Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On Sønderjysk Kagebord, the Danish Shibboleth


The first Danish friend I made on my own (which is no easy feat in Denmark for an international) is from the Southern part of Jutland, the part of Denmark that borders Germany. She has a sweet tooth and told me about a special practice they have called sønderjysk kagebord, a “Southern cake table” where at least 14 kinds of desserts are served with coffee.

But there was nothing sweet about the next bit of the story she told. As with many towns near the borders, Southern Denmark saw its share of battle and was challenged to maintain its identity while the politicians ruled the region sometimes as part of Prussia, then back to Denmark. During these turbulent times, some Prussians remained in Southern Jutland and lived amongst the Danes, where it became increasingly hard to distinguish a Danish household from a Prussian one. When people invited each other to their homes for coffee, the Danes can tell if the household was Danish by observing if there were the right types of dessert for their cake table.

The Hebrew bible provides an account where the word shibboleth was used like a secret password that identified the Ephraimites apart from the Gileadites, because the Ephraimites’ dialect lacked the “sh” sound. While the Danish language has plenty of sounds the present day Germans (or anyone else, if that matter) don’t seem to pronounce well, to have created their own identifying password (“rød grød med fløde” comes to mind), I’m glad they opted to use a more delicious method, and continued the tradition of serving way too many cakes long after Prussia ceased to exist.

Photo: Den Gamle By (a park where historic buildings from all over Denmark was brought together to make up an “old town”), Aarhus, Denmark

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This entry was posted on May 28, 2015 by in Culture, Denmark and tagged , , , , , .
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