When it comes to the ‘Joie de vivre' category, Norway is at the top of the list. Even though it has been dethroned by Finland, which now holds the title of ‘happiest country in the world,’ Norway is not to be outdone in terms of happiness. So one wonders, what is the source of this unbridled enthusiasm? Perhaps part of the answer lies in what Norwegians eat for lunch.
‘The most boring lunch on earth’
It is believed that Hippocrates once said:
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be they food.
In reality, the Greek physician-philosopher never said this, but the idea is rather good: it is true that food plays a role in one's health and well-being.
In Norway, there is a type of lunch that people love: ‘matpakke.’ The recipe is quite simple:
- a few slices of buttered wholemeal bread
- a slice of cheese or ham (with a spoonful of cod liver oil for the more adventurous)
- an orange
There are a few variations, but that's about it. Rather sad in the end, matpakke is nicknamed ‘the most boring lunch on earth.’ Yet it is a real tradition in the country, just like the Japanese bento box.
A decades-old tradition
Matpakke was originally a government initiative that began in 1930. Its aim was to combat malnutrition by providing free meals to school children. Almost a century later, the programme no longer exists, but matpakke has remained a tradition.
While it is obviously not the only reason why Norwegians are happy, it could have a small impact. The secret lies in the simplicity of the recipe: cheap, easy to make and, above all, unchanged for decades. All this helps to reduce the mental burden on Norwegians.
After all, the choice of meal can also be a source of stress. Have you ever wasted time wondering what you are going to eat for lunch? Have you ever stood in a supermarket wondering whether to choose a healthy salad or a succulent roast chicken? In Norway, they don't ask themselves these kinds of questions, allowing them to focus on other things.