While breakfast and dinner are eaten at home, most Danes eat lunch elsewhere. Generally lunch is a cold meal consisting of slices of rye bread buttered and covered with for instance various kinds of sausage, sliced boiled egg or liver paste, a baked mixture of chopped pig’s liver and lard of a spreadable consistency.
The sagas of the Icelandic Vikings describes rye bread almost identical to the one known today, based on sourdough and whole grain rye flour.
In medieval Denmark farmers ate rye bread sandwiches with fat or butter, occasionally with smoked and salted fish of meats. The male farm workers were issued a bottle of snaps along with their sandwiches.
During the 16th century a tradition developed were slices of bread were used instead of plates, which were very expensive and a rare possession. The king, Christian the second, abolished the use of bread plates at special occasions around 1520, because he now had enough plates to serve all at parties. This is the forerunner of the open sandwich tradition with as a celebrative meal with many combinations but as an evening meal.
In the Nimb restaurant in Tivoli the army officers association often dined and held meetings. The staff introduced a list, at which the officers could write their open sandwich requests. This is seen today in many traditional lunch restaurant – there is so many varieties and combinations, that the waiters simply gives you a list to check of which combination you want, since it’s too demanding to do remember or write down the often complex orders. The most famous lunch order list is from Oscar Davidsen who in 1933 featured 178 kinds of open sandwiches. Oscar Davidsen’s descendants still run a traditional restaurant.
A traditional open sandwich lunch can be a demanding task to devour. A normal sequence of sandwiches could look like this:
- Cold fish, normally at least two kinds of pickled herring. Small hand peeled shrimp are a summertime delicacy highly valued.
- Fried fish, often plaice with pickles and mayonnaise
- Cold meats, tartar, roast beef, smoked sausage, chicken salad – or occasionally some combinations based on vegetables like potatoes and onion and tomato and eggs.
- Warm meats, like pies of pate’s, roasted fresh sausages
- If sweets are served, it is often depending on season, traditional apple cakes in winter, and rhubarb trifle in spring, and thick strawberry soup in the summer.