Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

What have the Danes ever done for global cuisine?

Of all the bloody cheek. The country woke on Wednesday to the news that Denmark's veterinary and food administration has gone and banned Marmite from its shelves.

There was immediate outrage. On Twitter, infuriated consumers threatened to visit supermarkets and de-shelve cans of Carlsberg, packs of Danish bacon and tins of Spam (which is Danish-made).

Cries arose for the immediate repatriation of Sandy Toksvig. It was suggested that the words ‘Hands Off Our Marmite’, translated into Danish, should be spelt out in Lego bricks (which are made in Denmark) and left on the doorstep of the Danish embassy.

Fearing an imminent riot in the streets, the embassy quickly denied there was any such ban: ‘All we said was that fortified foods can't be marketed in Denmark unless they've been approved by Danish food authorities — and they haven't given their approval yet, okay?’ They may sound like reasonable people, but sooner or later the old antlered helmet pokes out, doesn't it?

In Copenhagen, shops selling English goods are being visited by goon squads, asking to see the owner's ‘official papers’ that prove he's allowed to sell Marmite.

It's like an episode of ’Allo, 'Allo, with a Nazi-coated SS officer grating, ‘I demand to see your Marmite Papers zis instant.’

The intensely flavoured yeast extract that we (mostly) love isn't the only food under scrutiny.

The Danes have similarly withheld their approval of Rice Krispies, Horlicks, Ovaltine and Farley's Rusks, for the same reason — they're foods with ‘added vitamins and minerals’. That can't be the real reason, can it?

I thought vitamins were, broadly speaking, good for you — and they mostly dissolve inside the body and get flushed out the usual way.

No, the real reason is obviously that the Danes, descended from plunderers and ravagers, have decided some British foods are insufficiently butch to be allowed house-room in their manly shops.

They doth protest too much, methinks. They're uncomfortably aware that their own contribution to world cuisine ain't exactly ambrosia.

Indeed, trying to find Danish dishes is hard. The classic Danish cookery book, Fru Magnor, deals mostly in French cuisine. Of Denmark's 11 official cheeses, 10 are copies from Edam, Gorgonzola and other foreigners. The one and only edible Danish export is, |of course, the pastry — that famously nourishing and healthy combination of dough, jam, cream, flavoured sugar and butter.

Is it rude to point out that the Danish name for Danish pastries is Wienerbrod, or ‘Vienna bread’? So even Danish pastries don't come from Denmark.

Their saving grace is that they have Rene Redzepi, whose Copenhagen restaurant Noma has won the San Pellegrino Best Restaurant in the World award two years running.

I don't think, however, this should allow the Danes to pontificate about the acceptability of our classic foodstuffs.

They'll be having a go at Fray Bentos tinned pies next. And Bird's Eye Custard Powder. Just imagine.

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