This newsletter was going to be all about Denmark as a country—hygge, biking, smoked fish, that one rich girl on your TL who is always going to Copenhagen for no clear reason. But then I started thinking about what Denmark has to offer and realized its greatest export: Mads Mikkelsen. After getting my second jab, I’m feeling pretty hopeful so let’s daydream a bit in this installment of Homebodies: summering on Denmark’s Northern Coast, clean Scandinavian decor in your home, a fresh sprig of dill on an open-faced sandwich, and talent that rivals that of Mads Mikkelsen on-screen.
🎥 Watch: Another Round
Slightly dark but also uplifting (in a Nordic way), Another Round follows four in-a-rut high-school teachers on an experiment that requires them to stay at a blood alcohol level of 0.05 until 8 pm. Mads Mikkelsen plays Martin, a down-and-out dad, and snoozefest of a teacher—until he starts drinking. Another Round’s joyous ending soothes the more depressing elements of the film. We were playing the song at the end of the movie at top volume for weeks. Also, my boyfriend bought a breathalyzer immediately after watching this, and now makes us randomly test our BAC.
🎥 Watch: Flame and Citron
Is there a better genre of movie than people getting revenge on Nazis? Can’t think of one. Flame and Citron tells the true story of two Danish resistance fighters during WWII. As Denmark is occupied by Germans, they work underground to take out Nazi sympathizers including newspaper editors and radio hosts. Set throughout Copenhagen, the film is the most expensive in Danish cinematic history at the time. It stars our man-of-the-newsletter Mads Mikkelsen as Jørgen Haagen Schmith, or Citron, a surly, fedora-topped man hellbent on getting rid of traitorous Danes who crossed over to the Nazi regime.
Bonus: Arctic Also Mads, though not related to Denmark. Co-produced between Iceland and the US, it’s a very, very cold survival story of a man stranded in the Arctic Circle where if the temp doesn’t kill him, a polar bear might. Mikkelsen said it was the most difficult shoot of his life.
Denmark has been voted the world’s happiest country for many years now. I guess the universal healthcare, safe biking culture, a generous childcare system, and general cleanliness make up for the long winters. Journalist Helen Russell moved to Denmark and documented the formula for Danish happiness, from the country’s heavy emphasis on social welfare to the stress-free work-life balance. I want what they’re getting! (It’s healthcare. It’s always healthcare.)
🥪 Eat: Smørrebrød
Open-faced sandwiches are an art form in Scandinavia. They aren’t just slapping some mashed-up avocado on a slice of whole wheat and calling it breakfast. Smørrebrød’s base is usually a hearty, rye bread, layered with a combination of butter, pickles, mayo, smoked fish, herbs, shrimp, beets, green, and cheeses. It requires ritual and patience—there’s a special preparation and order in which you eat them. And it requires manners—you eat smørrebrød with a knife and fork, not your hands.
🥃 Drink: The Danish Fly
The Danish fly calls for banana liqueur, lemon juice, grenadine, and aquavit, a Nordic spirit similar to gin, poured over crushed ice. Infused with botanicals, Danish aquavit “leans heavier on dill, coriander, and caraway.” The aquavit this Food & Wine recipe uses is Krogstad, a variety bottled in Portland, Oregon. Skol!
Bonus: Any hot drink in your favorite mug My mom made this concoction for me once over Christmas break and I’ve been drinking it ever since: raw cacao, turmeric, cinnamon, a dash of turbinado sugar (or honey), almond milk, and boiling water. Hot chocolate with a spicy kick! Tea works too. Make sure it’s all in your favorite mug.
There are so many gems from this Mads Mikkelsen interview by Vulture’s E. Alex Jung. Many people know the actor from Casino Royale, playing the villain whose ophthalmologic problem really grossed me out. Thought many folks in America might not recognize him on the street but in Denmark, he’s a superstar. He talks about his career, aging, starring in Rihanna’s Bitch Better Have My Money music video, his fans, and his life philosophy.
I have a strict always-cozy policy. During the winter, I keep a YouTube channel running that is just a cat sleeping in front of a crackling fire during a snowstorm in a room filled with books and a big, fluffy bed. In the summer, I love being tucked into bed during a massive thunderstorm. Helen Russell, the journalist who wrote A Year of Living Danishly, describes hygge as “taking pleasure in the presence of gentle, soothing things.” Writer Anna Altman unpacks hygge for The New Yorker:
“Perhaps Scandinavians are better able to appreciate the small, hygge things in life because they already have all the big ones nailed down: free university education, social security, universal health care, efficient infrastructure, paid family leave, and at least a month of vacation a year. With those necessities secured, according to Wiking, Danes are free to become “aware of the decoupling between wealth and wellbeing.”
What hygge means to me: being in bed while it’s raining outside, drinking hot chocolate while watching my shows, the first sip of coffee in the morning, the way my cats curl up into fluffy little shrimp when they sleep, lighting a candle before reading a freshly cracked-open library book. I could go on forever, but you get the idea.
🛋️ Decorate: Danish Design Store
For a country as obsessed with hygge as Denmark, I find it interesting that they are known for manufacturing chairs that look like this:
All that chair is going to do is give me a stabbing pain in my lower back. But if you don’t have weak joints that need to be reclined on soft surfaces, Scandinavian design is here for you. This Instagram is all clean lines, neutral colors, wood floors, and sparsely decorated living rooms.
💭 Daydream: How to Summer on Denmark's Northern Coast
The CDC has been rather coy about whether or not vaccinated Americans are allowed to travel so not sure when we will actually be able to summer on Denmark’s northern coast. But we can start to dream a little! In the coastal towns outside of Copenhagen, it’s light out until 10 pm, hotels are a stone's throw from the beach, and locals ride their bikes in bathrobes to pick up fresh baked goods for breakfast. This article cured my depression.