I spoke to Brontë Aurell, author of numerous cookery books and owner of The Scandinavian Kitchen in west London. Through her appearances on British radio and television Brontë has become an unofficial spokesperson for Scandinavian culture in the UK, though she might disagree. I asked her about her move from Denmark, how she adapted to life here and how she sees the future of the British Scandi obsession…
You started your career in finance. What made you change direction?
It just wasn’t quite me. I’m not very corporate and I have a rebellious streak.
You’re Danish and your husband, Jonas, is Swedish. What were the biggest cultural challenges you faced when you arrived in the UK?
I arrived at 17 and when you’re young you adapt quickly, but I remember I found the levels of sexism hard to handle. Thankfully things have changed massively since then, but back in the nineties I felt there was a big gap in equality.
What are the major cultural differences between you as a couple; you being Danish and Jonas being Swedish?
He obsesses about how to slice cheese. My cheese slicing is more laid back.
Your children have grown up surrounded by Scandinavian culture at home and British culture at school. Do they prefer one culture over another or do they take ideas from both?
I hope they take the best bits of both cultures and make something that’s their own. If you ask them where they are from, they’ll tell you with no hesitation that they’re from Sweden. But cultural identity is funny, because they’re also very British and they feel they belong here. Most of all, I think they’re Londoners.
You’re now a regular guest on British television and radio. Do you agree that you’ve become almost an unofficial spokesperson for Scandinavian culture in the UK?
Yikes…that would be a huge responsibility! I’m happy to comment on things but I’m aware that my views and memories were shaped a while ago and things have changed in Scandinavia since I left. Being so geographically distant, I often no longer feel part of it. But in some ways, yes, I’d like to think I help spread Scandinavian love across Britain.
With airings of ‘Nordic Noir’ on British television, as well as an interest in concepts such as ‘fika’ and ‘hygge’, Brits have a small fascination with Scandinavia. Do you think this is something recent?
It’s helped shine a great light on the Nordic countries. Amazingly, it all happened at the same time for our food, fashion, film and culture; they’re all increasingly appealing.
Have you seen a similar level of interest in Scandinavia in other countries?
My books are published in French, German, Italian, Russian and Czech…so there’s most certainly a Scandi-wave happening across Europe!
You’ve sold hundreds of your ‘#proudimmigrant’ t-shirts. How did you come up with the idea?
My then six-year old daughter asked me what an immigrant was, so I told her I’m an immigrant and proud of it. I made a t-shirt to wear at home and one day I wore it to Sainsbury’s. Since then we’ve sold hundreds. It wasn’t a political statement, but simply how I felt. and it turns out loads of others felt the same.
Your sixth book, ‘ScandiKitchen Christmas’, has just been released. What can people expect?
It’s my favourite and I wrote it with Astrid and Elsa, my daughters, in mind. One day, when I’m gone, I hope this will be the book on their bookshelf that gets the most sticky pages. Then it will all have been worth it.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m actually writing a novel. It’s unlikely to ever to be published, but it’s a process I’m enjoying more than I expected.
Brontë’s latest book, ScandiKitchen Christmas, is available to buy online. The Scandinavian Kitchen shop and café is in west London.
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Tags: Brontë Aurell, cooking, interview, scandinavian food
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