Robert McLiam Wilson is an author from Northern Ireland who wrote a series of critically acclaimed novels in the early to mid-1990s. Unsurprisingly he was interested in exploring what constitutes 'nationality'. At that point I was interested in his works from a literature student's point-of-view: could I say he was 'post-colonial'? Could I yoke him in with writers in Scotland who were busy reclaiming their history, language and culture?
Nowadays I am an expat and I find myself wondering about nationality in far more personal terms. McLiam Wilson claimed that he could only define nationality negatively: "What gives it its chiaroscuro, its particular flavour is a dash of hatred and fear" (I quote this from memory). As a Dane, I find myself part of a history which is not unique - it is the history of any small nation fearing its bigger neighbours. Danes' attitudes towards Germany and Sweden are complicated. In recent years the 'dash of hatred and fear' has become more than a dash in Danish politics as right-wing politicians play upon fear of the Others to secure votes. But is that my definition of being Danish? That I support any football team playing against Germany (and to be frank, I actually do for some bizarre reason)? It'd be a poor way of defining oneself.
As the days are getting longer and as the sun starts to beam down, I find myself longing for koldskål - a dish which is the epitome of summer in Denmark. And so it is: the most obvious expression of my being Danish is through food. A positive definition, thankfully. I have found a near-by supplier of rye-bread and my local supermarket stocks food items I never used to touch in Denmark, but which I now happily sample ever so often: salami sausages, Danish cheeses and the inevitable bacon. Sometimes I even make frikadeller (meat balls) with kold kartoffelsalat (cold potato salad). It feels silly but in a comforting way.
Koldskål is not so easy to come by, though. Its main ingredient is buttermilk and that's not very easy to find (unless you want to go to another part of Glasgow and pay about £1 for half a pint from an organic food store). Here's the recipe and yes, it's a main dish..
4 cups of buttermilk
4 tbsp sugar
Dash of vanilla
Juice of 1 lemon
Beat the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla together in the bowl the soup is to be served in. Beat the buttermilk and fold in a little at a time. Chill. Serve on top of small vanilla biscuits.