Interview: Bjarte Frøyland | Photography: Rasmus Rolsted | Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Aleksandr Tarkovskij Hemminghytt was born in 1986 in the city centre of Oslo, where he lived until he was 24. Growing up, he played around fencing with class mates, pretending to be Zorro. But, what started as pure fun, soon became serious, and Aleksandr ended up with a fencing career that lasted for 16 years. The highlight was winning a medal at the Junior World Fencing Championships. As fencing is a minor sport, and not the most lucrative income source, Aleksandr had to prioritise studies and work. First in Oslo, then in Copenhagen, where he still lives today, 6 years after moving. Having studied Management of Creative Business Processes at Copenhagen Business School, and having worked as an e-commerce expert with creative industries; sports- and fashion, he is settled in Copenhagen. Nowadays, he is starting a new job at TOP—TOY, remodelling the apartment that he shares with his fiancée Amalie, as well as taking care of his 2-month year old kid. No doubt, the life of Aleksandr is a busy one!
We went to Copenhagen to meet with him, and to get some insight information on how Copenhagen is treating a Norwegian. In addition, we certainly wanted to experience his introduction of the Norwegian brunost to the Danish people.
/ Aleksandr welcomes us at the entrance of the apartment he shares with his fiancée Amalie. It is Sunday and quite early, but something tells me he has already been up for a few hours /
How is life, Aleksandr?
Life is good. But very different. I just got a little son, Wilhelm, my first child . So, sleeping is no longer on the agenda (laughs). But it is truly amazing.
And busy, I can imagine?
No kidding. With a newborn you obviously do have less time on your own. On top of everything, we are also currently re-modelling the apartment. So, there is plenty to do. But, despite the to-do-list, we still find time for enjoyable things, such as today´s breakfast and lunch.
Rumours has it you also just got a new job in a toy company? I suppose that is not a coincident?
Well, I haven´t yet started, but I look forward to beginning in May. The timing is actually a weird coincident, but I surely hope for discounts for toys, with Wilhelm hanging around (laughs).
What will you do, then?
I will be working at TOP-TOY, a company that operates more than 300 TOYS”R”US and BR stores. I will be the Traffic Manager in their new e-commerce department, managing and leading online projects in addition to making sure their online store works seamlessly with their physical stores. So, I am expecting it to be very exciting.
Best of luck. Let us move on to why I am here. What is the plan for today?
First of all, we definitely need breakfast. Then, Amalie, my fiancée, will take Wilhelm for a walk in the sun, before she is off to meet a friend. Furthermore, I have invited my Danish brother in law for a Norwegian lunch.
Sounds like a perfect Sunday. What is for breakfast?
I figured I would combine the Danish and Norwegian kitchens; homemade rugbrød with brunost and jam. So, let’s get started.
How has having a baby changed the way you eat and cook?
We certainly have much less time to cook. We have to eat while he is sleeping, but we did prepare for this adventure of less-available-time, by making large portions of food before he entered the world. Our everyday life thus consists of heating well-preserved portions when we don’t have much time to cook.
It sounds like you still try to find time for cooking, avoiding fast food and ready-to-eat alternatives?
Yes, that’s true. We are getting accustomed to the new life. Cooking is something we enjoy and wish to continue doing. Especially in the weekends we try to spend more time cooking, as we both are off from work then. Such as waffles! I have good memories of this from my own childhood, and I would love for Wilhelm to grow up with this tradition. As Amalie never really has made waffles, I do need to take care of this pursue myself!
Is he telling the truth, Amalie?
He actually is. Waffles is not something I am used to. But I must admit, I like it.
And the breakfast, rugbrød with brunost?
Very interesting (laughs). I think it was a bit too sweet for a traditional breakfast, but think it could be lovely as part of some sort of dessert.
/ Amalie is going to meet a friend and as a change of plans, we decide to join them for some fresh air and a stroll in their neighbourhood /
Yes, I suppose so. I moved here in September 2011 together with some friends to finish my Master's Degree at CBS (Copenhagen Business School), and figured I would stay here two years, before returning to Oslo. But then, I met Amalie, and now we have settled in an apartment and got a child together, which indicates that I will be staying here. Maybe for the rest of my life; who knows? At the moment, at least, we do not plan on moving to Norway.
Oh, it is 12! We need to head back to prepare lunch!
Absolutely! Let's return to the apartment.
What can your brother in law expect for lunch?
Waffles, crème fraiche, jam and brunost. And ice cream with caramel sauce, based on brunost.
