All Things Food: Cooking, Dining, and Dealing With A Nut Allergy

On my list of priorities, food is high. It might actually be first. I’m not sure. I’ve eaten special meals out and staple meals in, and I’ve saved and splurged and eaten around a nut allergy, but most importantly I’ve eaten every day and enjoyed it. Before I came to Copenhagen, I was wondering how I’d manage providing all my meals for myself in a kollegium. But in fact, coordinating my food has turned out to be one of my constant positives day-to-day. Here’s what I’ve been eating.

Things I Cook That I’ve Liked

The vast majority of what I eat is what I cook in my kollegium on my two stovetop burners. My roommate, Sananda, and I actually cook together quite a bit, and we’ve nailed down the rotating wheel of ingredients: bread, eggs, chickpeas, salmon, chicken, spinach, pasta, rice, peppers, and onions. Sometimes garlic and avocados, plus fruit and granola and skyr. I think I can say without exaggeration that that is our entire diet. I have really been enjoying the Danish rye bread (rugbrød, as they say here – and the packaged kind without nuts, of course). I am also eating a lot of skyr, which is an “Icelandic dairy product” that is very similar to yogurt, but has a slightly more sour taste – and it’s very good! I often pair it with berries and this vanilla granola from Netto that we are obsessed with.

All in all, I would say that the most important staple in my current diet is the medium-soft fried egg, which I have literally perfected after making it so often. They are so versatile and go with everything, at any time of day. I eat them with lox and bread, sometimes avocado, or I’ll pair them with leftovers to utterly transform a side of pasta or stir fry from the night before into a new lunch, and sometimes I’ll put soy sauce on a fried egg and eat it with leftover rice because I’m half-Asian and god knows I need that in my life. Last week when I was the last one in the house and trying to eat through the rest of our food before I left for my weeklong Ireland trip, I tried to get by for three days without eggs to minimize food waste, and I couldn’t do it. I went out and bought eggs.

I’ve seen a wide variety of cooking/eating habits in my kollegium, and they ultimately come down to individual preferences and schedules. Cooking about half of my dinners with my roommate means that we get meals made pretty fast, but it also leaves less leftovers for lunch the next day. Some dinner favorites are: salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing and chicken; a salad with chickpeas, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, and dressing; penne with sauteed onions, spinach, and tomatoes, and topped with parmesan; and breakfast for dinner (aka more eggs). I once made this great lemon-chickpea pasta topped with parmesan from NYT food. Pasta in general is a solid choice with room for customization, and is my favorite meal to make with other people. It’s so easy to throw together tortellini with caramelized onions and mushrooms in tomato sauce, or even a shrimp scampi, and scrounge up enough for multiple servings.

Tortellini in-the-making

About two weeks ago, Sananda and I passed the rice hurdle. We had basmati rice sitting untouched on our shelf for weeks out of intimidation, but one day one of us took the plunge and found out how to successfully cook rice (it wasn’t me) and it opened up so many doors. We make chicken fajitas with rice and salsa, and chicken and broccoli cooked in “teriyaki sauce” (soy sauce and honey), and this great pan fry of sweet potatoes with onion, peppers, and kidney beans (or chickpeas, again) in chili powder, topped with a lime-honey-olive oil vinaigrette. It also helped a lot with meal-prepping, and I’ll often take leftovers with rice to DIS for lunch. 

Sananda and I on our first joint dinner night – we made chicken and green beans cooked in garlic and onions and chili pepper, and we’ve come a long way since

There is one golden dish that Sananda and I make and it is this. We get this spinach-ricotta ravioli from the local Netto, and stir it into cooked spinach and sliced chicken breast grilled with paprika, and drizzle it with olive oil and top with grated parmesan cheese. It’s incredible – I swear. Every time we make it I think: “Did I just do this?” And I actually did.

Lunches by DIS
About once a week, I cave and get lunch out by school. (This sounds like a pretty good track record, but there are actually only two days when I really need to have a full meal while at DIS, so I really eat out for lunch about 50% of the time). In any case, my go-to lunch is a bagel-sandwich from one of the bagel shops around campus. They are set up like an assembly line where you choose your cream cheese/hummus, your protein, veggies, and a final sauce. I often get a plain bagel with lox and a very light layer of cream cheese, and then add lettuce and tomatoes on top. The curry sauce on chicken is another good option, though a bit messy if you’re eating between classes. The last time I went, I got a plain bagel with sun-dried tomato cream cheese, chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers. It was almost perfect, but I think switching to the spicy chicken option will make it complete. Will confirm once I try.

