Kaffemiks: every well-bred Greenlander should know how to bake, right?

Kaffemik food - Amazingly decked out board to celebrate a friend's birthday

Food from my last kaffemik – Celebrating a friend’s birthday. More photos of life available on Instagram.

Oh the pressure!

I’ve been cordially invited to two kaffemiks so far and both times none of the delicious food was bought from the supermarket or from a patisserie. The food was made lovingly by the hosts. Damn.

I remember a time in high school when pizza parties were all the rage. It was every parents’ cheap and nasty solution to feed the hordes of hungry teenagers on their doorstep. Freshly baked stacks of supreme and meat lovers pizza would be delivered to parties for an extremely reasonable price and all eaten in a flash. Well, in Nuuk, there’s not much of a fast food culture here. For sure there’s no such thing as Pizza Hut (or McDonalds)!

The past few years I’ve acclimatised to a lifestyle where eating dinner out about 3 or 4 times a week is normal. It makes sense in Sydney – though not particularly cheap, there are lots of great restaurants to choose from and it’s a social time to meet friends. It’s not always possible to have dinner at homes, especially as everyone lives so far away from each other (say 20 to 60 minutes travel time).

The reality in Nuuk is that all the women (and men) I’ve met know how to cook and bake! They bake bread, they bake cakes, and they make it often. They gather their own food too – they pick berries from the mountains when it’s in season. The ones who’ve lived here longer usually hunt their own food such as musk ox, reindeer and rabbits and so hardly need to buy meat from the supermarket. Not to mention that it’s a fishing haven here. I’ve been told you can drop a fishing line into the water and just keep on pulling up fish. It’s a gastronomical lifestyle which honours ‘real food’ (and mass-produced candy and soft drink). Plus, the choice of much else is lacking – there are not that many restaurants to eat at, even if the ones that are around are pretty good!

Which brings us to the kaffemik, which we are throwing today to celebrate the recent special events in our life.

Apparently Greenlandic kaffemiks can be huge over-the-top events. One friend I talked to once baked 15 cakes by herself for a special kaffemik. I guess they were expecting a lot more guests than we were…

When we decided to throw a little shindig in local style, my first thought was “Oh crap, how are we going to pull this off?” Though we can cook, neither of us are really bakers, and I guess frozen pizza isn’t really going to cut it 😉 Luckily, help came in a few ways in the form of reindeer meat and recipes through friends, family and the internet. It will be fine. I hope the food is tasty and edible, but I’m just looking forward to having a good time.

If you’ve never been to Greenland you probably know nothing about kaffemiks. Here’s a few interesting aspects about it:

  • A kaffemik is held during the day and it’s sort of open invite where the host prepares some food and drink for guests.
  • You can throw a kaffemik for any celebratory reason. Birthdays, graduations, confirmations, non-firmations, weddings. It’s a one size fits all type of thing.
  • Hardly anyone RSVPs. This means that you don’t know how much food to prepare. That’s kinda annoying for the party planner =-)
  • Guests may stay for a short while (say twenty minutes) or a longer time, depending on how close one is to the host and how many people attend the event.
  • People come and go all the time, and if there are not enough chairs, the people who were at the kaffemik earlier make room at the table by leaving. Everyone has to make sure not to eat too much.
  • Food is diverse, and ranges from cakes and cookies to heartier dishes like mattak (whale skin and blubber), reindeer meat, musk ox, and seal stews. Some food from my last kaffemik below!
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Food from my last kaffemik – Whale skin and blubber.

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Food from my last kaffemik – Caviar, from in-season lumpfish mixed with creme fraiche or greek yoghurt. Eaten with bread.

Kaffemik food - cheese cake with blueberries and frozen blackberries picked from last season.

Food from my last kaffemik – My friend made this cheese cake and decked it with blueberries and frozen blackberries picked from last season. Flags are a symbol of celebration here (and in Denmark).

14 thoughts on “Kaffemiks: every well-bred Greenlander should know how to bake, right?

  1. Pingback: What no one tells you about moving to Greenland | The Fourth Continent

  2. I just found your blog today and I’ve read my way back to your wedding (beautiful in its simplicity!). I love it! I am from Nuuk but live in Sweden since 2001. Having lived outside of Greenland, I feel more and more like a stranger to my hometown and reading about things from your point of view somehow helps my homesickness. Keep writing, you just got yourself a new “fan” 🙂

    • Hi Myaraq, thank you for your sweet words. Living in Sweden since 2001 is a long time, I can imagine that you would feel like a stranger sometimes. My parents lived nearly 10 years without going home once. I don’t know how they did it. Perhaps once you’re out and don’t come back, it becomes easier. At least it’s easier and cheaper to travel back and forth these days. I look forward to reading more of your blog! Tanny

  3. Pingback: Curious about food in Greenland? | Greenland Travel Guide

  4. Pingback: Entering the hugging zone: Returning to Greenland’s small society | The Fourth Continent

  5. You blog is great and the stories you tell are very interesting. Most people travel so much these days that we think we know everywhere, but Greenland remains one of the few countries of the world that most people (myself included) know very little about. Please keep writing these stories. BTW, what do you do in Greenland if you are allergic to seafood?! And yes, I am!

    • Hi Mark! Thanks for your kind words, I’m glad you find it interesting!

      If you’re allergic to seafood you can get everything else here – frozen chicken, beef, etc. You can hunt wild game too. On the other hand, if you like milk with coffee and are allergic to long life milk that is a problem. Fresh milk is 46 danish kroners here for a bottle!

      • 46 danish kroner? Wow! That is more than 6 euros. It makes for very expensive cereal for breakfast! Do keep writing because your stories really are very interesting. Mark

        • Everyone I know buys long life milk. That’s more like 10 kroners. I can’t really remember what fresh milk tastes like anymore and if it makes a huge difference 🙂

          Any suggestions about what I should write about, Mark?

          • You are doing a pretty good job already! Your blog is really interesting. I told my teenage son about the polar bears and he said of course and then gave me a lesson in the amount of polution there is in the sea!

            Just write about the people you talk to and their daily lives and the things that surprise you and are difficult to understand.

            Best wishes, Mark

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