Pork producers throughout Denmark are undoubtedly wringing their hands over the news that the ground pork and veal meatballs known as frikadeller have lost their place in the final round of voting for Denmark’s national dish. Granted, there are several pork-based dishes still in the running as Food Minister Dan Jørgensen’s campaign draws to a close. But frikadeller fans were probably not much comforted by Jørgensen’s statement that “I’m personally sad fiskefilet didn’t make it, but we have lots of good dishes in Denmark.”
As the Food Minister points out in The Copenhagen Post, “the competition is primarily about generating a public discussion about our food products, food and meals. It will be fun to see what the Danes choose at the end.” Those of us not qualified to vote due to a lack of Danish residency (to say nothing of ethnicity) can only cheer for our favorites from the sidelines. But how did hakkebøf med blød løg get to be the home team for Copenhagen?
Hakkebøf is, when it comes down to it, a hamburger. Granted it is served without a bun, and with a big pile of delicious sautéed onions, but it is a burger nonetheless. And Danes are not as well known for their beef as they are for their pork products – whereas those of us in the US pride ourselves on having great burgers.
According to a recent article by Kalle Bergman for Honest Cooking, we Americans may have a Dane to thank for the invention of our beloved hamburger. Danes have contributed so much to world culture, from Legos to this year’s Eurovision extravaganza, but few people would credit them with creating the first burger.
Bergman’s article mentions that there is an unconfirmed legend of the hamburger being created by a Danish butcher’s apprentice in the US around the turn of the 19th century. Whether or not this is true, she goes on to say, in the 1940s a Danish food writer raved about hamburgers, inspiring Oscar and Anni Pettersson to open Oscars Bøf Bar in Bakken (which is a great tongue-twister). According to the Bakken web site, Pettersson actually got the idea from a friend who visited the US in 1949, and his wife Anni spend many days developing the recipe that is still used. The beef sandwich at lunch became a dinner entree when the bun was replaced with potatoes and gravy – and today Oscars peels 3 tons of onions and fries about 60 tons of ground beef each year.
The popularity of this relatively new Danish dish, especially in fall and winter, accounts for its place on Minister Jørgensen’s final list of favorites. But will it win out over “Burning Love”? Only time will tell…