Otherwise, the 7-Elevens here are really quite handy. Unlike 7-Elevens in America, which are useful to me only for slushies, Danish 7-Elevens are stocked with sandwiches that have things like chicken and ham and mozzarella and fresh veggies on baguettes. They are also generally very clean and have all the other packaged foods you might want for a snack. It’s not gourmet, but it’s cheap and highly dependable, which is sometimes really all you need. 

Things I’ve Eaten Outside That I’ve Liked

I should say first that I don’t eat nice meals out very often because they tend to be expensive, but when I do eat out it’s always delicious. I ate brunch at this little place called Wulff & Konstali in Nørrebro a couple of weekends ago. They give you a menu of small dishes with boxes you can tick off, like dim sum, and you order at the counter (135 DKK for five different small dishes). When I went, I got falafels on cabbage salad, lox, two fried eggs, a small waffle, and a raspberry-coconut chia seed pudding, and completely loved it.

The Wulff & Konstali spread

SPIS is a cool burger place in the center of Copenhagen. When I went, I got the chicken burger with fries on the side, and made myself the most full I’ve been in this country yet. It’s a bit pricey, but the burgers are so flavorful and the fries so perfectly crisped that it feels worth it. Would recommend!

When you ask about food to try in Denmark, funnily enough everyone talks about the hot dogs. There are these hot dog stands all over the city, housed in little white carts, that seem to have become a national pride. I had my first hot dog with my visiting host sister, Emma, and she recommended the fransk (French) hot dog, where the bun wraps around the hot dog so you can eat it all neatly. I got it with mustard. I’m not a hot dog connoisseur, but it tasted good. If you are deterred by the standard hot dogs from the New York carts in upper Manhattan, I can confirm that they are better here.

Waffle joints seem to pop up on every other street in Copenhagen. I ate these wonderful waffles in the city center and I cannot remember the place’s name, but I have no doubt it’s just like all the other waffle/crepe shops in the city. I got a waffle covered with chocolate sauce and strawberries; my friend, from what I remember, got a crepe with nutella and strawberries. They were both great. I’m just going to keep saying this. 

A Note on Allergies

I am allergic to nuts, and everyone knows about it because I can’t stop talking about it whenever I have to order food. My allergy is to all the nuts – peanuts, tree nuts, pine nuts, etc. – but walnuts and pecans tend to be the worst, and I carry an epipen and a benadryl with me everywhere. When I was 18, I visited Spain with a friend and had a server tell me point blank that there were no nuts in the dish before coming back two minutes later, after I’d eaten part of it, to say “there’s been a big mistake…” 

From previous experiences like this, I have a bit of anxiety about my allergies, particularly in countries with a language barrier, and I expected this to be a big stressor for me while abroad. I’ve actually found that it’s easy to avoid nuts in Denmark. I use the google translate app on my phone to scan and translate ingredient lists on groceries and make sure they are nut free, which has been a lifesaver while shopping. I also carry an allergy card in my wallet that says, in Danish, that I have a severe allergy to peanuts and tree nuts, and I’ve had to use it once or twice. However, most servers in Copenhagen speak English, and I’ve always been able to communicate clearly about ingredients. Outside of pastries, most of Danish food is nut free. 

At the end of the day, it comes down to judgment. I promised myself that I wouldn’t eat at bakeries here due to cross-contamination risk, and it’s a heartbreaking decision but it’s one that I live with. At the same time, I’ve broken it a couple times when I really wanted a croissant and didn’t see any nuts in the display cases. Only you know the risk you are willing to take, and how severe your dietary restrictions are.

As I’ve said to a friend, I spend something like 40% of my waking hours thinking about what I’m eating or what I’m going to eat. Deciding what to cook and buy for myself has been a grand old adventure, and a good way to enjoy life while also keeping myself alive here. I am slightly disturbed with the rate that the olive oil and red chili flakes and parmesan cheese in my dorm are disappearing, but its just as well. A good hot sizzle and a dash of spice are always welcome, and always worth it.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Bonnie Hennig says:

    I Hildi,
    What a “delicious” post. Now I am sitting at the computer here in the back bedroom thinking about food!
    Your bagel with lox makes me think of New York. I had Eggs Benedict with salmon with your Dad at the restaurant on the corner near your apartment. Also, during the time I was there, we ate at an African resturant. where I had fish soup. Those are two memorable meals,



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