From Denmark, we head due north across the waters of the Skagerrak and on to Norway.
Admittedly, not many names from the Norwegian map have found their way into our language. But one of the few that has is ominously described here:
The principallest and most perilous of all [dangerous places in the sea] is the Maelstream Well, or Slorp which lieth on the backside of Norway This well draweth the water into itself with such an indraught and force, and with such a noise through the tumbling and falling of the waves no ship or other vessel may come near, for they should to their utter destruction be drawn into it and swallowed up.
Where is Oslo, Norway? – Oslo, Norway Map – Oslo, Norway Map Download Free Photo Gallery
Sadly, we’re not talking about the word slorp here. Nor are we talking about the expression backside of Norway. To the navigators and seafarers of the sixteenth century, the violent Norwegian whirlpool described here bore the name maelstrom. And it’s from there – a Dutch-origin word literally meaning ‘grinding stream’ – that we’ve since acquired a word for any violently turbulent situation.
The original maelstrom from which all others derive their names is now known as the Moskstraumen, and rather than appear as a single swirling vortex as in the account above, it is in truth a vast and powerful system of inter-spiralling tidal eddies that lies off the coast of (and takes its name from) Moskenes0ya island, in Norway’s Lofoten archipelago. The name maelstrom might not exist on maps today but its ancient equivalent at least survives in the dictionary. But it’s not a perilous whirlpool that has brought us to Norway.
With Denmark now behind us there are no Danish pastries on the menu: here in Norway, the second of our Scandinavian stop-offs, it’s time for an Oslo breakfast.
If you’re craving something hearty, you might be disappointed. An Oslo breakfast comprises two slices of wholemeal bread and margarine, a single sausage or slice of whey cheese, half an apple (or, if you want to go all out, half an orange) and a half-pint glass of fresh milk. Still not full? Well, you’re in luck: according to Carl Schi0tz, the Norwegian nutritionist who pioneered the Oslo breakfast regime in the late 1920s, you can add a single raw carrot to your morning spread should you wish, and (albeit during the winter months only) you can wash it all down with a nice healthful dose of cod liver oil.
Frankly, it’s not quite a bacon sandwich. But by the mid 1930s this Oslo breakfast was being served to every schoolchild in the city, and by the 1940s the regime had proved so successful that it had been adopted and implemented in several other cities and countries around the world. Moreover, the term Oslo breakfast, or Oslo meal, had earned itself a permanent place in our dictionary – both in reference to Schi0tz’s original dietary scheme, and as a looser term for any wholesome and nutritious start to the day. But how did such a seemingly meagre meal come to gain worldwide attention?
This story begins in Oslo (or Kristiania, as it was at the time) at the end of the nineteenth century. The city authorities had begun serving free hot school meals to children in Oslo in the late 1800s, but by the turn of the century food scientists had started to cast doubt on quite how nutritious and sustaining these free meals were.
In 1927, into this nutritional debate stepped Professor Carl Schi0tz, whose academic work had long focused on the role of nutrition in childhood. Using the most up-to-date data he could find, Schi0tz compiled the menu outlined above and began advocating it as both the healthiest and most nutritionally fortifying start to the day.
At the time of Professor Schi0tz’s work Oslo was an impoverished city, and the events of the First World War had further hampered its (and indeed the entire country’s) ability to sustain its increasingly needy population. Malnourishment and dietary deficiencies, and the health conditions triggered by them, were rife. Schi0tz’s breakfast provided an easy cure: its ingredients were cheap, nutritious, readily available, and – crucially – served cold, allaying any concerns over the cost of cooking or reheating. Understandably, given the state of the city at the time, his menu soon attracted attention.
Trials were held at schools in Oslo and Bergen to test the efficacy of Schi0tz’s breakfast, and their results were staggering: pupils given Schi0tz’s food rather than a stodgy midday meal gained weight, proved more resilient to infection, and exhibited both increased vitality and improved academic performance. By 1932, consequently, every schoolchild in Oslo was being served his recommended meal.
Word of Schi0tz’s success soon spread, and before long the Oslo breakfast had gained worldwide attention. In Britain, America, Australia, and throughout the rest of Europe, its merits were tested, debated and eventually advocated everywhere from the daily presses to the highest levels of government. ‘This Extra Meal Made Norwegian Children Grow 4 Inches!’ declared America’s Life magazine in 1943, reporting that those children who followed
Schi0tz’s diet routinely ‘grew taller and huskier than others’. A trial in London in 1939 proved equally successful: ‘The effects have been remarkable,’ claimed one advocate, ‘and have been particularly noticeable in the excellent complexions of the children and their freedom from the usual skin complaints of the town child.’
The scheme endured during the Second World War, albeit with a handful of amendments and regional variations: it’s unlikely British schoolchildren would have been impressed when Professor Schi0tz later decided that one of those meagre slices of bread and margarine should be replaced with a hardtack sandwich smeared with smoked herring. But by the later 1940s, rationing was beginning to take its toll, and by the early 1950s newfound tastes, fashions, post-war prosperity and better-equipped domestic kitchens all conspired against it. By the 1960s, the Oslo breakfast had all but fallen by the nutritional roadside, even in its native Norway.
Still, there’s no denying the evidence and, as a fortifying breakfast, it probably can’t go far wrong.