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]

The ChopBox Smart Cutting Board Has a Food Scale, Timer, and Knife Sharper Built Right Into It

ChopBox
ChopBox

When it comes to furnishing your kitchen with all of the appliances necessary to cook night in and night out, you’ll probably find yourself running out of counter space in a hurry. The ChopBox, which dubs itself “The World’s First Smart Cutting Board,” looks to fix that by cramming a bunch of kitchen necessities right into one cutting board.

In addition to giving you a knife-resistant bamboo surface to slice and dice on, the ChopBox features a built-in digital scale that weighs up to 6.6 pounds of food, a nine-hour kitchen timer, and two knife sharpeners. It also sports a groove on its surface to catch any liquid runoff that may be produced by the food and has a second pull-out cutting board that doubles as a serving tray.

There’s a 254nm UVC light featured on the board, which the company says “is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria" after a minute of exposure. If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cleanliness, the ChopBox is completely waterproof (but not dishwasher-safe) so you can wash and scrub to your heart’s content without worry. 

According to the company, a single one-hour charge will give you 30 days of battery life, and can be recharged through a Micro USB port. 

The ChopBox reached its $10,000 Kickstarter goal just 10 minutes after launching its campaign, but you can still contribute at different tiers. Once it’s officially released, the ChopBox will retail for $200, but you can get one for $100-$120 if you pledge fast. You can back the ChopBox here.

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McDonald’s Is Testing Out Plastic-Free Restaurants in Germany and Canada

Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

The public pressure on corporations to adopt sustainable practices grows stronger by the day, but there’s no manual on how exactly they should do it. To give itself some room to experiment before committing to a global roll-out, McDonald’s is testing out plastic-free restaurants in Germany and Canada.

Food & Wine reports that the first location to go green was a McDonald’s in Germany’s Mall of Berlin, which the burger behemoth dubbed the Better McDonald’s Store for 10 days in June. While some changes were pretty standard—paper straws and wooden cutlery replaced their plastic counterparts, for example—others demonstrated a commendable level of creativity. Condiments came in edible waffle cups, and burgers were served in wrapping made from actual grass.

According to a press release, the Berlin trial was a way of allowing customers and stakeholders to contribute to the discussion and provide feedback so McDonald’s could adjust its large-scale game plan accordingly.

“Normally, McDonald’s goes out with perfect solutions,” Diana Wicht, the sustainability department head for McDonald’s Germany, explained in the press release. “This time we said ‘We don’t have perfect solutions yet … Please help us!”

McDonald's is implementing new sustainable options in some of its restaurants worldwide
McDonald's

Unsurprisingly, customers did have some thoughts. The grass packaging was a straightforward success, and the waffle cups had a fair number of fans, too—though some felt the shape of the cups could be better optimized for dipping McNuggets. Straws presented more of a conundrum, because most people acknowledge that while plastic straws are evil, paper straws disintegrate too quickly to be a workable solution; some customers suggested completely eliminating straws for patrons dining in the restaurant simply by serving lid-less drinks. Wooden cutlery, however, was a flop; one of every two customers surveyed said it tasted “woody.”

Overall, McDonald’s deemed the experiment a success, and has opened two comparable stores in Ontario and British Columbia to gauge Canadian customers' responses.

The fast-food giant has also sprinkled smaller sustainability changes in other stores around the globe. McDonald’s Canada swapped out its napkins for smaller ones manufactured from recycled fibers, and McDonald’s UK is in the process of ditching plastic McFlurry lids and replacing plastic salad containers with recyclable cardboard versions.

Hopefully, the McDonald’s sustainability overhaul will also lead to the invention of a McFlurry machine that doesn’t break down so often.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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