'Our meat is the best of the world, and the herbs too'

Interview with Anne Sofie Hardenberg, culinary ambassador to Greenland

Anne Sofie Hardenberg knows everything about Greenlandic food and herbs. At Kaffemik 2 she gives cooking lessons and talks about her personal history as a daughter of an Eskimo mother and a Danish father.


Anne Sofie Hardenberg - kaffemik 2, Cooking Greenland Style - Jans Possel

A dozen people have gathered in the Mediamatic Bank space to have cooking lessons from Anne Sofie Hardenberg, the renowned specialist in Greenlandic recipes and herbs. She has a company in Denmark and is ambassador to Greenland in the culinary field since 2007, for which she is regularly in the media. Hardenberg (1948) has, like many people in Greenland, mixed blood. Her mother is a daughter from an Eskimo, while her father was a Danish engineer in Greenland from 1945 till 1951. When she lived with her grandparents in Greenland in the sixties she tried to contact her father’s family in Denmark, a lifelong struggle about which she wrote the book ‘Kampen for en far’ (2009). At the second Kaffemik on the 7th of February she promotes her new cookbook and tells about the difficulties of being accepted by her Danish family.

You made a new cookbook with new Greenlandic ingredients. How big are the possibilities of the Greenlandic kitchen?
‘The people in Greenland have been very glad about my new cookbook, because we always make traditional food. It’s always the same. I found new herbs, from Greenlandic plants and flowers. Our forefathers always used them to be healthy, but I am beginning to use them for food. If you are anywhere in the world you can use the raw material from there and the Greenlandic herbs. I work together with a chef from Connecticut and we make a new cookbook. He does the raw material and I do the herbs. It will be translated in Danish and maybe in German.’

So you stay within the Greenlandic tradition?
‘It’s very important that we still make the traditional Greenlandic food. Each country should protect their own traditional recipes.’

Why is it so important that each country should protect it’s traditional recipes?
‘It’s cheaper for Greenland. The food imported from Denmark is so expensive. These are the new politics after our independence of last year: use your own resources. I only eat our own raw materials. If I eat meat from Denmark it should be organic. All our animals live in the wild, so it is all organic. I always say: our meat is the best of the world, and the herbs too.’

What do you think of people from the West criticizing people from Greenland killing the seals while they themselves eat meat from the bio-industry?
‘I don’t like it. I am a real nature lover. It’s very difficult to eat real organic food when I am traveling, but it is ‘in’ now so it’s good.’

Is it hard to promote the raw materials from Greenland in Greenland?
‘Many young people want to eat fast food. We have the same problem as people in the West: people become thicker and thicker. Therefore we must start with the children. The oldest generations, like my mother, still eat the traditional Greenlandic food. But people from my generation are used to the new western things that came in here in the sixties. So it is not very easy to change that.’

You said you feel more Danish than Greenlandic, although you grew up in Greenland. How come?
‘When I was a child I felt always different from other children. But I can understand it now, because I am a bit older. Greenlandic people think in the short time: what can I do this day? If you have some food today, you are not going to hunt tomorrow. They live from day to day. But I always think many years ahead in the future. Already in my youth I made my plans for the future.’

Are there a lot of people like you in Greenland who grew up without their Danish father? In your new book you write about the problems you had with contacting your family in Denmark
‘I grew up with my grandmother. She had 21 children. You can see it on the picture in the book. She lost her husband very early. My mother gave me to her mother. In Greenland it was usual that your parents took over the child if you couldn’t care for it. I have always dreamed about my father. I was in Denmark in 1966. My father and I met on the 22th of June, and in July he wanted to pick me up at my grandparents home, but he never came. He died in a car accident. After that I tried to have contact with my sister and brother in Denmark, but it was very difficult. I have fought 36 years before I met them. I have to fight for every step I take. That’s why I am so strong.’