastes and all these textures from the mash peas and the jelly like fish. To me the bacon flavour is key to add that smokey feel to it. You really need to try it. If you did, how was it for you?
And for dessert we had Riskreme, a riz au lait or arroz con leche without the cinammon (for once!) but with strawberry sauce instead.
The beauty of living in Oslo is that it’s a very compact city. The restaurant is conveniently located 10 minutes walk from our office and we decided to walk further down for after dinner drinks. It was snowing and we passed by beautifully decorated Ambassy residences. We got lucky and immediately found a table for three at Champagneria, a trendy bubble bar in the Frogner area. It just took 3 minutes to walk home. No hassle with taxis. As for my co-workers, they took a short stroll to the marina…where they live. In fact they are neighbours and they live on a boat (each)!!!
That’s how we roll in Oslo!