Friday, November 5, 2010

The tomato soup that is worth a little Michelin star...

What can you eat in an average Norwegian university canteen? To tell the truth, I don't know. But what can you eat in a Norwegian canteen that happens to be the country's best? Well, this is something I know. Follow me on my tour in the kantina of the University of Agder in Kristiansand which is (according to the polls) the best student eatery in Norway! :)

Andy Warhol's canned tomato soup from 1964.
The Kristiansand canteen is not just a restaurant - it's a café, a shop and a last but not least, a place to be at the same time. There is always something going on, if no guitarrist guy is playing and singing in front of the eating spectators (like a couple of weeks ago), then there are smoothie samples given away or you can vote for the student parliament and get some vafler (waffles) in return (for some reason, Norwegians are obsessed with waffles that are usually served with chocolate or strawberry sauce).

The canteen has a small shop that makes me feel all the time being at a gas station. It sells milk products, different pålegg (everything that you can put on top of a slice of bread), delicious ice cream from the brand Hennig-Olsen (Norway's favourite ice cream factory that dates back to 1924), chocolate bars (for about 150% of the supermarket price) and newspapers. The shop has a little soup bar as well, where you can choose among 3 types of creamy soup every day. This is actually where I eat most of the times and the decent taste is just one of the reasons. Hungarians eating soup as a starter every single day of the year, once in a while I just get a craving for it. The best soup I've had here is without any doubt their Mexican tomato soup.

But let's leave now Méjico and move up to the North - at the next window (Stekeri) you can get some nice juicy American food like cheese or bacon burger or fried chicken with French fries that you can take away in paper boxes. At the beginning it was weird for me to see this kind of food at the university, since fast food is practically taboo in Hungarian schools. There is no doubt about the fact though that Ronald McDonald can come very handy if you need some instant blood sugar raise between two classes...

Yes, you can buy hot dog here, too. They call it pølse. (The photography of Robert Frank, 1958)
You can usually choose between two or three warm dishes at the Varmeri. If you prefer cold, there are nice sandwiches and pastry at the Kjøleri, Smøreri and Bakeri. The most unique sandwich I've tried is the one with shrimps - white bread with raw shrimps (you can buy raw shrimps in the supermarket, you have to remove the head and the hard shell yourself - it's not for the weak...), on top they put some mayonnaise and lemon slices. Being a hopeless sweet tooth, I will write more about pastry in Norway later on.

However, the most amazing part for me is the salad bar. I've never tried it myself since it's quite pricy but I decided to treat myself with a nice box of salad after my first exam. Just to mention the things that are not that common in a student canteen: Garbanzo beans, quinoa, brown rice, black and green olives, couscous, Indian red lentils, sundried tomatoes... and so much more! If you only want to snack something, last but not least, you have a café called Kaffegalleriet where you can enjoy beautiful viennoiseries, freshly made smoothies, soft ice cream and almost more types of coffee than in Italy...

This is what it's not like: Potato Eaters (1885) - an early van Gogh, no sunflowers, no bright yellows

All in all, this canteen makes me feel to be at a nice airport rather than in a school. The only difference is maybe that crowd actually feels good here. I love how you can meet people easily, how you can enjoy a warm meal or a steaming hot coffee while listening to the raindrops knocking on the huge windows or have a smoothie and a delicious ice cream while letting the sunshine in through them.

Anyways, for me, a real school restaurant is and always will be my elementary school's canteen in Hungary with the good old vinyl tablecloths, shouting canteen ladies and some unedible yet unforgettable dishes that have been connected to my childhood til the end of my life...

Vel bekomme. (Bon appétit.)

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