Adjusting to life in a foreign country is often difficult. For many, fitting in to a new culture, learning the language, even changing ones taste in food causes much anxiety. For Erin Eberhardt Chapman this experience was all too real after she made the move to Denmark from the USA. However, 20 years on, she shares how her love-affair with food helped her discover a new love for Denmark.
I was born and raised in the farmlands of Illinois and the northwoods of Wisconsin, USA. Some of my fondest memories are of my parents seamlessly working together in the kitchen creating lovely dinners each night. I think this was where my love for food began. Home-style cooking was the mantra of my slightly food-obsessed family. A mantra I have carried with me half way across the globe. I first visited Denmark in 1993, and then for a semester of school during my university years. I travelled quite a bit between Denmark and the USA during this time, before taking up a job as an art director. Back then, I was “the American” in the ad agency. Just 24 at the time, I was one of the few Americans who had decided to call Denmark home.
Finding my feet with food
I quickly immersed myself into the Danish way of life, but struggled with the language. At first the only words that would stick in my brain were the names of food items I’d find in the grocery store. I couldn’t speak complete sentences, but quiz me about items on the grocery shelves, and I’d nail it. It wasn’t until my second year of life in Denmark that the natural pangs of homesickness began to kick in. I was young and independent, but still very close with my family back in the USA. I needed to find a way to cope with it. Naturally, I turned to food. I began to embrace all the foods that I had grown up with, digging into old family cookbooks, baking traditional favourites, and filling my little Copenhagen apartment with familiar scents of ‘home’. It worked. I would make dinner for my Danish friends, bake treats for my colleagues, and when I met my Danish husband-to-be, I suddenly had someone I could cook for on a daily basis. My homesickness began to fade and my life evolved. Denmark became a part of me, but my wariness of the Danish winters grew more and more intense (as I imagine it does for many). I would say: ‘it’s not the cold – it’s the damp and grey!’ As the years went on, my husband and I finally thought we’d had enough of the ‘damp and grey’. We packed up and moved to Southern California, where every day was a warm and sunny 25 degrees. I thought that I would love it. I thought that it was going to be the answer to where I belonged: sunshine and being back in my home country. In the short time that we were there, I went crazy with the abundance of produce at the colourful farmers markets, sipped California wines a-plenty, and soaked up inspiration from all my new foodie friends. But it wasn’t really home. And the seasons didn’t change. I found myself suddenly missing a cool, rainy day in October, candlelit afternoons in December, and snowfall in January. Most of all, I missed making the foods that would go hand-in-hand with the changing seasons.
A new food journey
My husband, daughter and I moved back to Denmark permanently nearly three years ago after a realisation that this was where we were meant to be. Making the most of our move back, I had the opportunity to merge my love of baking and nostalgia, and create a ‘Home away from Home’ with the launch of The American Pie Company. The shift from long Scandinavian summer nights to damp and grey winter days became a positive rather than a negative. It was at this moment where I learned to truly embrace the Danish winter weather in the foods that I prepared. Hearty stews, slow-cooked fare, roots, herbs, baked goodies and hearty weekend breakfasts reign supreme during these cold months. And just because it’s grey outside, doesn’t mean that the food has to be grey! My sunny days in California instilled a constant reminder to add colour and use seasonal fruits and veggies to their fullest.
So whether you’re a sunshine-deprived Dane or a homesick expat, remember to explore food as a way to nourish your soul during the Danish winters.
Rustic Sweet Potato & Beet Galette
Just as flavourful as it is colourful, this hearty savoury galette is a perfect winter side dish to roasted meats, or a stand-alone as the main course. the dough is simple and can be easily made
ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 3 days. SERVES 2-4
125g butter, cold and cut into cubes
6-7tbsp cold water
1 large sweet potato, peeled and sliced thin
1 large beet, peeled and sliced thin
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
into thin rings
1 clove garlic, smashed and diced
2tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
5-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
150g goat cheese (or fresh
mozzarella for a milder taste),
cut into small pieces
Egg or milk for brushing crust
To make the dough:
In a mixing bowl, add the flour, butter and ½tsp salt. Using a fork or pastry blender, (or pulse in a food processor) press the cubed butter pieces until you have a crumbly mixture, and the butter is in pea-sized chunks. Gradually add the cold water, and press into the mixture with a rubber scraper (or pulse a couple times in the processor) just until mixture comes together, do not over-blend. Bring the dough together with your hands and form a ball. If it feels a little too sticky, sprinkle with flour. Wrap with plastic wrap and press into a round disk shape. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or up to 3 days if making on advance).
To assemble the galette:
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, add the sliced sweet potato, beet, onion, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Add thyme leaves from 2-3 of the stems and gently toss the ingredients until the potato and beet is coated well. On a clean surface, sprinkle a good amount of flour and roll out the dough into a circular shape, (using plenty of flour if needed to avoid sticking) so that it’s approximately 30-40cm in diameter and approx. ½cm thick. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet (the easiest way to do this is to fold the dough in half and then in half again, move it to the sheet and open it back up again). Leaving about 10cm of dough on the edges, layer the prepared potato, beet and onion in the centre of the dough and out toward the edge. Sprinkle with goat cheese and fold the edges in over the beets and potatoes. Brush the folded over dough with a beaten egg or milk. Sprinkle with the remaining thyme sprigs and sea salt. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the beets and potatoes are cooked through.
Note: if crust is browning too fast, cover with foil and continue to bake until filling is done.
Meet the writer:
Erin Chapman, Co-owner, The American Pie Company – www.theamericanpieco.com
With over 20 years’ experience in the advertising industry, working both in Denmark and USA, Erin has specialised in brand building and image development for lifestyle, food and fashion clientele on both national and international levels. Erin attended DIS, Denmark’s Study Abroad programme in 1996 and made a connection with Copenhagen. She moved to Denmark permanently in 1998 with two suitcases and a pocketful of change. Working in the advertising industry she worked her way up as a senior creative, as well as a voiceover artist, and then began her own brand and design business in 2006. Merging her love for food and art direction, she began food styling and cookbook design for other authors, and then proceeded to continue with recipe development, publishing two cookbooks in Denmark. While living in Los Angeles, Erin worked with several US brands on image and recipe development and upon returning to Denmark, she partnered with Dorte Prip in 2015 to introduce The American Pie Company in Copenhagen. Erin is happily married to her Danish husband and is the mother of a sassy 5-year old daughter who speaks fluent “Danglish”.