Brød is Danish for bread. The mystifying pronunciation of this deceptively short little word is a source of endless mockery among non-Danish speakers. B is the only letter that is recognizable to an English-speaker. To the untrained ear, the Ø sounds roughly equivalent to the double O in “book,” but most Danes will not recognize it if you try to say it that way. The Danish D has different pronunciations depending on where it is in the word; when at the end, it is pronounced like a cross between D and L, a sound that foreigners can only approximate by sticking their tongues out while trying to pronounce L. Even Norwegians and Swedes cannot master it. You might be able to approximate the word brød by swallowing the I in the word “broil” and sticking your tongue out at the end, but I would not suggest it as you might injure yourself in the process.
Danish bread is distinctly unlike what we call bread in America, even so-called French or Italian bread, and comes in a much wider variety of genres, none of which are white. The general characteristics of brød is that it’s usually, to varying degrees: moist, dark, dense and uneven in texture, sometimes unleavened, and can include seeds, nuts, unground grain kernels, and dried fruit. It is the polar opposite in every way of the white, fluffy, smooth, stuff Americans think of as bread. I have only seen Wonder bread being consumed here once, and that was by ducks.
I haven’t fully learned all the nuances of brød. I can say that all the various genres are much more flavorful than any other type of bread I’ve eaten. Jewish rye and pumpernickel, and Russian wheat bread pale in comparison. The silly little poppy or carroway seeds atop these breads are no match for the pumpkin and sunflower seeds on brød. Grinding grains is for sissies. Brød is made from wheat has just stripped its chaff and jumped directly into the oven. Some brød is leavened, but the classic brød we associate with Denmark, the kind used to make the classic open-faced sandwich “smørrebrod,” is a very dark, very compact, very moist, unleavened affair served in miniature, squared off loaves. This form of brød is usually about 4x4 inches square (How much is that in centimeters? Who knows!) and cut in thin slices. It’s a fuel-efficient bread that can be consumed in much smaller quantities than air-infused American bread, for the same effect.
The regional delicacy smørrebrød is more or less the Danish national food. Smør, by the way, is Danish for butter, so literally translated it means “butter bread.” Smørrebrød consists of a half a slice of the appropriate type of flat, moist, dark unleavened bread, also called rugbrød, buried under a pile of stuff, which can range from amazing cold cuts, to cheese, to egg salad, to pickled herring, to “laks” (Salmon), similar to the Jewish lox, usually with a dollop of some kind of cream and a spring of fresh herb, or a garnish of olive or pickle, or whatever is lying around. Underneath the pile is a schmear of smør, by which I mean, a layer of butter almost as thick as the bread itself. They are delightful little things packed with ummy cholesterol (although the bread itself is apparently very low in fat), that are eaten with a knife and fork in about 3-4 bites. You can eat maybe 2 or 3 of them before running out of room since they are so dense. They are totally delicious and one of my favorite things on earth.
I've been on a quest to find smørrebrød since arriving here, and the first time was somewhat unsatisfying. Although the “laks” were delicious, it was not on the right kind of bread. In the meantime, I made my own attempt at approximating smørrebrod from available ingredients at the ITU canteen:
But then on Saturday JOY! I stopped by this restaurant I'd been wanting to try, Under Elmen, and they had it on the menu! It was PERFECT. Not only that, but I was told this was a particularly Danish variation: Bacon and potatoes! YAY!