New 'Scandi' health food craze hits Harrogate

Author and cook Signe Johansen talks to independent  Harrogate restaurateur Paul Rawlinson from Baltzersens and Norse at Harrogate Theatre. (Picture by Dan Oxtoby)
Author and cook Signe Johansen talks to independent Harrogate restaurateur Paul Rawlinson from Baltzersens and Norse at Harrogate Theatre. (Picture by Dan Oxtoby)

The latest healthy eating craze arrived in Harrogate this week and it had a Scandi flavour.

A night with cook and author Signe Johansen at Harrogate Theatre earlier this week was a sellout success.

Part of the cover of Signe Johansens new cook book Hygge.

Part of the cover of Signe Johansens new cook book Hygge.

Organised by Baltzersen’s and Norse, based a little further along Oxford Street, the special event was a pay-as-you-feel event with donations taken for the Theatre Trust.

The night began with treats fresh from the Baltzersen’s kitchen: cinnamon buns, iced hindbaersnitter, hot coffee and more.

‘Hygge’ was on everyone’s lips: the concept in general and its relevance to the often wet and grey winters of Yorkshire in particular.

There’s no direct English translation, but the feeling was much in evidence: comfort, enjoyment and happiness with the world.

Signe’s new book, How To Hygge: The Secrets of Nordic Living, is a celebration of those Scandinavian principles.

Once in the auditorium, the audience sat back to hear more from Signe, who began by explaining her Scandinavian approach to food, baking and lifestyle – about as far removed from the recent “clean eating” trends as you could wish to be.

“It’s not about shaping your body in a certain way or diets and strict eating regimens,” she said. “I’m a very greedy person, so my motivation is food.

“If I go outside, I always take a cinnamon bun and a thermos of hot chocolate with some whisky in it. It’s important to earn your hygge – earn your cake and enjoy it.”

The choice of Baltzersen’s and Norse owner Paul Rawlinson as interviewer was a natural one: his own childhood memories of Scandinavian traditions made for a lively conversation.

With his cafe and restaurant having been inspired by his Norwegian grandmother’s hand-written recipes, it was fascinating to hear that those flavours and traditions are still very much alive across the North Sea too.

Signe’s reflections on the rapid rise of Scandinavian influences on British culture were particularly interesting. So why are we Brits suddenly so obsessed with our Scandi cousins’ concept of hygge?

“It comes from an old word for ‘think’,” said Signe. “It’s not something you do, it’s something you feel.

“It’s about taking pleasure in the simple things. A lot of modern life is anxiety. Hygge means going back to basics and simplifying your life.”

Signe may have moved on to the next stop on her book tour, but the Scandinavian culture in the Harrogate district shows no sign of waning. Her book is still available from the Little Ripon Bookshop.

Other local businesses taking part in the event to make it something different included Cold Bath Road newcomer Bias, which specialises in Scandinavian clothing and accessories, The Little Ripon Bookshop, interiors shop Enkelhed from Leeds, and Skipton’s Hesper Farm Skyr.