Understanding Matpakke—Norway's National Packed-Lunch Obsession

iStock.com/artisteer
iStock.com/artisteer

We could all save a little money if we ate like the Norwegians do. As the BBC reports, the Scandinavian country's humble matpakke is not just a meal, but a way of life.

A matpakke (pronounced maad-pukk-eh) is a packed lunch that often contains a stacked open-face sandwich with layers of fish, meat, or cheese on several thin slices of whole-wheat bread. Sandwiches wrapped in parchment paper—sometimes with messages like "ha' en god dag!" (have a good day) written on top—are a common sight in school cafeterias across the country.

This national tradition continues well into adulthood, with many worker-bees choosing their tried-and-trusted matpakke over fast food. (The fact that Norway has the most expensive McDonald's branch in the world, where a Big Mac meal will set you back $23, might have something to do with that.)

In fact, the Norwegians take their matpakke so seriously that 30 percent of citizens have brought one on a plane in their hand luggage, according to an Expedia survey of 4000 people that was spotted by Norwegian news site Thor News.

While it's certainly practical and pragmatic, the average matpakke isn't exactly a gourmet meal. "In Norway, you're not supposed to look forward to your lunch," Ronald Sagatun, who runs a YouTube channel about Norwegian culture, says in a video. "It's kind of a strict thing. It's easy to make, easy to carry around, easy to eat, but it should be a disappointment."

So why do so many Norwegians continue to pack such a specific lunch if it's not especially tasty? Part of the explanation is that it's rooted in Norwegian tradition, history, and culture. According to Thor News, the tradition dates back to the '20s, when the government introduced a free "Oslo Breakfast" to schools in the capital in an attempt to encourage healthier eating habits. The government lacked the necessary funds to introduce the project nationwide, but many families started preparing the meal at home. It consisted of two to three cups of milk, half of an apple or orange, dry biscuits, and a granary loaf with butter and whey cheese.

Nowadays, the matpakke is viewed as a way of being resourceful, independent, and responsible—and it's unlikely to go away anytime soon.

[h/t BBC]

11 Unusual Cutting and Cheese Boards

Fred & Friends, Amazon
Fred & Friends, Amazon

Planning a wine and cheese party? Make sure what you're using to serve snacks is just as cute as your food is delicious.

1. Mouse Trap; $21

A cheese board shaped like a mouse trap

Fred & Friends, Amazon

At first glance, this item just looks like an oversized mouse trap. Ingeniously, the snapping part of the trap can be removed to reveal it's actually a cheese slicer. A chunk of cheese can be displayed and sliced on the 9-inch-long board—just don't invite any mice to the party.

Find it: Amazon

2. MOUSE BOARD; $30

A board shaped like a mouse hole with a mouse-shaped cheese cutter on top

Fred & Friends, Amazon

If a mouse trap is a little too macabre for your shindig, consider this adorable alternative. Assemble your cheeses on the 8-inch-long board and slice them up with a mouse-shaped knife that can be stored in the Tom and Jerry-esque mouse hole at the bottom.

Find it: Amazon

3. STATE SLATE; $20

Cheese and crackers arrayed on a slate cheese board

Bison Hill Stonecrafts, Amazon

Celebrate cheese from all over the United States with this patriotic slate. You can even grab a piece of chalk and write down the names of all the cheeses for hungry guests. Creator Bison Hill Stonecrafts will even personalize your board with a laser engraving, if you'd like.

Find it: Amazon

4. Log and Axe; $25

A cheese board shaped like a cut tree trunk

Fred & Friends, Amazon

Give your cheese a rustic presentation with this log and axe set-up. The solid beech cutting board is shaped like a log and comes with an axe-shaped knife to help you bring out your inner lumberjack.

Find it: Amazon

5. Mariner Wheel; $35

Invite all your sailor friends over for snacks with this nautical cheese board. When each of the four differently-shaped knives are placed into their respective holes in the board, the board looks like a ship's wheel.

Find it: UncommonGoods

6. Cheese Degrees; $20

A cutting board with a protractor design

Fred & Friends, Amazon

Make sure everyone gets an even amount of cheese with this obsessively precise cutting board. Whether you want perfect cubes or exactly portioned triangles, this cheese board can help ensure that everything is perfectly sliced.

Find it: Amazon

7. The States; $28

A cheese board in the shape of New York state

Amy Stringer-Mowat and Bill Mowat, UncommonGoods

Celebrate your home state with a bamboo cutting board created by New York-based woodworkers Amy Stringer-Mowat and Bill Mowat. You can see all the available state shapes in this PDF.

Find it: UncommonGoods

8. Voodoo Doll; $20

Pull out this voodoo doll-shaped board when you're feeling a little vindictive. You can hack away at meats and cheese and then store the knife appropriately in the wooden doll's back.

Find it: Overstock.com

9. Ampersand; $48

Delight your guests with some knowledge about where the ampersand comes from while using this board, which lets you fill a twisting line of crackers around three different cheeses.

Find it: UncommonGoods

10. Say Cheese; $19

A cheese board shaped like a smiling mouth

Fred & Friends, Amazon

Smile! It's cheese time. This mouth-shaped cheese board looks just as happy about the selection as you do. Underneath all the food, the board says "say cheese" in the center.

Find it: Amazon

11. The Obsessive Chef; $27

A cutting board with measurements on it

Fred & Friends, Amazon

This product comes with a series of lines to guide the cutter, including how to medium dice, small dice, brunoise, fine brunoise, batonnet, allumette, julienne, and fine julienne. The lines are burnished instead of printed, so they'll never get worn away.

Find it: Amazon or at one of the retailers below:

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

A version of this article first ran in 2017. It has been updated to reflect current availability.

A Massive Beef Recall Due to E. Coli Might Affect Your Memorial Day Meal Plans

iStock/Kameleon007
iStock/Kameleon007

If your Memorial Day weekend plans involve grilling meat, you're going to want to take some extra precautions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday that 62,112 pounds of raw beef are being recalled due to possible contamination with E. coli bacteria, which causes food poisoning.

The meat originated with the Aurora Packing Company of North Aurora, Illinois on April 19. Aurora Packing is recalling the products, which have an EST. 788 number on the USDA mark of inspection found on packaging and were shipped to stores around the country. The meat was packaged in multiple cuts, including ribeye and briskets.

Escherichia coli, better known as E. coli, is bacteria that affects the gastrointestinal system, causing cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and other serious symptoms that can derail one's celebratory mood. If you think you've purchased any of the contaminated meat, it's recommended that you immediately discard it.

[h/t USA Today]

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