I ran across another American-in-Norway's blog and he told of making the mistake of making a full-fledged American sandwich, complete with "lid" for breakfast, whereas the Norwegian style is one slice of cheese or coldcut on a slice of bread, no sandwich. And today my brain interpreted "ice" as meaning frozen water, forgetting for a moment that Norwegians shorten icecream to "ice" (which does mean frozen water in Norwegian, too), so I was surprised by the coffee with icecream in it, but it was actually pretty good.
Norwegian food has traditionally been colored by limited area and climate for farming, spoilage (which lead to lutefisk) and poverty. The result is that a traditional Norwegian dinner used to be sinewy meat, heaps of potatoes with bad spots, and cabbage or carrots or cauliflower as a second vegetable (if any). Meat was expensive; fish was cheaper. Such was the situation when we arrived in Norway in 1969. No salads, no garlic, and the vegetables were usually cooked to death. If someone served a sandwich (open-faced, naturally) with a bit of parsely on it, most Norwegians would pick it off because all raw vegetables were for rabbits. The bread was good, but all too often fruit and potatoes had bruises and bad spots, and in general looked rather small and pathetic. Norwegians were still getting used to foreign food. They had discovered vacationing in Spain and some had finally tasted good chicken, not old hen. Back then, you could still find "hen" in the freezer; now it's "broiler", "chicken" and often in parts and pre-marinated.
What you find in the freezer today, next to the pre-marinated chicken, are all sorts of ready-to-eat meals, fish, squid, shrimp, vegetables, cake, berries, pizza, quiche, and more. Likewise, rows of canned peas are now replaced by spaghetti and taco sauces, French mustards, black olives and pickled garlic. Kits with spices and other necessities ease the making of fajitos, moussaka and lasagne, as well as a number of stews with recognizable ingredients, but exotic flavorings.
Salads are a regular addition to many dinners now, and the vegetable selection has expanded to include bell peppers, broccoli, zucchini and eggplant. There is more than one type of onion available, and Norwegians no longer turn up their noses at the idea of using garlic. Norwegians don't stick to just the home-grown fruits of cherries, apples, pears, plums and strawberries, but enjoy bananas, passion fruit, grapefruit, grapes and pineapple, etc. There are more varieties of cheese and spices, and a lot of imported and exotic foods, like Thai sauces, Indian curries, soy milk and even maple syrup. Cooking fat has been replaced by any number of vegetable oils, and the lowly potato by all kinds of pasta and rice. The bread is still good and more different types have been added, and nowadays, a Norwegian is more likely to not settle for one measly slice of sheep's sausage, but will indulge in pastrami and several kinds of raw vegetables as garnish. The employee cafeteria where I work has a salad bar twice a week.
I eat like the Norwegians, mostly, right down to the open-faced sandwich with one slice of cheese for lunch. I am revealed as a foreigner since I twirl my spaghetti on my fork (usually using a spoon); most Norwegians cut their spaghetti. Do I miss anything specifically American while living here? Yes: Tuna melt sandwiches, cole slaw, pumpkin pie and blue cheese dressing. I am delighted by the huge variety of everything available in an American grocery store, but I make do here in Norway and eat well. Today's Norway has produced some world class chefs, and today's average Norwegian eats a far more varied (if untradtional) diet, and is more willing than ever to try new things. Gone are the days when Norwegian housewives cooked and froze two week's worth of dinner before heading to Spain, so that she and her husband could eat something they recognized. Today's Norwegian will make paella in her own kitchen. And I make burritos.