Copenhagen: Danish Lunches

Posted on July 4, 2006


danish lunch.jpg

by sabine behrmann 

Lunch in Denmark is an either/or-affair. You either have 30 minutes at the most to wolf down your meal, or you sit at the table an eternity.

Since the lunch break is something you "pay for yourself" as they say in the private sector, there are quite a few people who consider it an unnecessary luxury, because it is after all more important to stay productive and to go without bodily sustenance, than to spend half an hour around midday recharging one’s batteries.

Only in connection with the great festivals are lunches a traditional occasion to gather your loved ones around you and treat them to the delights of the Danish cuisine: beer and akvavit.

This unreverential attitude to food has had its impact on the children, whose attitudes towards the packed lunches their parents provide them with are less than reassuring.

In short: many children refuse to eat the soggy, smelly sandwiches that greet them from the bottoms of their lunch boxes and pay a quick visit to the bakery, sweets shop or shawarma palace next-door during those precious 40 minutes around noon where they are supposed to spend at least half of the time getting healthy exercise in the school yard.

But now all this will end we are told.

The Danish minister of health has declared that in five years’ time all school children will be provided with a meal at school. For the cost of € 22.00 a month – to be paid by the parents who won’t have a say in what the meals will consist of and whether they will be edible for children who live with dietary restrictions for whatever reasons.

And nobody seems to want to discuss in advance that one € per meal won’t get you many culinary adventures in a country where the VAT alone amounts to 25 %. Because there is still this other hurdle: the children will have to eat the food and not sneak out and buy something they like better.

Let’s see if they’ll be able to turn the low status ordinary lunch into one of the definitive highlights of the day.