I have heard it has become quite popular in Norway, so I figured I would give it a try. But I must admit, it sounds a bit weird (laughs). But of course, I would not want to miss out on a on a perfect match, so, sure; it is worth the try!
Any special secrets?
Well, I like to keep the waffles as classic as possible. But to be honest, I do add a bit of brunost and cardamom in the mixture.
So, while you take care of the cooking, I need to ask you the unanswered question Norwegians thinking about moving to Copenhagen cannot get out of their heads: How is the city treating a (true) Viking from Norway; a person, who stereotypically of course is born ready to ski, hike and spend the nights in various snow caves 12 months a year?
Copenhagen is fantastic. In so many ways. I believe most Norwegians would agree with me on that. Denmark is perhaps the most liberal among the Scandinavian countries. Not a very important thing, but it is nice to be able to drink a beer outside by the channels or stay out a bit longer during the weekends. And it is a city that is more cultural than Oslo in many ways.
Of course, I also enjoy Copenhagen so much due to the fact that it is new to me. Copenhagen was a contrast to my 24-years-old-life spent in Oslo, with its routines and therefore also to a certain extent, boredom. Nothing was new – everything was routine. Now, on the other hand, when I go back to visit, I love that I can be a tourist in my own hometown. Because, there is no doubt I still truly love Oslo, and I do believe that I experience the earlier well-familiar normal day life in a new way, when visiting these days. In short, one could say that living in Denmark brings back “the feel-good-atmosphere” when going back as well!
The fact that I also have a sister just outside Copenhagen, brings Norway a bit closer.
How do you find the food scene here different from the food traditions brought forward in Oslo?
In many ways, the food is quite similar, but the biggest difference is that people go out to eat more often in Copenhagen. In that way, Danes seem a bit more social, one could say. This is somewhat because it is cheaper here, but just as important, I believe, is the variety of restaurants; Copenhagen has a better and wider selection of alternatives than Oslo do, or at least did, when I moved.
These days, for instance, street food have gotten super popular here, on the other hand, traditional classics such as Danish pilsner, and “Røde pølser”, still applies!
With all the variation then – is there anything at all you miss from Norway?
Well, there is. The funny thing though, is that these are not things I would imagine missing before moving abroad! There must be something in not having the easy access! The number one missing taste is Smash – the Norwegian chocolate that is nowhere to be found elsewhere. Another top-priority-thing is brunost. That is, they sell it here, but I believe Denmark only provide two types. I surely miss brunost-variation! And mayo then, Norwegian Mayo – for some strange reason.
/ Phone calls /
Oh. That was my brother in law. He was called in for an extra shift at work - last minute.
Well hey, guess there’s more for us then?! Rasmus, have you eaten?
Rasmus: Not since breakfast – so I am quite hungry, actually.
The top ten question, Rasmus: What do you think? Waffles, brunost and jam – the one and only new combination?
Rasmus: It tastes really good together with the jam. But - it IS strong. It is sweet and sour at the same time. I must admit it is not a taste that I’m used to (Laughs).
I love that you are open to new combinations! It could give you plenty of good adventures, you know! But okay then, let us round up with two final questions for both of you: To people visiting Copenhagen, what are the places one should go to eat; the places that one must not miss out on?
Rasmus: My recommendation would absolutely be the Nose2Tail restaurant in the meatpacking district, they have great Nordic dishes and a great variety of beverages.
Aleksandr: Papirøen is a great place selling street food from various countries across the world. Very low-key, great atmosphere and reasonable prices. You also have Torvehallerne, which is similar to Mathallen in Oslo - a very popular place for eating lunch and purchasing your groceries. If you are looking for a typical restaurant I would also recommend Madklubben - great food for a fair price.
And, second: The most important one, of course: Do you think brunost can become a hit here in Denmark?
Aleks: Most Danes are a bit sceptic to brunost, or "myseost", as they call it. I think it is because they believe it should be eaten in the same context and setting as any other cheese. Therefore, they are surprised by the rather sweet taste. Consequently, I have chosen to serve brunost together with jam and waffles. So, yes - I believe it could be success if served in the right context.
Rasmus: I'm not the biggest cheese-lover myself, but I believe that there are a lot of normal cheese-loving Danes out there, that would love the new taste of brunost!
And, of course, last, but not least: Have you introduced brunost to many Danes Aleksandr?
I have introduced brunost to several close friends, and they agree that the cheese and waffles is a good combination. They don't get why we have on bread though.
Well thank you for the interview! And Rasmus, thanks for stepping in for the brother in law. It seems that there might be some extra for me here as well? Let’s dig in.